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Hotel Technology Next Generation Creates Workgroup
Aimed Squarely at the Guest Room of the Future 

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CHICAGO (September 23, 2004) -- Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) today made public the charter and sponsoring members of a new workgroup aimed squarely at the Guest Room of the Future. 

The In-Room Technology Workgroup sponsored by Cisco Systems, Guest-Tek, LodgeNet Entertainment, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Microsoft Corp., Paradyne, and Quadriga Worldwide, was announced to HTNG members on September 15.  In addition to the seven sponsors, applications from other hotel companies and vendors will be accepted through October 15, to round out a balanced workgroup with a maximum of 17 companies. 

"Most of the major hotel companies are reevaluating their entire networking strategies for guest rooms – and even how they will build and operate new hotels – in anticipation of the move to all-IP-based in-room technology, including telephony, video-on-demand, and wireless services, in addition to traditional high-speed Internet service," said Douglas Rice, Executive Director of HTNG.  "This is an exceptionally complex issue, and there is a crying need for some level of agreement among the hotels and the providers of these various services as to how they should, and can, all coexist.  Already, several of the world's largest hotel companies have indicated their desire to be part of this workgroup."

Nick Price, Director of Technology and CTO for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, one of the few hotel companies to have built hotels using IP networks for all major in-room systems, said "Hotels have become famous for implementing yesterday's technology today, just as the consumer traded today's technology for tomorrow's.  No place is this more evident than in the guest room where, for example, even many middle-income consumers now have, at home, high-definition televisions with 400 channels, quality on-demand programming, digital video recorders, searchable program guides, and high-end sound systems.  But you can't find many of these things even in high-end hotel rooms.  This workgroup will put together some of the best minds from some of the companies that are leading the way to the future, and design solutions that make sense for hotels and, even more important, that deliver value to guests."

Price cited an example of implementing yesterday's technology, noting that many hotels have recently installed compact disc players, just as consumers have moved en masse to carrying their own music and other entertainment on MP3 players, iPods, Portable Media Centers, Tablet PCs, and laptop computers.  "They can plug these in to their audio systems at home or in their car, and that is how they listen to music.  How can we call a hotel room a 'home away from home,' when we not only fail to give guests the variety of entertainment that they want, but we can't even support what they already carry with them?  As an industry, our answer to them to date has been a $6 clock radio."

Ken Martinez, Hospitality Market Business Manager for Paradyne Corporation, said "The evolution of IP-based networks has created new opportunities to deliver technology-based services to guest rooms over a single set of wires.  In the past, you needed two or even three sets of wires – coaxial cable, twisted-pair, and often Category 5 cable – to deliver entertainment, telephone service, and wired or wireless high-speed networks.  Today, all of the traditional services – and many new ones – can be delivered over a single network.  We call it the 'triple play'.  This workgroup will be a forum to sort out how best to achieve the triple play in hotels – including addressing a migration path from their legacy investments."

"Microsoft has always been a strong supporter of standards and processes that drive compatibility and consistency and is therefore very pleased to participate in HTNG's workgroup to deliver next-generation guestroom technology," said Brian Scott, general manager of Microsoft’s Retail & Hospitality Industry Solutions Group.  "We want to bring to the table our learnings from Microsoft’s $6 billion R&D investment and expertise in consumer-based technologies already in the guests' hands – such as Smartphones, Tablet PCs, Portable Media Centers – to help hoteliers offer a seamless transition from the home or office, becoming an extension of the guests’ personal space and lifestyle."

“The evolution of technology has become an increasingly important factor in enabling hoteliers to define the in-room and brand experience for their guests,” said Mike Tourigny, Vice President of Marketing at Guest-Tek.  “HTNG and this workgroup are here to ensure that technology is seen as an integral part of the opportunity, rather than as a barrier to delivering that experience to their guests."

Guest-Room Entertainment

"In the guest-room entertainment industry, the leading companies understand how to deliver the content that guests want," said David Bankers, Senior Vice President Product and Technology Development of LodgeNet Entertainment.  "What we're missing is a common agreement about how the infrastructure should be provisioned, and how to get from here to there.  The vendors needed a forum where we can work with both key hotel customers and other application suppliers, and come to agreement on the basics.  Let's agree on one or two common ways to handle the basics, so we can focus on applications that will really enhance the guest experience," said Bankers.

"We believe the introduction of IP-based technologies will clearly shape the future of hotels' entertainment and communication offering, and become a winning technology for the industry," said Hyacinth Nwana, Product & Technology Director for Quadriga Worldwide Ltd. in London.  "But with all winning technologies, we understand the difficulties in stretching the current boundaries.   The Western Union Telegraph Company in 1876 confidently asserted that 'this 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.'  This statement underlines just how difficult it can be to pick a winning technology.  However, that difficulty should not be a reason for neglecting the technologies that will shape our future.   The HTNG workgroup aims to provide clear guidance to hoteliers to ensure that their investment decisions are the right ones and that they will be able to back winners."

