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What's Taking So Long

What's Taking So Long?

The question then is, "Why slow deployment or lack of deployment of the SmartRoom?" The most apparent issue is that the cost of getting into fielding and maintaining a solution is uncertain; the ultimate technical solution is uncertain; and, because no one brand, chain, or major franchise has moved on claiming the SmartRoom as a competitive selling point.

This is all about to change. Certainly, many major brands are recognizing that the end consumer is asking the question "Why can't I have this?" and now the realization that the customer is going to drive the deployment is bringing pressure for the decision makers to move forward. With these pressures, just like the Wireless Revolution in 2004, once one major brand jumps into the market and declares "SmartRooms Here!" it will be an open rush for every brand to implement the SmartRoom or fall by the wayside.

Fear of the Unknown.
Until this point the most compelling reasons for avoiding the SmartRoom deployment is undefined costs and solutions. Even more disconcerting is that the paradigm for technology, enhancements and new offerings has dramatically changed and provides little or no history on how to effectively navigate these new decisions.

In the past the technology vendors and almost all amenity vendors have been isolated, and able to discuss each solution as a "stove pipe" system. Each system was a standalone system from start to finish. The phone system, the property management system, the fire alarm system, even the mini-bar; each essentially operated independently using a dedicated infrastructure with minimal, if any, interaction between them.

The Need for Open Architecture.
The challenge in the SmartRoom development is that all the component comply with an industry standard, moving away from "closed architecture" into the "open systems architecture." This makes reference to a major shift in computer technology in the 80's from the IBM mainframe environment. As a closed architecture, IBM held big businesses hostage. This rapidly changed to an entirely new, revolutionary "Open Systems Architecture" of Sun-supporting Unix and now Linux.

This shift, over the next 10 years, almost destroyed IBM as they struggled to embrace the new open solutions that allow for new technologies to be built and sold by independent vendors with a new degree of interoperability. This allowed consumers to buy and integrate the "best of breed" without having to be handcuffed by a single vendor product line and ushered in the most revolutionary advancement in computer technology in history.

No Need For a Leap of Faith.
In essence, the SmartRoom represents a community of consumers faced with the same set of decisions. The consumer's history has been to select a vendor and then be locked in with the vendor for all services, support, and future upgrades, or stand the risk of having to re-invest in the core technologies - often a daunting investment. However, the most basic tenant of the SmartRoom technologies and the independent vendors is that this is no longer required. Each vendor is typically poised to operate their system / solution over an internal TCP/IP (Internet) network (called an Intranet or IntraLAN), therefore no longer requiring a separate, dedicated infrastructure in which to operate.

The Next Step is the Biggest.
If the network provides a new solution for an open architecture that allows franchises and brands to pick and choose the best vendor, where best may mean best technology or best business deal or best integration into their strategic vision, then what is the next step? Again, why hasn't the SmartRoom met the predicted success?

The answer may be that the legacy vendors face the same dilemma that IBM faced in the 80's – by embracing an Open architecture they lose the control and stronghold on the customer base. Historically, with their core technology, they want to deliver a "stovepipe" solution that offers little room for the integration or utilization of an alternative solution. New innovations, features or functionality are delivered as components of their system and, as a captive market, the pricing is minimally negotiable. Ultimately, there is little motivation to advocate an Open architecture as this would introduce unnecessary competition and make the legacy vendor vulnerable to innovations and a fast moving marketplace.

Success with Open Architecture. 
Just as with phone systems, the infrastructure has been separated from the service equipment. Therefore the property owns the infrastructure - the wiring, the 66 blocks, the phone rooms, phone closets and the phone jacks in every location. This system is a standard and it provides a basic standardized set of connectivity to each and every room. Therefore, when assessing the cost of upgrading a phone solution, the cost comes from the new equipment and the labor to install and configure the equipment with minimal cost associated with modifying the infrastructure. After all, the phone system operates over the standard phone infrastructure and if the previous system worked, then it is reasonable to expect that another standard phone system will also work.

Therefore, while the phone system doesn't represent a perfect solution, the phone system can be maintained, upgraded, and ultimately replaced without the cost of reengineering the entire infrastructure. With this open system, the hotel operator can compare different sources for maintenance or replacing phone systems.

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