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Seaport Hotel In-Room Portal Converges Voice, Web Services

The Seaport Hotel in Boston is testing an in-room portal that enables guests to make telephone calls and access hotel services and the Internet from a touch screen.

Geared toward business travelers, the so-called SeaPortal is unique because it combines telephone and Web services over a service-oriented architecture. In addition, the new technology makes use of the hotel's existing PBX system, a less-expensive approach than replacing the in-house telephone switching system.

The portal runs on top of BlueNote Networks' SessionSuite SOA Edition, an Internet-based communications platform that's exposed as a collection of Web services. When a call is made in-house, the SessionSuite server routes it through the PBX system. If the call is outside the hotel, then SessionSuite sends it over Seaport's high-speed Internet provider as a voice over IP call, similar to services provided by Skype or Vonage.

For hotel guests, the system appears on the touch screen as a portal similar to a Web site. There's a welcome section that introduces the service, a destination guide for sports and entertainment, dining, news and weather, and other information; and a section for guest services that include hotel features and Web browsing.

The system is attached to the in-room phone, which rings when a guest presses an icon to make an in-hotel call to housecleaning, the concierge or other service. Picking up the phone automatically makes the connection. To call outside the hotel, the guest presses on a phone link that calls up a keypad.

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