Thanksgiving Week Evokes Thoughts of Hospitality in Unified Communications

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about the hospitality industry, although I always pay attention to the telephony infrastructure (Ok, the phones in the room and behind the front desk) wherever I stay. I’ve seen a lot. There is a lot of old Nortel out there, particularly as they had a hand hold in the hospitality industry early on, for example. But more and more I’m seeing newer, higher end phone sets in rooms, along with newer entertainment options as well.

Last July Mitel announced that the JW Marriott Indianapolis had selected and deployed Mitel’s Unified Communications solution based on its Freedom architecture. Mitel’s UC solution is a pure IP voice infrastructure spanning all 33 floors and over 1000 guest rooms, as well as the adjunct 104,000 square feet of convention space. The hotel has used this infrastructure to give guests new services not possible before, such as web-based information and other services on the phones in the rooms, as well as mobility options for guests.

When I was at the Cisco Collaboration Summit in Miami earlier this month I got to take part in a site visit of JW Marriott Marquis and Hotel Beaux Arts in Miami. This is a unique hotel from the perspective that it is a Marriott on the lower part, and an embedded smaller hotel on the 39th floor. It is also technologically unique as well. Cisco, along with partner Modcomp, used the Cisco Connected Hotels framework to combine 12 Cisco technologies to deliver guest services, including physical safety, Medianet, video and collaboration.

The hotel has the most pervasive and creative uses of video I’ve ever seen in a hotel.  Up in the ballroom, which can double as a basketball or tennis court, is the biggest video board in the world, at 450 feet, made up of 52 inch Cisco LCD Professional Series display boards. This screen is amazing and multi-use. A basketball team could show replays, corporate events could show video presentations, etc. I could think of all sorts of uses. What came to my mind were those embarrassing childhood videos that brides and grooms sometimes torture each other with at weddings. But Cisco took this idea farther by saying that guests could use video devices to record and stream video during or after the wedding/reception. I don’t know about this one.

The hotel has video signage throughout the building for guest services, Cisco IP phones with video-enabled screens, and a TelePresence concierge in the lobby. The latter is almost a test case on how to introduce TelePresence to the mass market. They have positioned the board at some distance away from registration. However, during peak hours when there can be a line, those in the back of the line could have the opportunity to interact with a life-size video concierge that can show them restaurants options, Google Maps, menus, etc. The hotel says that they will be placing a printer there shortly so that guests can print out things such as Google Maps and directions.

For guests, there are wired and wireless options, including being assigned a wireless IP phone in their room, which they can take with them throughout the property. Guests have the option of using TelePresence rooms for meetings, can also request a mobile video concierge so that they can interact with a concierge without leaving a meeting room.  Once in their rooms, guests have multiple options of services on the phones, and the hotel has used the same for targeted advertising to guests. For example, during a slow time in the spa, they might put an ad on the phone with a discount during a specific time period that the person can get by mentioning a code on the display, or perhaps get a free drink or appetizer in the restaurant.

Finally, Cisco also took too care with security by using Cisco Physical Access Control, and Cisco IP Video Surveillance technology, coupled with Cisco Emergency Responder for 911 calls. This was really a great hotel, and don’t even start me on how nice the rooms were. I didn’t want to leave.



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