Finding a Way: Technology Meets Hotel Wayfinding
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Finding a Way: Technology Meets Hotel Wayfinding

Wayfinding signs, at least those used to direct hotel guests to various seminar rooms, were usually either a chalkboard or a felt board sign with letters stuck on them. Today, with new technology available for wayfinding signs, businesses are taking advantage of more efficient signage to direct customers.

By Johnny Duncan

Hotels have always sought the best possible means of catering to guests in an efficient manner. Directing guests, especially those staying on property for business seminars and training, is a task that has always required the constant attention of hotel personnel.

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  • Wayfinding signs, at least those used to direct hotel guests to various seminar rooms, were usually either a chalkboard or a felt board sign with letters stuck on them. Today, with new technology available for wayfinding signs, businesses are taking advantage of more efficient signage to direct customers.

    Providing a way
    NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc., which produces visual display products and total display solutions for a wide range of markets and applications, recently joined Hospitality Partners and Omnivex software to provide a dynamic signage and way-finding solution for the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The installation included 40-inch NEC MultiSync LCD4010 and 32-inch NEC MultiSync LCD3210 displays to cover the public areas and 228,000-sq. ft. of meeting space at the Hyatt.

    The project combined advanced wayfinding functionality with integrated Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to help hotel guests navigate throughout the facility. This technology installation was a relief for Hyatt’s personnel. “Way-finding was a very labor intensive process,” notes Jim Drysch, Manager of Networking and Telecommunication Services at AVT Event Technologies (also known as Hospitality Partners). Hyatt staff member were posted throughout the property to help guests find their way around the facility. Other Hyatt Staff members would distribute paper copies of the days meeting information to meeting information boards throughout the facility. These paper copies did not assist in getting to the meeting locations, but only in determining the name of the meeting room and time.”

    Initially the project required about 50 monitors and four wayfinding kiosks, but grew to almost 60 LCD screens and 20 projector displays. “The time frame for project completion was the biggest challenge. Nothing insurmountable, but it just required a few long days,” says Drysch. “The installation team consisted of five members with two members dedicated to the physical installation and two to the content creation and one managing the project and programming. The installation took about four months.”

    To keep the wayfinding signs with the proper information for the Hyatt’s guests, Omnivex software was used. According to Drysch, “AVT Communiqué maintains and manages the signage system for the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Omnivex provides customer support and software updates through AVT Communiqué.” This kind of support frees up Hyatt staff members to perform other customer-service oriented tasks for their guests.

    The combination of the LCD displays and Omnivex software eliminates or decreases the need for guests to read printed signs or consult hotel management for directions to their meeting rooms. The solution also can display real-time traffic, forecasted weather, or up-to-the-minute flight status. The Omnivex software customizes all the content based on time of day, location, client requests and even has the capability to direct individual meeting attendees to the proper meeting room utilizing RFID technology.

    When asked if there were any concerns with interference with the RFID caused by any electrical forces, cell phones, etc. Drysch replied that, “Currently we use RFID active technology to assist the sales team. We are in the process of implementing passive RFID technology for use by guests of the hotel. With the current implementation we have not experienced any issues and do not foresee any moving forward.” That is good news considering that more and more hotels and other businesses using wayfinding signage are lining up to take advantage of the LCD technology and the software available for creating efficient “point-me-in-the-right-direction” signage.

    The future of wayfinding
    Many sign companies already performing LCD installations for POS ads, billboards, live ads, etc. may find the wayfinding segment a new opening market, full of profitable potentials. “It is somewhat market driven,” states Drysch. “For instance in either hospitality or transportation there is a clear benefit. But as our world becomes more congested and there is more of a premium placed on time moving people from point to point efficiently, it is going to become increasingly essential. In the end, I think even in your local grocery store you will have digital way-finding technology directing patrons to the milk or whatever product they are looking for.”

    The hotel industry is just one area of the wayfinding market where LCD technology is finding adaptable use with immediate returns on investment. “Not only are the NEC LCD displays and digital signage software functional and beneficial to hotel guests, but they also provide an elegantly pleasing addition to the hotel décor,” said Martin Kwitschau, CEO of Hospitality Partners. “The display’s sleek frame and the screen quality enable an extremely high-color scheme, which allows images on the display to match each location within the hotel. The displays look great and serve a useful purpose.”

    “NEC’s large-screen LCDs are specifically designed for unique and demanding applications such as the Hyatt’s,” said Hans Baumann, Senior Product Manager for NEC Display Solutions. “Our commercial-grade panels bring together best-in-class computing monitor technology with cutting-edge video display technology to deliver an unsurpassed viewing experience no matter the content, input or environment.”

    The praises for the LCD displays combined with the Omnivex software are enough to sell other hotel projects on the same system. “We have several projects with other hotels at various stages of completion,” says Drysch. “Using digital technology allows hotels to customize way-finding to the needs of its client on an event by event basis. Beyond the shear flexibility of a digital signage system having such technology establishes the hotel as being technically innovative which is appealing to hi-tech conventions.”

    AVT Communiqué not only manages and maintains the digital signage system for the Hyatt Regency Chicago but they also create original content for the system as well. “Teamed with our creative services division, The Creative Effort, we have created promotional video spots for various hotel outlets and shops, special events at the hotel, as well as other original content for both the hotel and its convention clientele,” says Drysch.

    It is easy for the company installing and managing the system to sing praises, but in this business, nothing speaks louder than the customer: “Our goals for implementing this system have been fully achieved,” said Patrick Donelly, General Manager of Hyatt Regency Chicago. “In addition to providing a valuable service, we wanted to impress our guests and clients with the technological capabilities of the system, providing them streamlined information, captivating motion graphics, and demonstrating how the hotel is technologically ahead of our competition.”

    With advancing LCD technology, improved RFID, and enhanced software products for wayfinding signage, the future is wide open for both the offering of betters systems and the actual implementation of wayfinding signs.

    NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc. is headquartered in Itasca, Ill., and is a leading provider of innovative LCD displays and integrated display solutions. For more information, please call 1-866-NEC-MORE, or visit www.necdisplay.com.

    Hospitality Partners LLC is located in Arlington Heights, Illinois. For more information, please call 1-800-836-8361, or visit www.avt.com

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