WhiteSand Tech Report – April 2010

This is the first in a monthly look at products recently introduced to the market which we think may be of interest to our clients and friends in the industry.

Over the past decade, hotel and resort operators have been trying to provide more and more automated, easy-to-use, in-room technology regarding environmental controls, room-service, concierge services, and property information. In order to accomplish this, some properties have developed home-grown portals that rely on a computer monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, others have utilized the television as the device on which the system sits, and, more recently, phone suppliers have developed advanced devices with proprietary apps that can carryout many of the aforementioned tasks. Now with the release of the iPad, a new system is gaining some attention in the hospitality industry. The system, called the Interactive Customer Experience, or “ICE”, was developed by David Adelson of Intelity. Adelson has a long history in the hotel industry having spent time with Hilton Hotels Corp., Hyatt Hotels Corp. and the Peabody Orlando.

Intelity’s ICE wants to be the first touch screen virtual-concierge application to be available on the iPad device. As you watch, this product captures your attention quickly as your mind races to come up with all of the ways to use it to cross-sell, up-sell, market to and communicate with your customers. It may take a while for some of our customers to catch on with it, but it should be something that will definitely grow in acceptance and use.

Imagine entering your guest room and being greeted by a digital image of the hotel’s CEO, the organizer of your event the, or the bride and groom whose wedding you are attending. They deliver their message and then the monitor switches to a touch screen display of all the things you can do on the property.

On paper, it sounds beautiful. ICE provides personalized communication, including mail services that allow guests to track all of their requests to hotel staff and their scheduled activities while onsite. It can also schedule wake-up calls, send requests for more towels directly to the housekeeping staff, and will allow guests to surf the Web or research local attractions. Since we know who is in the room, the scrolling banner ads can be personalized specifically to the guest profile. If used effectively, this could be a powerful tool in terms of up-selling and cross-selling the property’s amenities.

You can add your own in-house applications to provide guests the ability to receive direct messaging from your staff, meeting planners and other guests. Movie and other entertainment content as well as popular games can be delivered to the device easily and for a profit. Interfaces to room environmental controls, curtains and lighting either exist or are currently in development. ICE uses application programming interfaces (API’s) to integrate with your Property Management, Food and Beverage, Golf, Spa, Ticketing, Restaurant Reservation and other systems. ICE can then present this real- time information to your patrons, and your staff does not have to re-enter the data or print new inserts for the compendium folio.

These API’s even allow for third party businesses to plug into the interface. This can allow for properties to partner with outside services while maintaining a seamless user interface and experience through the ICE program. Guests can book golf tee times, various tours, etc. without having to pick up a phone or make a trip down to the concierge desk.

With ICE, the Food & Beverage Department can change prices for items on the room service menu on the fly (increase the chicken caesar salad by a dollar when they are in high demand). Business travelers can use it to check the weather, flight status, and print out their boarding passes. Its intuitive nature makes it accessible and user-friendly, but as with all new technologies, some resistance by older generations and the techno- phobic is to be expected. To this end, the greeting message displayed when guests first enter the room can include a tutorial to familiarize guests with ICE.

But will customers really use it to make dinner and show reservations or book a massage or spa treatment, or just pick up the phone? Can a property really replace the in-room compendium, with all its pamphlets and paper, with this device? Another operational consideration is whether to capital expense the purchase, lease or use Intelity’s subscription based model. Intelity’s subscription based model maintains control over the features and functionality of the software. In most situations this will not pose a problem, but for operators who constantly perform heavy customization, one of the other options may be the suitable solution.

Then there are the stated claims of increased revenues and the ability to reduce costs. ICE does offer the unlimited ability and means to advertise. Whether it’s your own outlets and amenities or your ability to sell advertising to the local golf courses, tour operators and amusement rides, how much can you really charge, can you show a return, and will it work? The cost for the system ranges from $10 to $45 a room, per month, depending on the software applications selected and implemented.

In addition, Intelity offers the application in a slimmed down version for installation on mobile devices so your guests can perform all of these same tasks and receive your targeted messaging from anywhere on property. Since all patron transactions are recorded and stored, ICE’s reporting and analytical capabilities allow you to monitor the use and also measure the acceptance of this suite of products. Savings in labor due to the real time tracking and review of employee actions or increases in sales based on the strategic up selling using ICE can also be verified. Integration to HOTSOS or other similar systems is expected. Additional views of your hotel’s operations are also available through some of ICE’s other reporting capabilities. We see where some of the collected data could assist in making budgetary and operational decisions when operators need to account for each and every dollar being spent.

The ICE product shows considerable potential. Given that more and more customers are purchasing and using mobile, touch screen devices in their day-to-day lives, and performing various transactions via these devices (banking, reservations, etc.), the natural progression would be for hotel and resort operators to offer this same experience in the rooms and throughout the property. ICE provides this experience with an intuitive, attractive user interface.

Gaming Technology Summit

WhiteSand Gaming created and produces the Gaming Technology Summit each year in Las Vegas. The Gaming Technology Summit addresses the critical role of technology in casino resorts and the demands it places on gaming professionals to learn new skills, integrate systems and make hardware and software investment decisions. It is the gaming industry’s hottest conference, full of hands-on technology updates, insights and strategies, addressing real-world technology challenges and solutions for all segments of the gaming industry. Each year, some of the industry’s brightest stars share their knowledge in an exciting conference line-up that features great new topics as well as returning favourites. The Gaming Technology Summit returns to Green Valley Ranch in

Las Vegas for its eighth annual renewal May 25-26, 2010. To learn more about the conference, please visit www.gametechsummit.com.