Progress in systems integration and interoperability was the dominant theme at the fourth annual Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) Members' Meeting and Conference held at the Westin Seattle Hotel. More than 350 senior technology executives from hotels, vendors and consulting groups traveled from 18 countries across four continents to gather for the two-day conference.
This year's conference "had a real sense of collegial cooperation and collaboration, with just an incredible amount of goodwill going back and forth between industry partners and hoteliers, coming together at a meeting place to try to make things happen for our industry," says HTNG president Barry Shuler who also serves as SVP and CTO of Marriott International and CIO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
Conference sessions highlighted the progress of HTNG's six workgroups, in which more than 400 industry leaders and specialists are now participating on an ongoing basis. HTNG's workgroups identify practical problems facing hotels, which can be solved through cooperative design, open standards, and vendor commitment to implementation. Just a few of the workgroups' accomplishments that were cited from the past year include:
- Adoption of version 2.1 of the HTNG Web Services Framework, which provides robust, seamless plug-and-play connectivity between any two systems using a consistent implementation of standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
- Completion of the standard for the HTNG Open Data eXchange (ODX) protocol, which enables the transfer of data between any two systems using the HTNG Web Services Framework. ODX supports the migration of legacy interfaces into the most up-to-date web-services technologies, which can ensure high reliability, redundancy, and third-party monitoring of even legacy-system interface performance.
- The first release of the HTNG back office integration standard, which connects property management and outlet point-of-sale systems to back-office accounting systems.
- The second major release of the HTNG distribution specification, supporting reservations delivery, rate and availability updates, yield controls, and statistical extracts. Among other improvements, the new release incorporates logic for shares, group blocks, and best available rate (BAR) handling. The HTNG specification is a constrained version of the widely supported OpenTravel Alliance standards, requiring adherence to specified ways of implementing those standards to achieve rapid integration.
- The first release of the HTNG digital signage interface, allowing plug-and-play connectivity between sales and catering systems and digital signage systems to ensure real-time or near-real-time updates of digital displays based on group, meeting, and event programming.
- The first reference implementation of the HTNG identity management specification, which enables centralized monitoring of user rights across multiple systems and greatly reduces the burden of regulatory compliance.
- Preliminary approval of the first HTNG specification for set-top boxes, to provide a neutral platform for deployment of guest room entertainment systems that support off-the air broadcast, cable, pay-per-view, Internet, and custom programming.
- Preliminary approval of the HTNG auxiliary panel specification, which describes the minimum requirements for a connection panel that enables hotel guests to connect to the in-room audio and video technologies and use a variety of mobile devices such as laptop computers, PDAs, MP3 players and cameras.
- Preliminary completion of the HTNG distribution content management specification, enabling the consistent and timely delivery of rich descriptive content from hotels into distribution channels, including intermediaries and online travel agencies.
- Initial directions of a new HTNG workgroup to vastly reduce the burden of regulatory compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard through a methodology that reduces or eliminates the need to store sensitive credit card information in multiple systems.
- The first release of a reference architecture for hotel technology, describing the key business processes and interactions among systems. The reference architecture is expected to ultimately serve as a repository for all HTNG specifications, ensuring consistency and version control, and allowing hotels and vendors alike to use the same language when describing the capabilities of their systems.
Shuler noted that this year's conference showcased much more maturity from HTNG's workgroup efforts, with "more progress and more concrete deliverables then we have ever had before, with an incredible amount of progress in the last year."