The pilot hotels + other locations

It started with Hugh, the manager of the Devonshire Park Hotel in Eastbourne. He agreed to trial the very first version of our product and collect feedback in a box we put next to the screen. The service ran throughout the Autumn of 2014 and was the first to be updated and improved when we released new versions of the early software. It’s should still be running as we speak, although we can’t yet be certain (which we’ll come onto).

As well as being progressive and engaged with the project since the start, the Devonshire Park Hotel is located in the very centre of Eastbourne’s cultural quarter. Many of their guests stay with events in mind, perhaps shows or one of Eastbourne’s anchor events like the International Tennis (opposite the hotel) or Airbourne (on the nearby seafront).

The lounge, like many hotels across the town, had a TV which spent a lot of time either off or showing generic content like rolling news. It was used occasionally to show sporting events, but as with lounge TVs in many hotels, if there’s a mixture of guests in the lounge they can become antisocial.

We also installed Android dongles (the first hardware choice) in the Da Vinci Hotel, the Cavendish (recently changed owner and probably no longer running), the Mowbray Hotel, The Afton Hotel, The New Wilmington Hotel, The Marina Guesthouse a seafront pub and a station cafe.

Here’s a map of screen locations

Early feedback and issues

The problems we immediately encountered were mainly around wifi strength and stakeholdership. Wifi in hotels is often thinly spread and patchy, and the hardware we were using initially needed a strong and continuous signal to update and remain live.

It was also in some cases hard to win engagement from teams below decision makers. The service needs people to switch it on, or at least the channel over, and it occasionally needs turning on/off. All of these things, however small, are barriers which needed solutions.

Of course, the decision makers were keen, or they wouldn’t have signed up for the pilot.

The feedback we were getting included:

  • People use it and it saves us man hours responding to what’s on queries
  • It sometimes doesn’t update
  • It sometimes crashes and needs relaunching
  • It would be good to be able to show our own, custom, content as well as the event information
  • We’d like to show it in rooms
  • Some of the information isn’t relevant to our guests – too far into the future
  • There’s too many listings – it takes too long to see them all
  • Why don’t you know when it’s down? That relies on our staff.

How we responded

In early releases we tried to tackles some of these by:

  • Changing the way information packages were downloaded and stored locally
  • Auto launching the software when turning on the device
  • Trialing a networked version which shared the information across all the tvs in the New Wilmington’s bedrooms (50+). See this blog post.
  • Only showed current week’s events
  • Created a new listings page which showed multiple events
  • Plan remote monitoring
  • Plan customisable content
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