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Caesars Palace to offer Net phones, biometric IDs

Hotel is testing handsets that offer "more opportunity for feedback and interaction" with guests. Also: Bye-bye, room key woes.

LAS VEGAS--Caesars Palace, one of the largest and most famous hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, will use the opening of its newest tower later this year to introduce technologies including Net phones in guest rooms and biometric keys.

The gigantic, newly constructed second tower beside the original Caesars site (click here for a photo) will be an all-suite affair. It will open in August.

Carol Pride, CIO of Caesars, told that the features should provide a boost for Caesars customers occupying the luxury rooms, which will include people the casino is most keen to "incentivize," she said. (She referred to casinos upgrading big winners to suites and offering free suite accommodation to high rollers.)

Pride believes that the move to fingerprint biometrics will make visits more convenient for customers who won't need to worry about lost keys.

Las Vegas is going through a major accommodation boom, and those building on the Strip are ensuring that their buildings are "future proof"--even if the average life span of a Strip casino is far shorter than those of comparable building projects.

"That tower is going to be there for decades," Pride said. "And you only want to pull wire once. Better to do it now than in five years' time."

Pride added that the company had looked at wireless solutions but decided against a deployment because "there were still some questions about security."

Pride said cost was one driver behind the introduction of Net telephony but added that hardware and operability were the main drivers. A key factor was the potential to offer "large color screens, which will offer customers more opportunity for feedback and interaction," Pride said.

The handset Caesars will be using is currently still in a testing stage, according to Pride, suggesting that the business is doing what it can to decrease the early impact of built-in obsolescence.

However, all suites will also include analog phones so as not to run the risk of leaving customers without communications in the worst-case event of a network failure.

The VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) traffic will be routed through the same line as cable television and Internet.

Other developments Pride says are in the pipeline, or at least in her thoughts, include the use of digital television technologies, as well as the VoIP handsets, to deliver information more effectively to customers, such as room service menus, maps and show information.

This would reduce the need for the bundles of instructional literature that tend to clutter hotel rooms.

Pride is aware of the need to not make rooms too much fun with gadgets and technology, however.

"We don't want the rooms to be so nice that they don't leave. After all, we want them down in the casino," she said.

Will Sturgeon of reported from Las Vegas.