Sunday, March 11, 2007

Personalizing the guest experience using Microsoft technologies

While luxury hotels have prided themselves on remembering, and acting on, the preferences of their best customers, the Lifeware solution from Exceptional Innovation extends those capabilities further and makes them available to all of a hotel’s guests. “The solution allows for a personalization of the hotel experience,” says Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing at Exceptional Innovation. “In the hotel room itself, it provides an entirely new environment to experience entertainment, hotel amenities, and room control while you’re staying at the hotel.”

Business benefits

Personalized experiences

Once a guest establishes a profile with an individual hotel or chain, that profile is used to “set” the hotel room as soon as the guest checks in. For someone who likes a darkened room, the integrated solution “instructs” motorized controls to close the curtains and dim the room lights. The air conditioner can be turned on for a guest who prefers a chillier room. Classical music enthusiasts can hear Mozart as they enter.

Guests can further control their experience during their stay using Lifeware Media Center, accessed through their room TV’s remote control or a wall-mounted touch screen.

Customer loyalty

A hotel’s potential for improving customer loyalty by offering such a personalized stay is enormous. Guests will want to return to properties or chains that “know” them—and that have demonstrated the ability to translate their preferences into actions.

Reduced operational expenses

In addition to improving customer loyalty, hotels can experience operational benefits. “All of these things—the thermostat, security systems, window coverings—can be communicated over the hotel’s IT [information technology] network via the Lifeware software,” says Seamons. This level of integration with the hotel’s systems provides an opportunity to save on utility costs. “When a guest checks out, the solution can be used to automatically shut down systems, like heating and air conditioning, that are no longer in use,” he notes.

Integration technology

The Lifeware solution consists of three layers, Seamons explains. “There’s the integration layer, where devices and applications talk to each other; a middleware layer, where information is kept in profiles and interacts with the hotel’s guest folio system; and the client/presentation layer, which the guest sees.”

Microsoft technology is used in virtually all elements of the solution and helps make the integration possible. “At the base layer, all the devices communicate through standards-based Microsoft Web services,” notes Seamons. “All the software architecture was created using Microsoft .NET, which is how these elements are communicating across the platform. And the presentation layers use Microsoft Windows XP Media Center and Windows XP Embedded. There are even some devices making use of Windows Mobile.”

Lifeware was originally developed for the residential market, “where people want a high level of personalization and uniqueness,” says Seamons. “We wanted to take it to hotels so people there could have a special experience. We believe hotels present a perfect opportunity to educate people on what they can do in their home—while also giving them an unparalleled experience in the hotel now.”

Partner information

The following Microsoft partner can be contacted for more information on this solution.

Exceptional Innovation combines Microsoft development expertise with years of home automation experience to deliver simple, seamless, life-enhancing solutions for the digital home.