CEM’s 2011 Hospitality Operations Technology (HOT) Awards

Our hot streak continues in 2011! Casino Enterprise Management is proud to announce the winners of our second annual run of the Hospitality Operations Technology Awards, or HOT Awards. Garnering significantly more entries than the first year, it’s clear that our awards are gaining recognition and that innovation is evident throughout both the gaming and hospitality industries.

The HOT Awards honor six outstanding products that make a positive difference in the gaming and hospitality operations. Nominations were divided into six different categories, with one winner selected from each. The categories were: employee productivity and efficiency; revenue generation; guest experience enhancement; self-service products; media and content management; and Internet services.

A panel of judges was assembled and tasked with combing nomination materials to decide the winner in each category. They definitely had some tough decisions to make, but in the end they chose winners that have contributed greatly to the industry and are worthy of this award. These select judges were: Bob Ambrose, professor and independent gaming consultant; Dan Garrow, CIO, Oneida Nation Enterprises; Donald Kneisel, vice president of information technology, Resorts Casino Hotel; and Katrina Lane, senior vice president and CTO, Caesars Entertainment.

Each of the following products truly deserves this award. They each showcase new and cutting-edge technology, and we look forward to what they create in the future. As judge Bob Ambrose said, “The HOT awards spotlight how new technologies are assisting the industry, and they help everyone achieve efficiency in service and cost. I think through this HOT Awards program, all the nominated companies receive acknowledgment for their tremendous effort, and they should be congratulated.”

We agree, so read on to learn about these award-winning companies and look for the companion podcast to hear more straight from them. And be on the lookout for next year’s awards!

Employee Productivity and Efficiency

Bally Technologies—Service Tracking Manager™ (STM)

One of the greatest features of Bally Technologies’ line of products is the way that they all work together efficiently and effectively. The Service Tracking Manager™ is no exception—it works with the iVIEW or iVIEW Display Manager player-user-interface to improve employee productivity and efficiency.

When players place their order or request a game via the iVIEW interface, they are able to view their estimated service time, and the attendant closest to them receives an alert notification on their handheld device to service the request. This allows for casino employees to provide more efficient service to casino guests.

“It reduces turnaround time for a customer who may need service from 9-10 minutes to 2-3 minutes,” said Bally’s Vice President of Product Management Tom Doyle. “We can send the exact employee that is needed—whether it’s a cocktail server, a slot technician or a slot supervisor—we get the right person there.”

Employees are able to keep their hands free by utilizing the TTS feature (text to sound) where the alert description, slot number and patron details are read to them in their Bluetooth device. This drastically cuts down on the amount of time employees spend looking at the handheld device.

STM also includes a radio feature, allowing employees and managers to communicate back and forth using smartphone devices.

Another great feature of the STM is its widely automated system. “Some systems require you to have an employee sit there and handle the dispatching,” Doyle said. “This system handles all of that automatically. We automatically route the message and make sure the service is produced.”

Anything from drink orders, service requests, service failures, jackpots, to patron enrollments can be handled through Bally’s STM. These requests are prioritized and assigned to the appropriate technicians, making interactions between staff and players more productive.

The STM makes it easy to make smart staffing decisions by providing an instant view of casino-wide requests, current response time and visibility. It also provides elaborate reporting on productivity, including labor management in roadmap.

The combination of features that the STM provides makes it a winning product and a great addition to any casino floor.

Revenue Generation

Bally Technologies—Bally Chip Recognition™

Like a watchful eye, Bally Chip Recognition™ looks out for casino operators—the new chip-recognition product is a key innovation in table-game technology. Bally Chip Recognition allows casino operators to maximize revenue by avoiding mistakes and automatically tracking wagers. Bally Chip Recognition identifies the play on tables in a manner that evaluates dealer speed, occupancy and wagering habits, thereby improving scheduling and providing significant ROI.

The technology recognizes table games chips so casino operators know all the wagers on the table. This allows for more efficient operation of table games.

The technology works as follows: At the time that the bets are made and then finalized, the dealer, through a method that Bally has devised—pressing a button or card-activated switch mounted on each table—will indicate that the bets are in and then will close out the ratings. Immediately several pictures, using optical bet recognition software and advanced camera technology, will be taken of the chips on the table. The technology recognizes the color gradients in the chips and actually trains the cameras to recognize the chips as opposed to having to have specific chips. Bally Chip Recognition is able to view the gaming chips, distinguish between various denominations and perform an automated count on the chips.

Operators can then recognize all of the wagers made and service their customers better because the technology enhances the player tracking on the table games.

“What’s really innovative about this technology that takes it above other ones, is that we do not require the casino to replace chips with RFID or with a specific set of chips,” said Bally Technologies’ Vice President of Product Management Tom Doyle.

