Getting the technological edge

Following his firm's relocation to the Middle East, Roomwithnet managing director Andrew Prince talks to Tech Talk how smart technology can help you get ahead of the competition.

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By  Administrator Published  May 6, 2008

Gadgets and smart technology are certainly one way to do that, and Prince says that it's not a huge expense to the investor or the owner of the hotel building to install such technology at the construction stage.

"Certain markets are obviously more willing to embrace the technology, in particular Dubai, Abu Dhabi - the UAE generally - Qatar, Kuwait. They're much more open to looking at something new," he adds.

Roomwithnet (RWN Trading LLC) started operating in London in 1991 but, whilst the firm still has a satellite office in the UK, its head office is now situated in the Fairmont Dubai and the Middle East is its prime target market.

"Our target, which we have almost achieved, is to set up a complete network of systems integrators across the region to sell all of our solutions to hotels and we're already doing business in Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE in the Middle East, as well as Sri Lanka, Maldives and India. The Middle East is an emerging market for this [smart] technology." explains Prince.

The company's core smart product at present is the Virtual Concierge, which Prince describes as a hotel digital interactive TV system that incorporates all of the entertainment information and business services that a hotel guest would require.

"Apart from digital television - as opposed to analogue, so the quality is very good - you've got video on demand, play back TV, internet access on all LCD TVs, digital games, hotel information, business information and religious information - quite important in the Middle East," he says.

"And on top of that it has a multi-language facility."

The Virtual Concierge runs using Roomwithnet software but, as Prince explains, it is the hotel's system for it to brand and use to deliver information to its guests.

"Whether it be a special offer for a stay the following week, an offer of dinner for two with a free glass of champagne or a tour they're promoting, the Virtual Concierge provides hotels with a big opportunity to up-sell their products and services," he says.

"It's a marketing tool, and we always recommend that the sales and marketing department is heavily involved in the configuration of the system."

The technology does not present too much of a challenge on the technical side either, and is quick and easy to install.

"It's not highly technical because of today's technology. The converged network that we have with our systems integrators means that we're basically just using one network cable into the room to deliver all of the services from TV to internet and telephones as required," explains Prince.

Roomwithnet is constantly on the lookout for new products that will compliment its smart software, and has recently introduced a new LCD display with a built-in PC to the Middle East market.

"The benefit of this is that you don't need a separate set top box in the room, and you're providing the guest with full PC functionality on their TV," Prince says.

"They can walk in, press a button, and get onto programmes like Word or Excel. It also comes with an infra red or remote keyboard."

As well as the Virtual Concierge and LCD PC, Roomwithnet offers the i-Pod radio alarm clock, "a big thing in Dubai as most guests travel with their own music and the ability to play it is important", and the VC-BTN Remote which means "lights, curtains, the door lock, all of those services hooked into the one remote control that's completely wireless".

"There are many benefits. It's a very easy install and can be retro-fitted to existing hotels," says Prince.

The range of smart technology continues to grow at a rapid pace, driven by customer demand, hotels' desire to stand out above their competitors and most importantly the need to make technology operation more convenient for the guest.

"The next big step will be the use of individual cell phones and PDAs to control all aspects of the room, from curtains to door locks and the TV, using wireless or Bluetooth," concludes Prince.

Company history

Name: Roomwithnet (RWN Trading LLC)

Created: 1991 in London, England

Head office: Dubai

Countries of operation: UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India



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