Software Forum

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Contents

Forum Summary

The Software Forum comprises HTNG members interested in principally application software- and web services-related issues. Its scope includes systems architecture, application design standards, web service interface standards, delivery methods, and other issues not tightly tied to hardware or networks.

Several workgroups focused on web services interfaces are organized within this forum. The forum is expected to meet face-to-face twice per year in North America and Europe; many of the workgroups affiliated with this forum also meet face-to-face at the same time. Active workgroups meet via tele/webconference on a regular (typically weekly or bi-weekly) basis throughout the year.

Most of these workgroups create solutions in the form of XML specifications based on open standards, to increase interoperability of the various hospitality systems and reduce the burden and cost of one-off development.

History

This forum was formed in early 2010 as a means to coordinate various HTNG workgroups that had been working on web services standards and architectural design. Unlike the workgroups, the forum requires no active signup; if your membership type includes the forum, you can participate in forum activities whether you are active in a workgroup or not.

Key Contacts

Americas Forum Chairs:

  • Yvette Vincent, Delaware North Companies
  • Todd Wood, Mandarin Oriental Hotels Group

EMEA Forum Chairs:

  • Thierry Beau, Locatel Group
  • Marcos Pomar, Meliá Hotels International

Acting Facilitator: Patrick Dunphy

Meeting Schedule

The Software Forum meets face-to-face between one and three times per year in North America and Europe. The schedule will generally be organized into a multi-day session, with various workgroups holding face-to-face meetings in the same time period; other Forum(s) may meet concurrently, as well. For more information about upcoming events, please visit the HTNG Schedule page.

Participation

Every HTNG member company is assigned to one or both forum(s) based on their membership dues. Corporate Industry Partner memberships include one forum; other membership types including those for Platinum and Benefactor members, hospitality members, individual consultants, academics, students, and media include all forums. Please see one of the options below if you are not a member of the Software Forum and would like to apply to join, or if you are interested in workgroup membership. If you are not sure whether you are a member of the Software Forum, please contact our Workgroup Mailbox and we will advise you.

Participation Options:

Software Resource Team

This group operates within the Software Forum and creates best practices and webinars for the world of software to support paradigm shifts such as cloud computing, mobile devices, and geolocationing, as well as the ongoing evaluation of emerging technologies. Their ultimate goal is to create a place where stakeholders can learn about these innovations and also to develop preferred approaches or best practices for doing so.

Workgroups

The following workgroups coordinate their activities through the Software Forum, or are cross-forum. This information is also available in PDF version.

Currently Chartered Workgroups

Above Property Systems Workgroup - This workgroup is creating a framework of differentiating factors that define an above property solution that the industry should care about. One goal is to identify best practices for implementing systems above property. Another goal is for any two applications to be able to use the framework and determine how to architect interoperability between systems, at both the technical and business levels. The framework will include a checklist of things that become important in an above-property setting, a list of considerations when going above property, and a glossary of terms.

Event Notification Workgroup - This workgroup will modify the existing HTNG Event Notification standard to align with WS-Eventing while keeping the important HTNG extensions. Hotel companies will be better able to integrate with systems that conform to the W3C standard without having to choose between it and the HTNG standard.

Event RFP Submission Workgroup - This workgroup is addressing the automated delivery of RFPs from meeting planners, through intermediary systems, directly into hotel sales and catering systems. Hotels will then be able to purchase or acquire modules that support the submission of an eRFP for Group and Catering Sales Systems, improving automation, reducing costs, and improving response times to the customer.

Intelligent Guest Room Workgroup - This cross-forum workgroup created remote monitoring capabilities that can proactively alert the hotel to problems with guest room devices. This is in response to the problem that rooms are increasingly electronic but there is very little quality control, meaning that the guest is frequently the one who discovers there is a problem with a guest room device. This effort makes it possible to request the status of guest room devices (ad-hoc query) and register to receive notification messages (status change events) when the health of devices in a guest room change, as well as registering and discovering of devices.

Lightweight Messaging Workgroup - This workgroup will create a JSON framework that reflects existing HTNG & Open Travel Specifications that would selectively allow the client to return a specified set of data elements, and provide implementation standards (such as URI standards, query parameter standards, HTNG SOAP header info via HTTP and REST/JSON RPC, etc.) for accessing the framework.

