Many business people carry mobile phones, laptop computers and other communication devices to keep information at their fingertips.
The hospitality industry has also gone high-tech over the years with key cards, automatic checkouts and wireless internet access.
Milwaukee-based Premiere Hotel Concepts LLC is taking that technology one step farther with the development of its AVU system for hotel guests.
“The AVU system delivers an in-room media experience to guests staying at the hotel,” said Paul Dickson, director of sales for the company. “The first things people typically do when entering their hotel room, is turn on the television. This product utilizes that understanding and puts every feature a guest could want at their fingertips through their television screen.”
The AVU system utilizes a high definition television and merges cable or salellitetelevision, DVR pause and stop capabilities, internet systems, office and presentation technology and integrates a hotel’s entertainment guide, said Scott Johnson, director of technology for Premiere Hotel Concepts.
The AVU system includes a customizable television interface that features the hotel logo and desired color scheme on the home page, Johnson said.
From there, guests can choose to view television or stream movies via Netflix, visit the customizable hotel information screen, visit the hotel city’s attraction page or surf the internet and use office software to work on presentations or papers.
“Everything is done using a Bluetooth remote and keyboard and all on one television screen,” Johnson said.
“This all came about two years ago as we had all been traveling quite extensively,” Dickson said. “We saw that there was a huge gap between what we thought was necessary and relevant hotel information for guests and what was actually out there.”
Dickson contacted Johnson who he knew would be capable of the technology side of things, and brought in Kevin Tormey, director of contracts and services to keep the team grounded, and Adam Olson, director of software development to assist in the development aspect.
Together, the four have more than 50 years experience in the hotel and hospitality industry.
“We really took a look at what other people were trying to do, and realized they were missing a few key things,” Johnson said. “We took our time deciding what should be included and spent a lot of time doing homework and research on what traveling guests wanted.”
The team didn’t even come up with a solid prototype until a year later, Johnson said.
“What I found annoying while traveling was the constant nickel and diming I had to go through to connect to the internet, to listen to music, to watch movies,” Tormey said. “The interfaces were difficult to use, and there was an additional charge for everything. The beauty of the AVU system is that it is exactly like what people are used to seeing in their homes, and the interface is as easy to use if you are age 7 or 70.”
Ideally, from Premiere Hotel Concepts point of view, hotels would offer the AVU system to their guests as an amenity, but Premiere of course can’t force them to do that, Dickson said. Hotels can decide whether or not to charge their guests extra for the AVU service.
“We’d really like for hotels to look at this and see that having an AVU system installed in their guest rooms will really be a way to showcase both the hotel and the community, and really differentiate the guest experience in a positive way,” Tormey said.
The AVU system is offered to hotels on a per unit basis, and additional costs may be added depending on the level of technology and software the hotel wants installed. The systems are controlled remotely by Premiere Hotel Concepts.
“We have the capabilities to regularly update the systems in each room from a remote location. The boxes all have an identification code in them that identifies what hotel they are in and can be updated on a regular basis,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the updates can be timed with hotel check-in and check-out times so guests don’t have to deal with too many changes.
“We can update menus or themes seasonally, and can also update or change advertising placements on a regular or semi regular basis depending on the needs and wants of the facility,” Johnson said.
The AVU system was designed to be a resource for guests, but also offers the hotel the opportunity to showcase events and happenings within the community.
“Local restaurants, theaters, sporting events, and night clubs can pay to be featured as an attraction on the AVU system,” Tormey said.
There is even the capability to directly purchase tickets or make reservations at local sporting events, theaters and restaurants via the internet connection, Johnson added.
The pricing for the installation and maintenance of the AVU system is comparable to that of other systems, Tormey said.
The same is true for the pricing of the advertisements and links to local organizations.
“We are priced very competitively, and offer a more unique quality of advertising because of the HD aspect and the technology that puts the organizations in front of the guest as something they are seeking out,” Tormey said. “We based the prices off of what local organizations pay to be a part of the traditional pamphlet entertainment guide found in most hotels.”
A portion of the advertising revenue from the AVU system is shared with the hotel.
Premiere Hotel Concepts is currently working with the Delafield Hotel, and the Marriott extended stay Residence Inn in Milwaukee. They have units in both locations, and plan to expand those units in 2010 and grow in locations throughout the Midwest at first.
“Ultimately we want to be a steward to the community, and so we figured we may as well start right here with our own community,” Dickson said. “We have made a conscious decision to say here is our hard cost, but our pricing model is based off of what the market can bear and how we can give back to the community and its guests. This is really a showcase opportunity for the city and the community where the AVU systems are set up.”