Adapting to today’s ubiquitous digital devices

How did we ever survive without our electronic digital devices?

So pervasive are they now that even most five years olds starting school know how to operate a smartphone and accept use of such technology as a natural part of their schooling. And for the vast majority of adults, laptops, iPads, iPods, e-readers and tablets have become an intrinsic part of their lives.

Of course, this usage transmutes to the accommodation industry. Today’s traveller expects much more from their hotel than a place to store their bags and a bed to sleep at night. They now expect all of the comforts of home, along with all of the benefits of the holiday experience. When they travel, they want their electronic gadgetry to travel with them.

This has major implications on the type of in-room technology that hotels and many motels now need to provide. Guests prefer to use their devices in the privacy and comfort of their rooms, leaving the accommodation industry with little alternative but to provide them with all the backup and ease-of-use they desire. These requirements have now gone well beyond simple recharging. Guests may now want to wake up to their own music, interact with social media, view their family photos and access stored entertainment on the in-room TV.

For business travellers, it might be essential to be able to access to the latest electronic information. The success of their whole trip could depend on it. It is almost certain they will have ascertained what technology is available before making their booking, and would not return to an establishment that they thought inadequate in that regard.

This all creates a need for accommodation providers to have innovative products and smart design concepts available that are in tune with the modern guest’s expectations. Providing an up-to-date docking station in guest rooms is no longer a luxury, but a basic need of modern business guests and more tech-savvy tourists.

Evidence that this technological trend is rapidly becoming the expected industry norm is everywhere and means that there is an urgent demand for more information, greater product clarity and more varied choice. Accommodation providers can no longer leave such knowledge and decision making to their IT experts. While they might not need to master the intricate detail that their specialists do, an educated overview of the latest trends and products is now becoming an essential part of their knowledge base. Attending international trade shows, such as HITEC, held in Los Angeles this year and to be held in Austin, Texas in 2015, might be a very sensible additional business date on their calendar.

Many have come to realise that even exploring the options currently available for docking stations – just one part of an increasingly baffling enigma, is like negotiating a minefield where mistakes can be very expensive. But the most essential requirement is easy access to wifi, followed by the growing importance of USB (or Universal Serial Bus) a universal industry standard that defines cables and connectors. All personal devices now offer USB charging.

Hospitality providers offering ample USB charging capabilities and bluetooth/HDMI connections will be covering all the bases their guests are likely to require.

Three companies AMG spoke to all agree that accommodating travellers’ electronic needs is absolutely essential for accommodation providers these days.

Yardley Hospitality has served the hospitality industry since 1999 supplying hotels, motels, apartments and tourist parks throughout Australia. Managing director Paul Yardley, says today’s traveller wants much more from their hotel than a place to store their bags and a bed to sleep at night. “They now expect all of the comforts of home, along with all of the benefits of the holiday experience. With the introduction of smartphones, almost 80 per cent of the population now has a device that offers them music everywhere they go. This has created an obvious need for hotels to give travellers the option to be able to play and charge these devices where and whenever they want,” Mr Yardley said.

DTD3190 300x225At Asquith, NSW, Technology 4 hotels director Brendon Granger agrees that as an increasingly larger percentage of the population now owns some kind of smart device (phone or tablet) it is only logical they will bring it when staying at hotels. “They expect to be able to use their devices there just as they do at home.

“I believe that increasingly, technology is less about what hotels provide and more about accommodating what guests are bringing. The key is to provide them with the power, infrastructure and the bandwidth to achieve this,” he said.

Damien Deruniec and Matthew Skene are co-directors at USBsockets that covers both the New Zealand and Australian markets. Mr Deruniec says a distinction between the two is that in New Zealand, the company’s sales are around 90 per cent commercial – “Ski resorts are very popular” whereas in Australia the clients are close to 50/50 residential and commercial.”

He says ample USB charging in the room is becoming a must as it alleviates the need to offer ‘international’ plugs and adaptors.

Various solutions – Each company has products it believes are the best answer to the multi-device problem.