Mobile Device Identification and Authentication Workgroup - This cross-forum workgroup is creating a set of best practices for registering and authenticating a device once (for example, within a hotel, group of hotels, such as a brand) so that the device and it's user can be recognized automatically. This project employs methods and standards that currently exist or are under development and would allow a user to obtain services, such as access to a hotel network or application. It can also enable a hotel network or application to recognize that a certain device and user have entered the premises.

Secure Payments Framework Workgroup - Defined an industry framework for secure processing of payment card information, built on existing tokenization approaches, to enable most hotel systems to move outside the scope of PCI requirements, while providing secure end-to-end processing across ALL of the parties and systems that may be involved in a transaction as it flows through the distribution chain (OTA, GDS, switch, channel manager, CRS, PMS, payment gateway, etc.).

Virtual Credit Cards Workgroup - This workgroup will improve a hotel’s ability to efficiently and securely handle virtual and other non-card present based payments by developing systematic ways to allow the hotel to easily identify different types of payments (i.e. traditional card, virtual card, central billing). The workgroup will also develop systematic ways to communicate the business rules and payment instructions for the transaction, as well as best practices/recommendations for hotel use.

Maintenance/Retired Workgroups

Back Office Integration - Simplified how hotel accounting (back-office) systems talk with hotel systems (PMS, POS) so that hotels can more easily post batches to accounting systems. The workgroup created a generic interface between various hotel systems such as PMS, POS, spa, golf, and sales/catering and financial accounting systems and also produced a specification for general ledger transactions and most recently created messages to support the transmission of Accounts Payable transactions.

Customer Profile Workgroup - This effort standardized the different definitions of customer profile in use today across hotel systems, which makes data exchange difficult, expensive, and time consuming. This effort provides products that can exchange guest and other customer profiles out-of-the-box with minimum customization (including but not limited to CRM, loyalty, reservation, and marketing systems).

Digital Signage - This workgroup defined a standard interface for digital signage within hotels, connecting event management systems (such as sales and catering systems) to digital signage systems. Among other benefits, it eliminates the need to manage function-room assignments manually in the digital signage system, and ensures that last-minute room changes can be immediately communicated to attendees via digital signage throughout the hotel.

Distribution Content Management Workgroup - This workgroup addressed the need for consistent hotel information, visuals, and multimedia content throughout the distribution world (brand websites, OTAs, destination sites, etc.). Their specification facilitates the collection, aggregation, management and distribution of descriptive and illustrative content that allows hotels to have a single method for distributing internet content to all distribution channels. Distribution channels also have a single method for obtaining content for all hotels. This centralized mechanism helps ensure that published content is current and easily maintained for all sizes of hotel operations and distribution channels.

Folio Detail Exchange - This workgroup developed a system that hotel companies can participate in, that allows their corporate accounts to automatically and electronically recover VAT. Additionally, the group created an invoice dematerialization solution that amongst other things, facilitates rapid settlement between hoteliers and travel agencies/tour operators. Other solutions include: hospitality loyalty solution and customer analytics that can be deployed across a heterogeneous topography, without the need for custom interfaces, centralized direct group and corporate billing solutions, and centralized loyalty accounting solutions.

Food and Beverage Ordering - This effort provided the means for hotel guests to use a variety of devices to place Food and Beverage (F&B) orders. Devices can be interactive menu boards, in-room TVs, self service terminals, mobile devices used by guests, websites, IP phones in guest rooms or similar units. Hotels benefit by being able to re-use content in multiple locations for multiple purposes, providing greater guest satisfaction through flexibility of ordering choices, and reducing staff time required to take and service orders.

Guest Self Service - This effort enabled hotel customers to perform various self-service functions, such as booking and ordering services, using various devices. It increases the visibility of services (spa, activities, events, etc.) within each hotel, and allows hotels to generate new revenue from guests before arrival or at the hotel. It also saves labor costs associated with traditional booking methods; gives guests the ability to use different devices as means of self-service (website, kiosk, mobile device, in-room TV), and allows hoteliers to re-use content in multiple locations.

Guest & Room Status Messaging - This workgroup substantially reduced the complexity of interfaces between PMSs and guest-room systems, such as door locks, televisions, telephones, voice mail, minibars, environmental controls, Internet access, and others. A single set of messages supports all check-in, check-out, and room assignment operations, and also provides access to the reservation and guest profile so that devices and systems can be easily personalized for each guest. By using these messages, hotels can avoid the need for multiple complex interfaces for each combination of PMS and device. This workgroup most currently made enhancements to the spec that allow guest-room devices to confirm back to a PMS that they have been properly provisioned and are in working order.