Voice-over-IP Telephony

The rapid growth of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony has created new capabilities and expectations among travelers, such as personalized speed dial, call forwarding, follow-me, multi-line ringing, multi-party conferencing, and use of the phone handset as a text messaging device.  "Many corporate travelers have VoIP phones in their workplace and have become dependent on the advanced capabilities that those phones offer, but they lose them all when they travel.  Even in hotels with IP phones, the experience is much less personalized than they are used to," said HTNG's Rice.

"Many hotels are still fighting the battle for guest telephone revenue, long after they have lost it," said Mandarin Oriental's Price.  "Telephones can no longer be thought of as standalone devices under the hotel's control.  More and more business travelers are starting to carry fewer and fewer devices.  Some are down to a single device that serves multiple purposes:  telephone, PDA, e-mail client, entertainment center, even as a remote control for their television.  And it works anywhere.  That's a fact, and it's becoming more so every year.  Guests are not going to give those up just because we want them to use our phones."

Price continued, "Today's telephony challenge is to integrate the hotel's telephony infrastructure in two ways:  with hotel services, to enable the guest and the staff to interact in a much richer and more personalized way; and with the various devices that guests bring with them – mobile phones, PDAs, music players, and notebook computers.  We think there are telephony vendors who understand these challenges and will work with us and the other system vendors to make it happen, but it wasn't going to happen without a push from the industry.  HTNG is providing that push."

About HTNG Workgroups

HTNG workgroups provide a forum for a small but representative group of customers to work with a cross-disciplinary set of vendors to solve problems.  Highly focused and structured, the workgroups are charged with identifying and building specific solutions that will deliver value to hotels, that no one vendor can deliver on their own, and that can be accomplished in about six months.  Because customers drive the requirements, vendors have a ready market for the things they build, and customers no longer have to buy multiple systems piecemeal and integrate them themselves.

The workgroup size is limited to keep it manageable, focused, and productive.  However, HTNG provides the opportunity for all dues-paying members to view the work product of each workgroup as it is developed, to provide structured feedback, and to implement solutions in parallel with workgroup participants.  HTNG also supports solution-set demonstrations, such as at HITEC 2004, that can include products from any HTNG member that adopts its specifications – whether a workgroup participant or not.

HTNG specifications are released to the public domain when the workgroup that produces them disbands, usually after no more than eighteen months.  HTNG members, both hotels and technology vendors, can propose and sponsor new workgroups, and can apply to participate in workgroups sponsored by other members.

Workgroup Applications

Applications to participate in this workgroup will be accepted through October 15 from current or newly joining HTNG members.  Advance interest in this workgroup has been extremely high and the number of available slots is limited.  HTNG's selection criteria, as well as the application process, are described at http://www.htng.org/workgroup_policies.htm.  Applicants not selected to participate will still have full opportunity to view proceedings and intermediate work product from the workgroup, as well as final specifications.  Member technology vendors can develop product to those specifications and participate in HTNG-supported demonstrations.  Applications for HTNG membership can be processed online at http://www.htng.org/JoinHTNG.htm. 

About Hotel Technology Next Generation

The premier technology solutions association in the hospitality industry, HTNG is a self-funded, non-profit organization with members from hotel and hospitality companies, technology vendors to hospitality, and other industry members including consultants, media, and academic experts.  HTNG’s members participate in focused workgroups to bring open solution-sets addressing specific business problems to the hospitality market. 

Membership in HTNG is open to hotel and hospitality companies, technology vendors to hospitality, consultants, academics, press and others.   Currently nearly 120 companies and individuals from across this spectrum are active HTNG members.  Workgroup proceedings, drafts, and specifications are published for all HTNG members as soon as they are created, encouraging rapid and broad adoption.  Specifications are released to the public domain when the workgroup has completed its work, typically after no more than 18 months. For more information, visit www.htng.org.


 
Contact:
Hotel Technology Next Generation
Douglas Rice
Exec.Director@htng.org
+1 847 348 1148
Also See: Unlocking Interoperability; HTNG Attracts 17 Leading Hotels, Vendors and Consultants to Address Distribution Interoperability / September 2004
OpenTravel Alliance Participating in HTNG Property/Distribution Solution Workgroup / July 2004
Hotel Technology Leaders Launch Industry Initiative on Guidelines for Inter-Vendor Cooperation and Systems Integration / June 2002


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