For Paul Yardley, it is Philips products. “One such device that has this capability and more is the AJ7260D from Philips. It comes with dual docking including 30 pin and lightning connections, it plays FM radio and will also charge any other device with its 2.1 amp rear USB connection,” he said. “For those who don’t like Apple devices and find Androids are more their cup of tea, then this product will cater for everyone.

“For accommodation providers looking for a home theatre type experience, then the DTD3190 from Philips might be what you’re looking for. This product will play DVDs, CDs, FM radio, iPad/iPhone/iPods (lightning), USB devices out of two massive speakers punching out an impressive 150W RMS. Having the added bonus of DVD playback means less space used in any hotel room,” Mr Yardley said.

“Further to this, it has bluetooth on board, so you can wirelessly stream your music from any device. If this is too bulky for your liking, what about the upcoming HTL3140B SoundBar? It has wireless subwoofer and bluetooth on board for ease of streaming your music to it, while also letting guests listen to what they are watching on TV.

“Travellers are always going to expect more and more from their hotel experience. Hotels that can at least offer the newest and greatest audio devices will at least stand a chance to fulfil some of this expectation,” he said.

Ample USB charging essential – Damien Deruniec from USBsockets says more and more devices are being powered by USB.

“It’s great for travellers who can access USB ports from their laptops to charge devices such as their electric shavers, electric tooth brushes, and hand-held devices such as mobile phones, tablets and GPS units. But also these days, more and more devices especially for travellers are being charged via USB, such as electric shavers, electric toothbrushes, power tools and children’s toys.

“But what if you don’t have your laptop with you but perhaps have a device such as a large tablet? Many USB sockets only have up to 2-amp charge capacity and many convertors and plug-ins you can buy from such places as convenience stores or travel goods shops at airports, are only 1-amp. Even worse, they might share that 1-amp. It would take forever to charge a device – or it may not even charge at all,” Mr Deruniec said.

He says that will not occur with the company’s patented wall sockets range that combines an Australian Standard approved dual 240v-power socket with twin USB powered charging outlets. “Our sockets are a whopping 3.5-amp – a type that used to be installed in the bedroom or kitchen. However, we’re seeing a new trend with hotels undergoing refurbishment – putting USB sockets wherever there is a standard power socket. The USB 5 volt sockets are perfect for charging any device fitted with a USB connection, including mobile phones, tablets, cameras, electric shavers and more, without the need for bulky adapters. The devices plug straight in to the USB sockets on the power point and leave the two 240v plug sockets free for regular appliance use.”

Docking station clock radio – Brendon Granger from Technology 4 Hotels has his own approach: “Guests want to be able to charge their smart phone overnight so that they know in the morning it will be fully charged. Ideally this needs to be done beside the bed as many guests also use their phone as their alarm clock because they trust it. A docking station clock radio is the perfect solution.”

Mr Granger says there four things a hotel should look for when purchasing.
1) Quality unit with a track record
2) Designed for hotels with hotel features
3) Very easy to use
4) Charges the maximum numbers of mobile devices

“Products designed for the home market don’t always stand up to the heavy use in an accommodation complex. Choose a quality product. But make sure it is simple to use, including setting the alarm. Always look for a unit that supports both Apple and non-Apple devices. Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy, are gaining popularity. The best way to support them is via a USB port on the docking station.

“Providing adequate power for all guests’ has become a major challenge and USB has become the default standard for charging mobile devices. So if your power points are well positioned and in the right location (above the desk so guests don’t need to get on their hands and knees) then you can replace your existing power points with a power point that has two built-in USB ports. This will allow your guests to charge any mobile device they bring with them as long as they have the appropriate charging cable,” Mr Granger said.

When it comes to catering for guests’ charging needs when they have multiple devices, he says there are there are two aspects. “The first is access to adequate power. I believe there should be at least two free power outlets available for the guest (that is they have nothing in them, no lamps etc) at the desk and the bedside to charge their own devices. If these power points do not have USB ports then you should have at least four power points at the desk.

The second aspect is Internet connectivity. Accommodation providers need to ensure that their Internet plan or service is able to provide guests with the ability to connect multiple devices at once. I’d be suggesting two devices was a minimum for a single guest as they may want to connect up both a smart phone and tablet or laptop. If it’s a family you may need to have plans to offer up to six or eight simultaneously connected devices,” he said.

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