Hosted Payment Capture Systems Workgroup - This workgroup created product solutions for hosted capturing and processing of payment information and application of the payment information back to hotelier systems. A Hosted Payment Capture System provides the means to collect payment information from a customer on a system that is hosted by other than the hotelier, therefore removing the hotelier systems from the scope of PCI.

Kiosk Integration Workgroup - This workgroup provided standard interfaces between hotel kiosks and Property Management Systems (PMSs). This allows hotels to match any supporting PMS with any supporting kiosk without the need for custom interfaces. PMS and kiosk vendors benefit from reduced development time and costs. Kiosk/PMS interface vendors gain the widest possible market for their products and hotels have confidence that their product investment is protected if they change either kiosk or PMS vendor. The workgroup published its second specification in October 2010 that added walk-in reservations, upsells, and several other capabilities.

Open Data Exchange Workgroup - This workgroup produced a standardized way for different systems to exchange data, enabling greater information sharing amongst a wide range of existing hotel systems. Initial goals were to establish a simple inter-application file transfer mechanism that is platform independent as well as compatible with Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) architectures. One key benefit of this effort is that it allows legacy interfaces to migrate to Enterprise Service Bus while also reducing programming time. The workgroup published its second specification in October 2010 which added support for arbitrary database queries.

Payment Systems & Data Security Workgroup - The focus of this workgroup was to improve the standardized processing of payment card transactions, while lowering the risk of data theft from hotel systems by reducing or eliminating the storage of sensitive data in hospitality systems. The Data Proxy Specification allows many hotel systems to move “out of scope” of PCI requirements. In addition, its Payment Processing specification handled all basic lodging card transactions, and the specification was enhanced in October 2010 to support other verticals, EMV (Chip and PIN), and prepaid cards.

Point of Sale Workgroup - This group enhanced and simplified the connectivity of POS systems to PMSs and defined standard interfaces between POS and PMS systems to allow any POS (or other system) to look up guest information from any PMS and post charges to guest folios, even while the PMS is offline or unreachable. PMSs are able to provide line-item check detail from any POS system. End-of-day reporting process will be synchronized to ensure that accounts balance, even if the date-roll needs to occur at different times in the POS vs. PMS.

Product Distribution Workgroup - This workgroup simplified the way distribution systems connect to each other for the sharing of rates, availability, inventory, reservations and statistics. In addition to expanding distribution opportunities for hotels, this workgroup’s output has greatly reduced the need for double entry of reservation and rate data by enabling simple, yet robust, connections of PMS, RMS, CRS, and other systems with external distribution channels (GDS, OTAs, brand websites, and other) and intermediaries. The workgroup designed a single method for implementing the highly flexible OpenTravel Alliance messages, which participating companies (and now many others) could support, enabling a near plug-and-play implementation of distribution interfaces across a wide range of distribution partners and models.

Protocol & Message Transport Workgroup - This workgroup provided the “plumbing” layer of connectivity for all HTNG messages, known as the HTNG Web Services Framework (WSF). The WSF enables two systems to reliably exchange any XML messages (HTNG or proprietary), vastly simplifying the implementation of interfaces. It is compatible with all major technology standards, and allows interface developers to focus on business logic, rather than the often complex task of establishing basic connectivity. Most recently, the workgroup released an Event Notification specification in April 2011.

Reference Architecture Workgroup - Built upon the well established principles of Enterprise Architecture, this workgroup created an Industry Architecture for hospitality, which includes business, application, and data architectures. Recognized by ComputerWorld magazine as the first such effort of its kind, this architecture is making it easier for hotels to buy and architect systems that are compatible with key design principles such as Service Oriented Architecture, which in turn aids migration of systems out of hotels and into the cloud. The result is that it is also simpler for vendors to provide software products which conform to established business practices. Ultimately, this effort provides increased choice and flexibility in hotel IT purchases and helps IT decision makers in selecting best of breed solutions.

Single Guest Itinerary Team - This effort synchronized and coordinated guest and itinerary information across multiple systems within a complex hotel, such as PMS, spa, golf, concierge, dining reservations, and others. It enables the sharing of a common customer database across all systems and ensures that all systems are aware of the elements of a guest’s stay (itinerary) that are being managed by the other systems. Appointment times flow between various systems and can be consolidated and viewed by staff or guests.

Key Documents & Other Useful Information

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