Seaportal will open hotel doors and phone lines

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Boston's Seaport Hotel on Jan. 22 unveiled Seaportal, an enhancement to its guest services which offers custom Web browsing and complimentary local and nationwide long distance phone calls for guests.

The direct calling capabilities on the in-room Web application is supported by VoIP technology from two-year old venture technology company BlueNote Networks' SessionSuite SOA (service-oriented architecture) Edition software. Seaport is BlueNote's first client to use SessionSuite.

"Boston is a competitive travel destination," said Sally Bament, vice president of marketing at BlueNote, Tewksbury, MA. "Seaportal allows Seaport to personalize each guest's experience. The whole point is to get much better customer reach and customer knowledge."

The portal provides on-demand Internet features in each guest's room through a touch screen computer. Features include current hotel and local attraction information, video and audio entertainment, travel updates and access to e-mail.

The Seaportal features are customized at check-in and integrated with the registry database. The feature may eliminate the need for laptops for some business travelers who can now access personalized Web applications from the hotel room.

"We have always considered ourselves a leader in providing distinctive technological amenities, and we believe the Seaportal reinforces this," said John Burke, vice president of technology for Seaport Hotel. "We sought an opportunity to provide our guests with a complimentary, customized resource, which we believe will enhance their stay."

The hotel is promoting the Seaportal online at www.seaportboston.com in addition to its other marketing and public relations channels. Sales and guest services staff have been briefed on the technology. Seaport is going to monitor the effect that offering free phone calls will have on the business.

The free calling offer combats pricey landline surcharges or in-room cell phone use. BlueNote's voice-technology is embedded in a Web application and Seaport did not need to overhaul existing PBX and guest-room phones in order to provide the IP telephony service to install it in every room.

The BlueNote technology aims to override the need for individual hardware to carry all of a user's desired features such as call waiting, voicemail or conference calling.

Ms. Bament said that the software would work for retailers and businesses looking to add efficiency to current business operations. For example, telephony embedded in supply and inventory monitoring software or click-to-call features on a Web site. She described the possible future of Internet telecommunications.

"We're advocating that it's about the person, it's not about the device they are using," Ms. Bament said. "Wherever you are and whenever you are connected to a network you should be able to access the same capabilities that you would through your desktop phone."

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