HTNG Releases New and Updated Interface Specifications

The working groups of Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) have again improved the connectivity, security, and interactivity of hospitality systems with the release of HTNG's semiannual 2009B certification specifications.

Three new technical specifications provide standardized interfaces that connect property management systems (PMSs) and other hotel systems to guest-room devices such as door locks, thermostats, televisions, and telephones; allow hotels to deliver rich descriptive content to distribution channels and websites; and support improved security for credit card processing. In addition to these new specifications, enhancements were released to the existing specification for reservation processing.

PMS interfaces to guest-room devices
A second new specification is designed to replace and improve upon the many legacy interfaces that connect core hotel systems (primarily PMSs) to guest-room devices. The new specification provides a PMS the ability to notify any guest-room system that a guest has checked in or checked out. When combined with the existing HTNG guest profile retrieval interface and posting interface, the new capabilities allow PMSs to provide all basic functionality required for most guest-room systems (telephones, televisions, door locks, etc.) through a single set of messages, without knowing the specifics of each system or device.

The specification also allows much greater customization of the guest-room experience than legacy interfaces, based on the guest's preferences, status, and group or corporate affiliations; and it supports energy savings through intelligent guest-room energy management. Providers of in-room devices and services such as telephones, televisions, door locks, minibars, safes, internet access, thermostats, occupancy detectors, lighting, and other environmental controls benefit from the ability to write a single interface to achieve connectivity with any PMS that has implemented the HTNG specification.

Real-time updates of content will keep online hotel descriptive information current
HTNG's first specification for descriptive content will enable any distribution channel to receive regular or real-time content updates from a hotel's content management system in a standardized way, reducing the effort required to update content. Hotels, content management system providers, and distribution channels that adopt this specification will significantly improve their ability to ensure current and consistent property descriptive information in distribution channels, using a single interface specification.

As with HTNG's other distribution-related specifications, this standard is based on, and consistent with, OpenTravel Alliance schemas; but it requires that they be implemented in very specifically defined ways in order to come closer to the goal of plug-and-play interoperability. This specification achieves this interoperability by defining standardized implementations of the OpenTravel message formats for sharing of text, photo, video, and other forms of rich content into distribution channels.

New specification eases compliance with credit card security requirements
HTNG's new approach to managing sensitive credit card information will help to reduce the cost of complying with the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). The "Secure Data Proxy" specification enables sensitive card data to be stored in just one highly secure system. Other systems that receive or use credit card data can access the data as needed, but no longer need to store this sensitive data. By not storing the credit card number in multiple systems, PCI compliance can be achieved with much less time, effort, and cost.

One key element of this approach is that the credit card data is no longer passed among multiple hotel systems, but rather that the credit card data is replaced by a substitute number (or "proxy") that is shared amongst the hotel systems as needed. Even if this number is somehow captured by data thieves, it is useless without access to the hotel's highly secure data system. A valuable feature of the team's approach is flexibility in the form of the proxy, so that it can be configured to look like a valid credit card number. This allows much of the existing card-processing logic in the attached systems to remain unchanged.

The approach allows the secure storage system to be provided by a PMS vendor, a payment gateway, a corporate IT department, or a third party, and the solution can be deployed for an individual hotel or across an entire brand. Several HTNG members that already provide secure data proxy storage vaults to their customers or hotels participated in the design of this specification and are expected to begin adapting their systems to support the new specification.

Enhancements to reservations connectivity
HTNG's robust existing specification for rate and availability processing has now been extended so that the receiving system has the option to "pull" rate and availability update messages on request, rather than being required to "listen" for them in real time. A booking system can use this message to request a full or partial resynchronization from the authoritative source (e.g. Property Management System). In addition, a booking system may prefer this method in order to address load-balancing or security issues.
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