Without replacing chips, operators can simply install the technology and track all of the wagering going on at the table. There is not the expense or inconvenience of replacing a casino’s chip sets—this saves valuable time and money.

By identifying the wagers, Bally’s CMS™ and TableView™ real-time table management systems, or other table-management systems, will be able to more accurately track player activity for comps and rewards, while also improving the ability to track play on the table for dealer-efficiency and labor efficiencies.

Bally’s Chip Recognition produces enhanced tracking on table games, rather than the more subjective tracking of a table games supervisor who tries to judge how much play a player is doing.

“If a player is switching bets, raising bets and lowering bets all the time, a lot of the time they’ll just say the player has got one standard bet about,” Doyle said. “This [Bally Chip Recognition] will capture all of the wagering activity. It will capture how many hands of play, etc. It’s got a lot of great features to go with it. And it’s integrated with our other Bally products.”

One thing’s for sure—with this, you are sure to recognize the difference it will make on your floor.

Bally Technologies—iVIEW Display Manager™ (DM) with Elite Bonusing Suite™

Bally Technologies’ iVIEW Display Manager™ (DM) with Elite Bonusing Suite™ dramatically changes the gaming experience for slot players.

“The iView Display Manager with Elite Bonusing Suite produces a pretty interesting combination,” Bally Technologies’ Vice President of Product Management Tom Doyle said. “What the technology does is combines the signal from the game with our iVIEW content so that a player can have a more interactive experience on the game.”

It delivers floor-wide promotions, tournaments, bonusing events and player-loyalty programs that are personal and interactive, all without interrupting play to the base game. This is what leads to a dramatically enhanced guest experience and additional revenue for the casino.

When the iVIEW Display Manager and the Elite Bonusing Suite are combined, they deliver the ROI that many operators are seeking from server-based gaming solutions. The iVIEW DM is an in-device marketing tool that delivers content to players on the main game screen or the top game display with picture-in-picture capability. This backwards-compatible player-user-interface works on all gaming devices that have a touch-enabled video monitor.

“The Display Manager itself would allow a player to watch a streaming video of a football game, sit at the game and make a drink order, a hotel reservation—we don’t do that today, but you can order drinks today, by hitting a website. You can actually go and hit any website that we have. They can check their point balances, promotions and all of that,” Doyle said.

The bonusing events are available through Bally’s Elite Bonusing Suite, with eight different ways to keep players in their seats and instantly reward them at the point of play. Some of these exciting and interactive applications include Virtual Racing™, a group-start promotional event that lets players select a winning horse race or other contest-driven events. Game progress is displayed on all iVIEW screens and CoolSign®-managed displays.

“We can now play really cool video graphics so that if we want to give them a prize, we don’t just announce that they won something,” Doyle said. “They may pick a treasure chest, or we’ve got a product called U-Spin as part of the elite bonusing suite where they actually spin a wheel that’s a predetermined outcome, but they don’t know that.”

The DM Tournaments application enables casinos to convert any bank of games on the casino floor into tournament machines. What really sets this product apart is that the bonusing events can be offered across the floor on any manufacturer’s game. Additionally, the DM Tournaments app enables casinos to implement tournaments instantly, eliminating work, game downtime and lost revenue. And players love Elite Bonusing apps such as U-Spin that allow them to touch and spin a virtual wheel.

Self-Service Products

VingCard Elsafe—VingCard Elsafe NFC/Mobile Key Solution

VingCard Elsafe takes the hassle away from checking in and out of a hotel, making a mobile phone the only device you need. With VingCard Elsafe’s new ASSA ABLOY Mobile Keys Solution, hotel guests can book their hotel rooms as usual through a PC or any other web-enabled device. Upon the day of arrival, the digital hotel room key is sent securely to the guest’s mobile phone. Instead of waiting in long lines at the front desk to check in, the guest can proceed directly to their hotel room. Then, with the use of Near Field Communication (NFC), the guest is able to unlock the door by simply holding their phone near the lock.

NFC is a secure delivery infrastructure for distributing and managing virtual keys securely on mobile devices. It utilizes a short-range wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices between about a 10-centimeter distance.

This NFC technology makes it simple for the guest, avoiding extra steps such as dialing a number at the door.

“The ability to give people immediate access to everything they need at a property is very significant these days,” said Bill Oliver, VingCard Elsafe’s vice president and general manager for North America. “Our solution helps guests by getting them in and out of their rooms quickly, without having to spend time waiting at the front desk. It also really helps the hotelier on the side of controlling operational costs and efficiency.”

