Case Study: AV for the Hospitality Industry
Attracting interest in the hospitality industry this year was the voice-enabled cognitive rooms concept launched in April, powered by IBM Watson. Hotel rooms are fitted with Watson-enabled voice recognition or panel controllers – or both – in an attempt to deliver a better experience for guests. Watson’s voice recognition capabilities are linked to room functionality – ask Watson to turn up the heat and he will… as long as he understands your accent!
But IBM isn’t the only high-profile company looking at voice automated rooms. Brendan Doyle, National Sales Manager – Channel at Crestron ANZ, points out that none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chose Crestron for his personal ‘Jarvis’ control system.
Last year, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook: “We use a Crestron system with our lights, thermostat and doors, a Sonos system with Spotify for music, a Samsung TV, a Nest cam for Max, and of course my work is connected to Facebook’s systems.”
Crestron is one of the major exhibitors at this year’s Integrate Expo in Melbourne. The company designs AV control and transport systems for a wide range of industries, including health, education, retail and hospitality.
Crestron partners with Amazon Alexa
Crestron and Amazon Alexa, the voice interactive ‘intelligent personal assistant’, have collaborated on their own voice activated automation system. The Alexa-focused partnership is now working on enterprise integrations to bring voice functionality to meeting rooms and other environments – including hotel rooms.
Doyle says voice recognition is one way people can control their environment. “In a Crestron hotel room, if I say, ‘Amazon Alexa, turn the lights on’, Alexa transmits a signal that tells the Crestron processor to turn the lights on.”
Doyle says Amazon Alexa was fitted into a hotel in Macao recently, and that Crestron is seeing an interest from hotels to do something different, to stand out.
“They are always looking for cool technology that will enhance the guests’ experience,” he says. “Cost is really the only barrier.”
Far from being just an AV tool, within the hotel rooms Crestron provides the control for the lights, blinds and HVAC. But with guests speaking a variety of languages and accents, it’s not easy even with machine learning to get voice recognition right.
“I think the future is a combination of voice recognition and control panels,” Doyle says. “What happens now when you walk into a Crestron hotel room is you’ll be presented with a page that has language selection.
“If you select English, it changes the spoken language and the touch panels to English. It’s really about the engine driving the voice recognition software and whether that can handle it.”
Function rooms with Crestron hard-wired
Whereas in the past AV was a set up/take down affair with ad hoc AV systems hired for functions or conferences, Doyle says the tendency today is for fixed systems.
“There is definitely a trend to minimise the amount of production-style AV you have bring in,” he points out. So traditionally you’d hire a guy in a black t-shirt and he’d come in and put speakers up and a mixing desk – a temporary set up for the day.
“Instead of that, a lot of hotels are now investing more in installation infrastructure like Crestron, so that things are ready to go at any time. They configure the room using an iPad or a screen and that’s part of the conference package that you purchase from the hotel.”
Freeform – a conference in a box
At this year’s Integrate Expo, Doyle will be demonstrating a new product called Freeform. In fact, it’s so new, it hasn’t been released yet. Doyle gives us the inside scoop.
“It’s a corporate-style product for meeting rooms and conference spaces, a presentation device with a wireless presenter built into it,” he explains.
“It’s also got a wired 4K input. So I can walk into the room and I can plug my laptop in and it’ll automatically put the content up on the screen. It’ll potentially be linked to an occupancy sensor which will turn the screen on. It’ll have booking information on there – a lot of feature sets packed into a box.”
Crestron at Integrate Expo 2017
Doyle will be on hand at the Crestron exhibit at Integrate Expo to demonstrate products and discuss the possibilities of AV technology in hospitality and other industries. The stand will display Crestron’s NVX transport/control system, Mercury and Freeform conferencing packages.
“We’re also going to have some next generation room booking systems called SSW,” Doyle says. “It’s like an indicator panel more than a touch panel that keeps track of room scheduling. We’ll be reasonably enterprise-focused in what we’ll be putting forward at Integrate.”