Dutch technology company Philips has launched a new app to replace remote controls in hotel rooms, in a bid to reduce the risk of spreading dangerous germs and viruses from guest to guest.
GuestConnect, developed by the company’s Professional Display Solutions (PDS) team, is a cloud-based app which allows users to control hotel televisions through their phone, thereby eliminating the need to handle a remote.
Its unveiling comes during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as caution around surfaces and their potential to help spread the virus has been heightened.
“Give guests the confidence they need”
Studies on coronaviruses, like SARS-COV-2 (the virus causing the current COVID-19 crisis), SARS and MERS, have found viruses can last as long as nine days on certain surfaces that haven’t been properly disinfected. Earlier this month, Design Week spoke to designers about how they were rethinking materials to turn them into COVID-killers, rather than COVID-spreaders.
As hotels tentatively begin to reopen, the GuestConnect app aims to support hotels reopening and “give guests the confidence they need” to return to businesses, according to Philips PDS Business Manager EMEA Anthony Tizzard.
Advice from the UK government recommends a heightened cleaning regime for all hotels, and daily cleaning of all “hand contact surfaces”, such as door handles, taps, light switches and remote controls. GuestConnect will remove at least one of these surfaces from the to-do list of housekeepers, who will be under more pressure than ever to perform their roles effectively.
“Address the problems of the pandemic now, rather than later”
The key to developing the app, Tizzard says, was thinking about what hoteliers and their guests actually wanted from the platform.
“Our standard Development pattern is between 18-24 months since it is mainly hardware related, but with Guest Connect, we adopted a new development scheme to speed up our response time to the recent market developments and delivered a complete guest-oriented technology,” he tells Design Week. Namely, this meant being as simple as possible and “no extra buttons”.
In what Tizzard called a new direction for Philips, the GuestConnect app was actually the result of a “hackathon” – a condensed development process in which all of the relevant stakeholders and developers, in this case included hoteliers, product designers, software developers, salespeople, business managers and technologists, work exclusively together over a short period, usually several days or weeks.
With the usual product development process at Philips being two years, Tizzard says this was “revolutionary”. But he adds, it was also necessary: “It meant we were able to address the problems of the pandemic now, rather than later.”
“Integrated into their systems already”
To use the app, hotel visitors scan a unique QR code given to them on check in or when they first turn on the television in their room.
Once installed from the Play Store or App Store, guests have access to standard television functions like channel changing and volume control, as well as MediaSuite services like Chromecast and other apps. Crucially, because of the unique QR code, the remote will only work on the guests’ own television set.
To ensure the app can be adopted by small, medium and large hotels alike, the Philips team has does not require any additional software to generate this code. Instead, it is linked to hotels’ property management systems (PMS), which look after guests’ information and provides things like room keys.
“The way we provide hotels with solutions is by being integrated into their system already,” he says.
“Benefit hotels further in the future”
Currently, the app works with Philips’ newest MediaSuite Hospitality televisions. But with interest in the product already high, the team is working to roll this out to older ranges.
Similarly, Tizzard says the team is looking at ways the remote app can be expanded in the future, with features like voice control.
“The aim was to create a flexible design that we could then expand to benefit hotels further in the future.”
This is not the first product brought out by Philips to address issues surrounding the current pandemic. Back in May, the company unveiled a new queue management system, for shops to use to maintain safe social distancing.