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Focus on Hospitality: Cutting-edge AV in Luxury Hotels

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

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AVT also completed upgrades to the Hyatt Regency Chicago, including 60 large-format digital signs with content that is triggered by guests’ radio-frequency identification tags.

AVT also completed upgrades to the Hyatt Regency Chicago, including 60 large-format digital signs with content that is triggered by guests’ radio-frequency identification tags.

Indeed, AV technology has played a starring role in The Beverly Hilton's $80 million renovation, which started after high-tech entrepreneur Beny Alagem — former owner of Packard Bell Electronics — purchased the hotel from entertainment mogul Merv Griffin in 2003. Early on, Alagem decided that all 570 guest rooms should feature 42in. plasma HDTVs — and the majority of rooms also include 13in. flatscreens in their bathrooms. In 2006, to further Alegem's technology-oriented vision for the hotel's public spaces, event venues, and business center, the Beverly Hilton hired AVT Event Technology and its sibling Hospitality Partners divisions — including Commerce Concierge, which runs the business center; AVT Communiqué, which develops signage applications; and The Creative Effort, a video and website developer. AVT also received help from Streamwood, Ill.-based Audio Visual Resources as well as Chicago-based db Integrated Systems, which installed the International Ballroom's Meyer Sound system.

“This was one of the hard-fought contracts for an AV integrator,” Phalen says. “Beny Alagem wanted to make this a true technology-leader hotel, using technology to differentiate the hotel's offerings and attract a different clientele. When we were competing to get the contract, that was the question: ‘What will we do to make this cutting-edge?’”

AVT's two years of integration and installation work at The Beverly Hilton focused on several areas. Among them: top-of-the-line, minimal-footprint AV systems for events, meetings, and conferences; high-end digital signage for guest communications, marketing, and wayfinding; onsite AV and business services; and distinctive, high-profile AV and intelligent-lighting applications.

Aside from the International Ballroom's AV overhaul, AVT upgraded the networked AV capabilities of a dozen breakout rooms in the hotel's executive meeting center. Minimum profile and maximum manageability were key design criteria.

“The challenge for hotels is that AV takes up too much of a footprint inside their meeting rooms, and you lose chairs as a result,” Phalen says. “We got rid of that [by installing] Sanyo [PLC-XT11] projectors [on Chief Manufacturing mounts] and [Da-Lite] screens in the ceilings so there is no footprint. From my desk, I can turn off projectors, monitor lamp life, and see what signals are running. And if a bulb died or a projector overheated, the system automatically would email me and I would be running to the room with a new projector before the client could find a house phone.” Projectors are networked using Sanyo's PJ-Net Organizer module — giving Phalen and his staff remote-control and monitoring capabilities.

Digital-signage Function

When AVT arrived in December 2006, the Beverly Hilton possessed a single digital display. Today, there are dozens. Permanently installed digital signage at the hotel includes two 40in. NEC MultiSync LCD4010 lobby displays and 22 15.4in. Accele LCDP154 door displays located outside meeting and ballrooms. Additional portable displays — 42in. and 50in. NEC plasmas that are wirelessly linked to remote players — are available for informational, promotional, and wayfinding applications at events and conferences.

With the proliferation of signage, hotel management was emphatic that it “not take away from the luxury feel,” according to Phalen.

“They said, ‘We don't want it to look like the airport,’” he says. “So our company did custom mill work for the surround of each display that matches the décor of the hotel.”

AVT faced a similar visual hurdle in mounting, networking, and powering the permanent screens.

“The hotel was already built, so we had to figure out how to do it while minimizing the impact on the building,” Phalen says. “For all the digital signage, we used Cat-5 or Cat-5e with Gefen VGA Extender LRs to both power and send content, and this allowed us to cut corners. We only had to snake one wire to each screen. The nice thing about using Cat-5 is that it requires a single-gang box the size of one power outlet. Beyond that, there are two screws in the wall that hold up the digital sign and custom millwork around it. It's an extremely light footprint that leaves three small holes in the wall.”

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