TORONTO—Smart TVs are becoming an integral part of the hotel room, but all products—no matter how necessary they seem today—have a life cycle where they will eventually need to be replaced, upgraded or a new innovation takes its position. At InnSpire, a technology company based in Stockholm, co-founders Martin Chevalley and Mathias Adolfsson are keenly focused on innovating what’s behind the screen so that every TV is “smart.”
Its newest product, InnCable, which launched at HITEC Toronto, puts all of the functionalities of an Android box into a single Ethernet-to-HDMI cable. Set up is simple: One end is connected to an Ethernet socket (PoE optional) and the other end to the HDMI-port of the TV. In essence, the cable is now the computer.
“Why bother with boxes and dongles when a single cable does it better? This is a groundbreaking technology and I’m convinced it will forever change the way we look at all TV solutions, including Apple TV and Chromecast,” said Chevalley, CEO of InnSpire.
Founded in 2012, InnSpire is a young company with early success as winner of Hotel Technology Next Generation’s (HTNG) Most Innovative Hospitality Technology Award in 2013. The company’s goal is to help hotels sell more, entertain better, track and optimize operations. According to Chevalley, the company’s sweet spot is medium-sized, premium hotel groups. InnSpire works with Club Quarters and Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, for example. However, the executives don’t want to limit their reach and hope to work with major brands such as Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Hilton in the future.
“We’ve done a couple of Viceroy hotels already, and if everything goes well, we’ll do each property as they come up,” said Chevalley. “These are the kind of groups we can help a lot and work closely with on driving customer satisfaction and revenue, while offering entertainment solutions and data to improve the offering further.”
Designed to be a cost efficient, easy-to-install solution, Chevalley believes the InnCable will be a game changer in the hospitality space in terms of the product life cycle.
“The investment in a TV should be 7-9 years. By making it interactive, those solutions will be much quicker; our product will change in 3-5 years. Providing something you can easily replace makes much more sense instead of being stuck with replacing the whole TV, which is a larger cost,” he said.
In terms of setup, from gathering brand-specific materials such as graphics, design and upselling information for F&B and amenities to installation, the timeframe is about two weeks. A project manager comes onsite to lead the installation and interface between the hotel’s GM and InnSpire. There are also installers who go into each guestroom to help facilitate the setup process. A web-based content management system enables the hotelier to have remote access to the system on-property or anywhere in the world.
“In this specific hotel, let’s say room 21, you can see whatever is being ordered through the device, as well as check-in and checkout. All of the data is tied to this room. In three to five days, the actual install is done. We can retrofit in existing TVs; it doesn’t have to be part of a larger refurbishment. Once it’s live, the guests will see the same interface on their personal mobile device. We go through WiFi and we’re appless. When guest access the hotel’s WiFi, they’re greeted by an interactive interface on their tablet or device and it looks like what’s in the room or on TV. They can book a spa treatment, transport to the airport and when they come to the room, the TV is switched on and information is there for the same interactions.”
The adaption rate is very high, noted Chevalley, and the data captured is specific—how many times guests turn on TV features, services used, TV channels being watched on a group hotel level. This information can be useful to hoteliers determining whether certain services are worth keeping.
Another feature added is the ability to solicit guest feedback through InnCable. Guests can give thumbs up or down, reporting if they’re happy with their stay, and the information is sent via SMS and email to key people in the hotel, enabling staff to respond to and resolve potential issues quickly.
“If it’s positive feedback, for example, staff will know to increase service to the guest. A trigger or SMS is sent to the kitchen and they can prepare a cookie, knock on the door and say, ‘We’re so happy you’re enjoying the stay.’ Similarly with unhappy guests, the GM can get the email that guest in room 201 needs extra attention,” he said. “The main point is to capture any unhappy guest before they leave and make sure issues are fixed immediately.”