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By Harriet Baskas, msnbc.com contributor
Watching TV or a movie in your hotel room just got a little less icky. LodgeNet Interactive Corporation, which provides on-demand or other TV-based services in more than 1.7 million hotel rooms in North America, now has a free mobile app that allows guests to use their own smartphones or tablets to control the TV.
That means germ-wary travelers no longer have to keep a washcloth or shower cap handy to cover the remote control in order to watch the evening news or an in-room movie. “We didn’t have germophobes in mind when came up with the app,” Derek White, president of interactive and media networks for LodgeNet, told msnbc.com. “But that does seem to be a very popular aspect of the system.”
The app, which became available on Monday, can be downloaded online before check-in, at check-in in a hotel lobby or in-room via an on-screen QR code. Each guest receives a unique code to enter into the app, which then syncs the TV system with the personal device.
“We can’t remove the remotes entirely from the rooms yet,” said White, “because you still use the remote to turn the TV on to do the initial sync up, but after that, there’s no need to use the remote or, for that matter, the in-room phone.”
The app displays TV programming schedules customized to the channel line-up in that hotel as well as specific information about the hotel itself and restaurants, attractions and other information about the local area. Users can also click to dial the front desk to arrange for a wake-up call, ask a question, order an in-room meal or take care of other business. White says that travelers can currently use the app in more than 2,000 LodgeNet-serviced hotels and in more than 550,000 rooms, with a goal of having more than 1 million rooms "remote-free" by the end of the year.
That should please travelers such as Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist from the University of Arizona. Known as “Dr. Germ,” Gerba conducted studies of hotel rooms and found the remote control to have the most germs. He has even found E. coli on some TV remotes and avoids using them in his hotel rooms.
The app is available for iPhone and Android smartphones.
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