AirPlay Comes to Hotel Room TVs

IHG AirPlay in hotels
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The last feature that Apple promised for iOS 17 is finally rolling out in a usable form as AirPlay arrives on the first hotel television sets.

To be fair, this one wasn’t entirely in Apple’s hands. Although it announced the new capability at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, it could only add the software features to iOS 17; it was still up to TV manufacturers and hotels to make it happen.

Of course, it’s not like Apple to just build something and hope that other companies will eagerly jump on board. Apple had partners in mind, and only two weeks after WWDC wrapped up, LG announced its latest smart hotel TVs would include the feature, and that it might even be offering a software update to enable it in older models.

Still, these things take time. In addition to upgrading hundreds, or even thousands, of TV sets, hotel Wi-Fi infrastructure needs to be updated so that everything works seamlessly. Apple’s goal was to make this as simple as possible, which means that scanning a QR code on your TV screen would need to not just identify the TV but also establish the necessary network connection to get there without prompting the user to figure out any passwords or Wi-Fi network names.

Hence, it wasn’t all that surprising when Apple quietly delayed AirPlay in hotels until early 2024. Other than that one blip, everything stayed pretty quiet until LG announced in February that the first AirPlay-enabled smart TVs were coming “later this spring.”

Since that comment came from LG and not any of its hotel partners, it wasn’t clear at the time which hotel chains would be participating, and none of them seemed willing to tip their hands.

However, when Apple first announced the feature, it said that IHG Hotels & Resorts would be the first, and now the two companies have officially confirmed their partnership.

When people travel, we know they want to take some of the comforts of home with them – whether that’s watching their favorite shows or finishing a movie they started. As the first hospitality company to integrate AirPlay, IHG Hotels & Resorts is leading the way in making the guest experience even more personalized, enabling guests to enjoy content smoothly and securely on their in-room TV. Whether guests are traveling for business or leisure, this offering will undoubtedly become a favorite feature, creating a home-away-from-home entertainment environment like never before.Jolie Fleming, Chief Product & Technology Officer at IHG Hotels & Resorts

While IHG may not be a household name, it’s actually a vast British hospitality company behind the Holiday Inn chain and several other hotel brands, including premium properties Hotel Indigo, InterContinental, and Kimpton.

However, unlike the Hotel Keys feature in iOS 15, AirPlay in hotels is rolling out today to an assortment of over 60 North American IHG properties, from smaller Holiday Inn Express locations to the InterContinental New York Times Square location.

While more locations will be added in the coming months, the initial list is actually an interesting mix. For instance, while two major New York City locations are included, the only hotels getting AirPlay in California right now are in Monterey, Chino Hills, and Port Hueneme.

The situation in Canada is similar, with only one location in Canada’s National Capital Region of Ottawa and two others in the small southwestern Ontario towns of Strathroy and Lakeshore (the latter of which I’d never heard of before today, despite having lived in Ontario for my entire life).

The most likely explanation is that many of these hotels in smaller communities were first in line for upgrades to new LG TVs, so it made sense to roll the feature out to these locations first.

The key feature of AirPlay in hotels is the ease of connection. Guests will be shown a unique QR code on their screen that they can scan with their iPhone or iPad camera to get connected without the need to know any Wi-Fi network names, passwords, or device names. Once connected, you’ll be able to stream over AirPlay securely and privately just like you can at home, and multiple devices can be paired to the TV, so everyone travelling together can use their own device.

Each QR code is also unique and gets re-generated after you check out, so there’s no risk of someone in the next room or a previous guest streaming content to the TV in your room.

AirPlay in hotels requires an iPhone or iPad running iOS or iPadOS 17.3 or later and is available starting today in the listed hotels, with more expected to arrive soon.

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