Revolutionising the Guest Experience
Peter Vinke, Director of International Key Accounts at Philips Professional Display Solutions (PPDS) discusses the evolution of Android-powered Hospitality TV during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The impact of COVID-19 has had a massive effect on, and continues to affect, the global economy, with few businesses unimpacted.
While many sectors have been able to adapt by adopting new ways of working – with video conferencing being a key facilitator (Zoom’s revenues quadrupled between May and July) – for some, lockdowns mean an almost complete ‘sit and wait’ shutdown.
Hospitality, to quote a recent article from Forbes, has been one of the hardest hit industries, being utterly ‘decimated’ by the virus, as hotel guest rooms, conferencing facilities, function areas (no parties, no weddings, no celebrations), bars and restaurants operate at reduced capacity or are closed completely.
An industry in need
Some of the figures related to these challenges are frightening. In the US alone, it is estimated 7.7 million hospitality and leisure jobs were lost in April. During the same period, 70 per cent of direct hotel employees were estimated to have been laid off or furloughed, with hotels on pace to lose up to US $400 million in room revenue per day. With eight in 10 hotel rooms empty, the forecast occupancy rate for 2020 is now worse than it was in 1933 during the Great Depression.
While the safety of everyone is, of course, top priority, businesses will (and have to) reopen and the financial burden and unforeseen challenges both today and in the immediate future need to be addressed.
Today, the green shoots of recovery have thankfully started to appear, in so much as the industry has largely reopened its doors, albeit with an often more measured approach.
With the full financial impact of lockdowns as yet unknown, the subject of investment in new technology is not top of the agenda for many hotel businesses. But it is something that remains crucial in order to retain a competitive edge, retaining guests and attracting new ones with better reviews and feedback.
This all means that Return on Investment (ROI) is an important consideration, arguably more so than ever before. A careful juggling act between making cuts and maintaining quality is likely to have been the subject of many boardrooms and will continue to be so for some time. Whether it’s the brand of sauce used in the restaurant jam or the quality of toiletries, guest expectations continue to rise...with little regard for the hotel’s bank balance.
Meeting current and future viewing needs
The TV or, perhaps more specifically, what the TV offers, plays a central role in the guest room, both around design and, crucially, the guest experience. In fact, speaking to many of our closest AV integration and hotel partners around the world, the in-room TV package has become an increasingly important deal-breaker for guests in choosing where they stay. It’s also one of the more common complaints, particularly when it comes to picture quality, or channels not showing properly (or at all), due to urgent and often time-consuming updates being required.
Keeping pace with guests’ viewing demands and how they choose to consume content (linear, streaming, casting) is a necessary and often costly requirement. But in today’s world, it really doesn’t need to be, nor should it be. When buying a new hotel TV, it’s important to look at the bigger picture (pun intended). Want HD? Tick. Found your desired size? Tick. Nice design, wall-mounted or free-standing? Tick, tick. All important, yes, but when it comes to ROI – these should only form part of the decision-making process.
A TV that gets better with age?
Keeping your TVs fresh, new and relevant, whether for a small B&B with a couple of rooms or a larger resort with hundreds or thousands, doesn’t necessarily mean a constant and hugely expensive rotation of stock, often causing inconsistencies between rooms in terms of quality and performance. This can be entirely eliminated, whether restocking all rooms at once or gradually over time, as and when replacements are required. The end result, a fleet of TVs all with the same features and functionality. How?
MediaSuite, powered by Android – the world’s most popular and most recognised operating system (more than 2.5 billion users – that’s over half the planet’s population!) – has become a true game-changer. Bringing a wealth of advantages and benefits, both to hoteliers and, ultimately, to their guests.
First launched in 2014 into consumer markets, Android TV is a configured version of the Android operating system by Google (81 per cent share of the smartphone market), designed for use on a variety of solutions, including digital media players, set-top boxes, soundbars, and, of course, TVs. The first integrated commercial Smart TVs were launched in 2015 from several manufacturers, including from Philips. Harnessing the power of Android, and the might of Google (who spent $26billion on R&D in 2019 alone), TVs are now able to evolve and include new features and functionalities as part of regular and sometimes transformative upgrades – literally allowing them to improve with age.
Fewer replacements = reduced e-waste
For many businesses across the globe, including here at PPDS, improving sustainability and ‘green’ credentials is a key focus. The way we see it, if you build TVs to last longer, to stay relevant and perform like new at all times*, e-waste is reduced and investments stretch further. Will this result in less frequent opportunities to sell replacements? Yes, but there is a much bigger picture at stake.
A case in point. Each year in the UK, two million TVs are dumped, many of which are fully working but simply deemed outdated and worthless. Globally, there is more than 40 million tons of electronic waste discarded annually (the equivalent of 800 laptops a second). That’s simply not good enough.
In the past 18 months or so, Android-powered professional TVs, have become more prevalent in professional settings – a push spearheaded heavily by us here at PPDS and, for the benefit of the wider market, pursued by our competitors.
For example, in 2019, PPDS unveiled a revolutionary business model, partnering with Google to offer our customers more for their money. Many manufacturers will say the same, but this is fundamentally different. Harnessing the power of Android and the R&D carried out by Google, the door has opened for a seemingly infinite number of possibilities – including benefits, both financial and time efficiency - on what you can and cannot do with your TV over a longer period.
Consistent performance / experience
With Android, like a smartphone, TVs can be regularly updated – thus improving with age. This means all the latest features and updates, be they from Google, PPDS or from our third-party partners are added without cost. The knock-on effect ensures TVs remain consistent, whether purchased yesterday or years before, in every room, while (aside from physical damage), reducing the regularity of replacement.
What’s more, all this can be done entirely remotely – removing long and tiresome manual updates in each room, potentially disturbing or inconveniencing guests. With a few clicks of a button, every TV in every room can be updated to perform like the very latest models without the expense.
The benefits of these free updates are boundless. For example, the latest Android 9(P) upgrade, made available in November 2020 across Philips line of MediaSuite TVs, brings new features to meet guests’ expanding needs and developing viewing habits. These TVs come with Chromecast built-in as standard, allowing guests to cast their own content from their compatible laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the room display. They also include access to thousands of popular apps via the Google Play Store, such as news channels, YouTube and Spotify, and additional access to popular non-linear media-on-demand services, including Disney+ and Netflix (Netflix subscribers alone have recently surpassed 72 million, while Disney+ has more than 60 million).
Android TVs allow hotels to effortlessly keep pace with consumers. As our teams at PPDS, together with Google and our software partners continue to innovate, so we commit to bring more features to our MediaSuite TVs with every upgrade. As part of our strategy, there are no restrictions and no costs involved. A brave decision? Perhaps? But the customer always comes first and we, like our customers, are always looking at the bigger picture.