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Introducing Google's Chromecast: Adapting Services to Reflect the Guest Habit.

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June 01, 2014
Room Automation Systems
Trevor Warner - trevorwarner@warnerconsultinggroup.com

The decline of video on demand was not a surprise to many people in our industry. Technology changed, habits changed, and society became on demand. The need to wait for a specific show at a specific time, or to pay for media content that could only be watched on one screen at that moment, was replaced by the convenience of on demand on my device on my time.

Convenience is the key word when any analyst looks at consumer trends. Society is a creature of convenience.
Consumers quickly moved their media consumption to the most convenient device they carried with them. It might be the laptop, tablet or smartphone, but it was ultimately the consumer device accessing the cloud. 

We see the same trend in free-to-guest video. So much network content is online that guests have content to current shows, eliminating the need to DVR or tune in at a certain date and time. HBO viewership is now estimated at less than 2 percent of occupied rooms.  The downfall of live HBO was the introduction of HBO GO®.  Live programing has become less convenient in our busy lives. 

Hotels have the biggest, best screen in the room, but the guest is willing to watch his or her content on a tablet because it’s more convenient. Guests want to use the guestroom TV but we don’t have an affordable option to display their content. There are several companies who have conquered the challenge of allowing guests to display their content on the hotel TV. TV manufacturers have built in smart technology with preloaded apps. IPTV providers and integrators can install hardware that allows for guest connectivity. However, the cost model is still very expensive and it is still a work in progress. The questions remain: do we provide the technology to allow the guest to use the guestroom TV or do we allow the guest to bring in their own technology?

Multiple products are hitting the market addressing in room entertainment. The most notable is Google Chromecast. This device is the size of a USB stick and allows the user to access his or her content in the cloud connecting through HDMI to the TV. Chromecast is a device that bridges the gap between bringing in personal media content and finding a way to easily move the media to the big TV in the room. The genius of Chromecast is that it is a hardware device. A hardware device that overcomes the primary hotel technology issue: guest user error. It uses the guest’s device and settings, and is already configured and ready to deploy.
Early adopters of Chromecast ran into two primary issues. First, Chromecast was not configured to work in the hospitality format. Chromecast requires a Wi-Fi connection to authenticate but had no ability to open up a splash page or bypass a splash page. Guests quickly learned that setting up a quick hotspot on their phone or through a mobile Wi-Fi device defeated the problem. Of course, to avoid heavy usage charges from mobile Wi-Fi, the guest had already downloaded the content. Rumors are Google will launch an upgrade that allows Chromecast to connect to a third-party network like a hotel. With this change, we would be one step closer to seamless integration. 

The second and more prominent issue was the hotel TV. Typically, hotel TVs are locked down, meaning they don’t allow the user to change the input.  The exceptions were hotels that had installed jack packs or had TVs that were not locked down. This is the next step in the evolution of inroom entertainment. How do hotels allow guests to use the TV without causing operational issues?  

While Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick and others may not be the final solutions they are a major step forward in the evolution of entertainment and media.  Hotels must adapt services to reflect the guest habit. In the long run, this is a significant change in the favor of the hotel. Now hotels must provide free-to-guest HDTV service at a cost of between $9 to $30 per room per month. With this evolution, the cost will go down significantly and eventually go away. More importantly, it’s one less technology service the hotel has to manage without the on site expertise to manage the product. There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with a guest issue without the expertise to solve the problem. 

Trevor Warner is the president of Warner Consulting Group.  He can be reached at trevorwarner@warnerconsultinggroup.com.

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There are four components that make Chromecast a game changer:
1 It is very small making it easy to pack and carry.
2 It is already configured with all of the user’s settings and ready to go once plugged in. 
3 It has a common connection (HDMI) so no adaptor or retrofit is necessary.
4 It’s easy-to-use,  plug-and-play capabilities allow the non-technical to be savvy.

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