Even before Halifax-based SolutionInc Ltd., a provider of IP provisioning products, realized its niche was in software, the company was certain of its prime target market.

“”We decided the hospitality market was the market

that would adopt our technology the quickest,”” says Mike Anaka, the company’s president and CEO.

SolutionInc was formed in 1997 by a collective of Internet and broadband service provision veterans and three years later shifted its focus to software. They found common ground with Taunton, Mass.-based systems integrator General Dynamics Interactive Corp. in their ideas about delivering IP services to hotels. On Tuesday, nearly a year after the companies began implementing a joint solution for Staybridge Suites, Norway’s Rainbow Hotels and other properties in Miami and New York City, SolutionInc. announced its involvement in the project for the first time.

Anaka says SolutionInc wanted first to see GDI’s Intrigue Multimedia System (IMS) — which includes SolutionInc’s SolutionIP software — achieve critical mass before making its involvement known. The company said 26 hotels in North America and Europe, including a Staybridge Suites in Markham, Ont., are currently equipped with the system. The solution is either sold to the hotels through carriers like Verizon Communications or by GDI itself.

“”The hotel market today is very much looking for high-speed Internet access,”” says Beth Daly, GDI’s director of interactive services. “”We happen to have an integrated system that provides a bunch of things.””

Along with a high-speed Internet connection, accessible through either a hotel guest’s laptop or the in-room television, the IMS facilitates full video-on-demand (including fast forward and rewind options), video games, and the transmission of local restaurant and attraction information.

SolutionInc’s server software eases the delivery of GDI’s services and integrates the connection charges into the hotel’s property management system. Traffic to and from the Internet flows through that server, allowing SolutionInc’s software to direct users to specified portals, opening up advertising opportunities.

“”The fact that our software is integrated and communicates both ways with the property management system, you can personalize, run loyalty programs,”” says Anaka.

But Anaka stresses the importance of ensuring the system is intuitive, as help desk costs can eat into the service’s tight profit margins.

“”If you look in the hospitality market, where you on get $10 (per guest, per night), you can’t have a help desk call, because you’re then losing money.””

Bill Harrison, general manager of the Radisson Suite Hotel Halifax can appreciate the importance of intuitive systems. The hotel was one of the first to use SolutionInc products, in a high-speed provisioning arrangement that did not include GDI. There was a fair amount of education required during first few months of what has so far been a four-year relationship.

“”It seemed that we were constantly loading the software for the (guests),”” Harrison says, though he adds the demand on hotel staff eased considerably after the first half year. “”I’m trying to think of the last time we’ve got a call for a NIC card. It’s been about eight months I guess.””

Richardson says the pressure on the hotel’s PBX (private branch exchange) phone network brought by the increasing use of laptops, pushed the hotel to look into high-speed service, which has turned into a major selling point. According to Richardson, 90 per cent of the hotel’s clientele are business travelers.

“”We’ve had companies move to this hotel due to the fact that we’ve had this high-speed component,”” he says.

Though Daly agrees the high-speed Internet is the big draw, she says GDI is looking to employ the connection to offer services beyond those already featured in the IMS, including online in-room meal ordering and management of energy use, which GDI is expected to roll out in the coming months.

“”Once you put this system in, which is an IP backbone, you can do energy management,”” she says, adding this could encompass control of temperature and electricity consumption. “”We simply integrate with (the utility).””

For its part, SolutionInc has already expanded beyond the hospitality industry, into office buildings and multi-dwelling units. The company is also test-marketing in Internet cafes.

“”I think it’s much the same,”” Anaka says. “”Anytime you have a mobile, video-based network, you have a use for our software.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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