This is a case study on Video on Demand entertainment system that we developed for hotels using embedded flash and a number of other technologies. The entertainment system offers live TV, on-demand video and local information to hotel customers. These are also channels for the hotel to earn additional revenue from its customers. We developed separate user interfaces in Adobe Flash for end-users and hotel administrators although our key responsibility was to manage servers and safely transmit video content from servers to televisions.
Video on Demand
Video on Demand (VOD) is becoming a popular way to watch live TV programs and movies. This model offers a lot of freedom to customers. They can watch TV and on-demand movies in the same way as videos on a personal DVD player. Customers can can pause, rewind, forward and also perform a number of other interactive operations with the video. Video on Demand is extensively used in aeroplanes, homes and hotels.
Content creators and cable providers work hand in hand to bring Video on Demand service to homes. Content will be stored in a remote place by content creators and will be delivered on demand through cables by cable providers. Aeroplanes and hotels manage both content and content delivery by themselves. Hotels will have servers located within their premises. PCs or TVs in the hotel rooms will be networked and configured to receive content from the servers.
The Video on Demand application that we developed for our client is a white-labeled system that can be used by hotels to provide entertainment for their customers. With content stored in servers placed in the hotel vicinity, the system will deliver content as demanded by the customer.
The entertainment system comes with a remote control and delivers three types of content.
Free-to-Guest - TV allows customers staying in the hotel to watch TV programs of their choice. The system has provisions to display HD videos. It directly streams DirecTV programs on TV. DirecTV is a private company that transmits television programs to US households through satellites. It offers a variety of channels with better program guide and HD technology.
Video on Demand - section in the system gives access to a huge repository of new and classic movies. The user interface displays movies arranged according to their genre. Each movie has a small preview, short text description and cost details. Customers can search and watch movies of their choice without making any prior payments. The system will automatically add charges to the main hotel bill. These charges are determined by hotel management and the revenue will be shared with the product owner.
Digital concierge - is another integral part of the user interface. Customers staying in the hotel can get local information -- local restaurants, attractions and shopping complexes. Each recommendation will have a short description in text, an image and method to contact them. This is a channel for the hotel to make revenue.
Property admin is a person who manages the entertainment system on behalf of the hotel. Hotels can manage start screen, ads, and guestbook of the system. They can customize advertisements and display them at various spots in the system. This is another source of income for the hotel.
QBurst was involved in the development of the entertainment system. Our prime responsibility was to take care of the servers and manage the video content. The system has four main parts.
User interface that loads on the television in hotel rooms
Property server that stores content locally in the hotel
Tablet application for hotel administrators
NOC server to manage property servers across different locations
We developed user interface in Adobe Flash Lite 4.0 using actionscript 3.0. The flash program embeds on the set top box to which the television is connected. When customer starts the entertainment system, the flash program executes on the television screen.
Every hotel will have a property server to store and retrieve video content. The server will also manage rooms, customers, bills and all issues with networking devices. We developed an interface to manage these operations. It was developed using PHP and Wijmo. When customer chooses to view a movie, content from the property server transfers through a tunneled channel and streams on the television using RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol).
Property servers are connected to a WAN and managed by an NOC (Network Operations Center) server. The NOC server logs server operations and manages revenue sharing with the hotel. It also updates property servers with latest video content and keeps the entire network synchronized. We developed an interface for NOC server using PHP and Wijmo to manage these operations. SymmetricDS takes care of the synchronization work.
Local administrator of the hotel troubleshoots issues faced by customers. Admins may have to go to the customer’s room to solve issues. We developed an application for Android tablets using Adobe Flex 4.6 so that admins can conveniently carry them to any hotel room and solve issues. The tablet performs all operations of a property server.