Several other features of the ASSA ABLOY Mobile Keys Solution include security and a low cost. This solution gives guests peace of mind by providing end-to-end security, making it impossible for unauthorized people to use a lost or stolen mobile phone. Security managers can make alterations to access rights instantly.

Because it doesn’t involve many additional materials and products, the solution comes at a low cost to operators. “People that are buying our products today don’t have to spend significant money to upgrade to this technology,” Oliver said.

This new technology is being introduced to the industry, with a pilot completed at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm in Sweden, with additional pilot locations in progress.

Media and Content Management

Bally Technologies—Bally CoolSign®

Imagine being able to control all of your property’s digital signage through one platform. It sounds impossible, but Bally makes it a reality with the Bally CoolSign®.

CoolSign is a server-based property-wide tool for media and content management that allows gaming operators to do just that—control all of the digital signage—to deliver powerful and consistent messages on a variety of displays across the property.

CoolSign allows operators to deliver digital content that targets audience by location, time of day or day of the week. Everything from announcing jackpot winners to special promotions and events can be displayed beautifully and effectively across the signage.

“Bally CoolSign is total media management,” said Tom Doyle, Bally’s vice president of product management. “It not only controls activities on the gaming floor machines, but all of your media displays throughout the entire casino, including the large, multimillion dollar displays outside the casino, too.”

This product allows you to control media—both audio and video—on short notice, with ease.

Judge Bob Ambrose, commented about the Bally CoolSign: “Having direct messaging capabilities on your floor with other system interaction capabilities in real-time—it’s fantastic. The bottom line is you want this to happen with dependability.”

Not only does it fully integrate with other Bally products, but it is able to run in conjunction with other gaming technology providers’ systems.

“It ties into our other systems,” Doyle added. “All of our bonusing systems, slot management systems and our casino management systems. If something like a jackpot happens, we can send out a message instantaneously because our systems are all integrated. That’s how we make maximum use out of the CoolSign product.”

Some of the ways CoolSign can be used in your property include: using in-machine displays to enhance product merchandising and casino branding, amenity promotions such as spa, restaurants, shows, etc., in-room television promotions, back-of-house communications, automated menu boards, elevator and line signage, and marketing at the point-of-play.

The possibilities are endless with Bally’s CoolSign technology, but the bottom line is that they have created a great platform for digital signage—one that is sure to be “hot” in your property.

Internet Services

DOCOMO interTouch Pte. Ltd.—FREEDOM Internet

Secure, quick and reliable, DOCOMO interTouch Pte. Ltd.’s FREEDOM Internet takes the cake in the Internet Services category. Merging efficiency with better managed IT hardware investment and increased guest satisfaction, it’s no wonder FREEDOM Internet impressed our panel of judges.

“It’s very robust and high-tech and meets the needs of not only the casino market, but also the hospitality market in general,” said Steve Pofahl, senior vice president at Lodgenet, the North American reseller of Freedom Internet.

Pofahl was thrilled to learn of DOCOMO’s HOT Award success. “I think it really validated what we already believed—that this particular product is an excellent product,” he said.

Launched in April 2011, the cloud-based technology allows FREEDOM Internet to operate from a remote location to control single or multiple sites at a regional or global level. Secure, high-speed broadband web access technology combines with intuitive user interfaces to deliver a converged solution that is user-friendly, easy to deploy and future-proofed to support emerging complex communications requirements of the hospitality industry.

“Cloud based means it’s very efficient and cost-effective,” Pofahl said. “Instead of having to have big servers and expensive software at every property, those things can operate in the cloud and just have a very minimal investment at the property level.”

FREEDOM Internet reduces overall operating expenses, has faster deployment time for new locations and boasts better consistency in features across all managed locations. FREEDOM Internet enables hotels to provide a basic service free of charge or at very low cost and still allows hoteliers to charge for premium services.

“Our product is a solution for providing connectivity to guests,” said Michael Keaney, CTO of DOCOMO interTouch and managing director of Nomadix, a DOCOMO interTouch company.

Guests reap the benefits of FREEDOM Internet with superior in-room broadband Internet without having to invest in equipment. The simplified mobile user interface seamlessly supports smartphones, regardless of operating system. The application also allows the hotel guests to concurrently connect up to eight multiple devices to the web with one Internet access purchase, along with simplified authentication and access and simplified single billing.

“The solution is relatively new and it’s optimized for mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads and other smartphone devices. Some of the legacy solutions are more optimized toward traditional laptops—being very optimized toward newer devices is probably one of the reasons why we won the award. We also put a lot of security to make sure it meets the security the industry demands,” Keaney said.

FREEDOM Internet utilizes expert system developed by NASA to monitor various aspects of service delivery and ensure better service to guests.

“From an industry perspective, it’s recognition that there is value to using the managed service provider model,” Keaney said.

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