This might finally be the year that hotel entertainment catches up. I’ve been complaining for oh, about half a decade that hotels don’t do enough to provide a good in-room entertainment experience. The old excuse that “people don’t go to hotels to watch TV” has always been a load of horse hockey and finally hotels are beginning to see it. It started with excellent options like the DIRECTV Residential Experience and DISH has moved forward with a different, yet equally interesting, option.
EVOLVE, pictured above, is a box for the back of hotel televisions that combines live TV and streaming into a single smart option that will give guests everything they are looking for. Using a SMARTBOX headend system, they’ll be able to watch a lot of channels live, and the EVOLVE itself is also an Android TV box running a custom UI that will allow for traditional streaming (like Netflix and Hulu) plus connection to the hotel’s computer systems for things like billing and ordering.
It seems like a pretty smart solution. It doesn’t include any DVR function for live TV and that’s kind of a shame, and while it doesn’t include on-demand functionality or pay-per-view there’s no reason that someone couldn’t come up with a way to do that. The Google Play Video store could be used, for example, but of course that wouldn’t mean any profit for the hotel.
While it didn’t really say so, I’m assuming that when you leave the room, any credentials you’ve entered in or content you’ve consumed will be wiped from the box. That’s how it works in other systems that combine streaming with live TV.
Using the television for streaming instead of hotel Wi-Fi gives a wired connection that’s more stable and gives the hotel more ability to separate streaming content from other sorts of network content. This should mean a better experience for business travelers who count on good network connectivity even when people in other rooms are streaming. It also gives people a larger screen to consume video, which older travelers are accustomed to.
So far, this is the only news to reach us from Toronto’s HITEC show, which showcases the hotel industry technology that you’ll hopefully see. I went to this show in 2012 and while it was impressive to walk around, most of the tech was centered around things like phones that also charged your cell. That’s nice and all but it didn’t really address what people wanted out of hotel technology. It’s nice to finally see these companies wake up to what customers want to see; of course whether the hotel owners themselves actually wake up is another matter altogether. I guess we’ll know when we see the first EVOLVE boxes implemented in a hotel near us.