Skip to main content

With smart TVs and devices, Enseo wants hotels to feel like a home away from home

enseo tv closeup
If you have your smart home synced to all your preferences — say a thermostat that’s always the right temperature, lights that turn on at dusk, and a playlist you can conjure by asking a smart assistant like Alexa or Google — then staying at a hotel might feel like going back to the dark ages. Having to physically get out of bed to turn out a light instead of using voice commands? What year is this? But hotels are starting to put more smart devices in guest rooms, and Enseo wants to make sure they’re not just smart but customized.

Physically get out of bed to turn out a light instead of using voice commands? What year is this?

Eighteen years ago, Enseo started as a set-top box for hotels through which guests could control the TV and pay for movies. Several years ago, CEO Vanessa Ogle helped the company pivot to letting people bring their own entertainment with them during their stay. Now the boxes let you log in to Netflix or Hulu, and it’s proved to be very popular. In 2015, Enseo was in 75 hotels. Now it’s in 1,000. Last year, 47 million people stayed in an Enseo-equipped room. In addition to entertainment, the company is trying to help hotels introduce some of these smart devices in an intelligent way.

“We have to be mindful of the unintentional impact of technology,” Ogle told Digital Trends.

As an example, she points to hotels using old-school occupancy sensors to help reduce energy costs. The problem is that a guest quietly sitting at a desk typing on a laptop would trick the sensor into thinking the room was empty and turn off the air conditioner or heater.

enseo vanessa ogle
Vanessa Ogle, CEO of Enseo
Vanessa Ogle, CEO of Enseo

“The fact that the hotel system has taken over the thermostat and made a decision for the guest to change the temperature without that guest’s permission, that’s a problem,” Ogle said.

Instead, she thinks it makes sense for a guest to tick a box when booking a room to opt into these kind of energy-saving systems, the way they might skip having their sheets and towels washed to save water and earn reward points through the hotel.

Ogle thinks that any kind of system that’s using this type of technology needs to be opt-in. For one thing, the guest needs to be aware that Amazon’s Alexa is listening, or the temperature may change when they’re not in the room. But if a guest does decide to create a profile, then the room could be set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, all their devices would connect to the Wi-Fi, and the TV could be ready to play Altered Carbon right when they walk in. Just how tailored the room will be to your tastes will obviously be determined by what devices are installed and what information you’re comfortable sharing with the profile owner — whomever that ends up being.

“This is something that’s attractive and innovative and a beneficial experience to everyone.”

There’s a bit of a race happening at the moment, Ogle said. Hotel brands obviously want your information, but she thinks a case could made for a third party, such as Amazon, controlling these profiles as well. It may well already know what kind of shows you like, how warm your home is, and probably so much more. Marriott has a variety of hotels at different price ranges, but customers might prefer to be able to set their preferences no matter where they stay.

Another benefit of the opt-in system is that not everyone wants to hand over this kind of information.

“I think we get into not just murky water, but I think we get into a very dangerous set of systems where people are gathering data about a guest without a guest’s permission and then using it without that guest’s permission,” Ogle said.

She expects to see more legislation, similar to the European Union’s, in the future. But it’s clear to see why hotels, Amazon, and others would want this data. Last year, 48 percent of the guests who stayed in a room with Enseo used it to turn on Netflix and proceeded to watch an average of three hours of content.

“Allowing guests to access their own preferences — and we believe this extends to thermostat as well as television — this is something that’s attractive and innovative and a beneficial experience to everyone,” Ogle said.

It’s been popular enough that Enseo had to put up a page on its site so travelers who enjoyed the experience know which hotel to stay at for their next trip.

Editors' Recommendations

Jenny McGrath
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jenny McGrath is a senior writer at Digital Trends covering the intersection of tech and the arts and the environment. Before…
Why aren’t smart locks and video doorbells the same device?
eufy by Anker Security Video Smart Lock installed on corner.

From security cameras and deadbolts to light bulbs and more, the past few years have seen an explosion of new smart home products. You’ve probably noticed Ring doorbells installed on your neighbors’ front porch when out for a walk -- and if you haven’t, you’re probably at least familiar with one of a dozen different viral videos captured by them.

Despite the boom in smart gadgets, there’s an absolute dearth of smart locks that double as doorbell cameras. The two products seem like a match made in heaven, letting you secure your home and monitor it at the same time, but few manufacturers have experimented with the format. However, there are a few good reasons as to why these smart lock + video doorbells are so scarce.
They do exist, actually

Read more
Home Depot’s new Hubspace-compatible items include smart plug
A woman sitting on her couch looking at the Hubspace app on her phone.

Home Depot is expanding its Hubspace smart home lineup. If you're unfamiliar with Hubspace, it's Home Depot's smart home line that works with many of its in-house brands.

Brands such as Commercial Electric, Defiant, Ecosmart, and Hampton Bay (as well as others) can all be linked through the Hubspace app and work together. Once linked, you can even connect Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to your Hubspace devices.

Read more
Throw the ultimate Super Bowl party with smart home tech
Super Bowl LVI logo.

The Super Bowl is only one week away. Regardless of what team you're rooting for in Super Bowl LVI, the right smart home accessories will make the big game that much more exciting to watch -- especially if you're hosting a party.

If you have friends coming over, we've got a few gadgets here that should make the whole day easy to manage. You can also use them to impress your friends --or distract them when your team loses. Here are the best items to throw the ultimate Super Bowl party, from lights and audio to food.
From the outside in

Read more