Hilton's New Concierge is Interactive TV

By Curt Harler | March 18, 2008

Hilton Hotels & Resorts is working with Reactrix (www.reactrix.com) to implement Samsung's (www.samsung.com) futuristic, interactive flat panel technology at select hub hotels across the company's global portfolio. The WAVEscape technology will allow guests to interact with screens to choose services, look at meeting room configurations, or find events around the town.

Initial installations will be in U.S. properties. However, Hilton is likely to have the technology on display at the Beijing Hilton during the Olympic Games in August. The Beijing Hilton is headquarters for both the U.S. and Israeli Olympic teams.

The interactive screens will allow guests to get information that ordinarily might require interaction with a conference manager or concierge at any time.

"We're looking to create a functional utility for adults but something that will appeal to the kid in them," says Jeff Diskin, senior vice president, brand management, Hilton Hotels.

The system allows a guest to see the property layout, look at the facilities and meeting rooms. "We hope to have a number of operating installations by the third quarter (of 2008) and about 100 running by year-end," he adds.

Diskin says Hilton sees this both as an opportunity to serve its customers in the hotel environment and a chance to show customers a peek at the future - much as hotels did when they first offered air conditioning or remotes in rooms.

"But we want to get it right before we roll it out," he says.

The heart of the current Hilton project is Samsung's large-format-display 570DX video screen. The 570DX offers a 3,000:1 Dynamic Contrast ratio and 600 cd/m2 brightness to communicate clearly in the brightest environments. Since these screens will be displayed near doors or in hotel lobbies and atriums, the ability of the 570DS to be seen under bright light conditions is key.

The panels will offer guests a way to interact with the hotel's wide array of services and guest offerings, including Hilton Fitness by Precor and, for business gatherings, the brand's suite of services and e-tools, Hilton Meetings. Hilton's goal is to use the technology to introduce a type of virtual concierge affording another opportunity for each hotel to connect with guests.

"Today's consumer wants to interact with products and services in multiple ways. We've responded to that trend by using technology in our hotels to engage our guests with online, offline, and self-service tools - like our e-check-in kiosk, which allows the choice of touch-screen or in-person check-in," says Diskin. "With Samsung and Reactrix, we're introducing industry-leading 'fingertip' technology in our hotels, as a fun and futuristic way for our guests to discover the hotel's wide range of services and products available."

A customer looking for conference room information, for example, can check room sizes and see how a room would be configured for a business presentation, a wedding, or a dance.

Diskin says the system is quite flexible and only limited by the contexts that they might want to explore. Content can be updated wirelessly.

Early tests show users are intrigued by the system. Therein is a challenge: placing the panels in lobby areas, ballroom halls, or elevator banks could cause bottlenecks as users avail themselves of the technology and others, fascinated, look on. Hilton feels they can handle the challenge. Indeed, they are looking multiple-user screens.

"This is a huge component of the potential to answer questions about what people want to do when they travel," says Diskin.

"We expect guests will see it as a cool information resource and use it as a way to find themselves in the hotel and discover things of interest inside and outside the hotel," Diskin says.

In the initial phase, the system will be used mainly as an information resource. Down the road, it may be used to create a revenue stream with existing Hilton partners like Coca-Cola or Precor Fitness.

"At the moment, we are not looking to tie it to check-in or meeting room reservations, although the technology exists to do that," Diskin says. "We are not focused on creating transactions but to facilitate information exchange."

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