Have you ever stayed in a hotel equipped with all sorts of modern gadgets and amenities – ranging from self check-in kiosks and smart beds to rain showers and ionic hair dryers – and, perhaps late in the evening, switched on the television only to realised that particular facet of the experience has yet been ushered into the 21st century?
One of the surely many who have is Staffan Granholm, the CEO of Hibox.
“The TV channels were analogue, and the films were looping one after the other so that you had to wait for a particular one to start,” he tells, reliving an experience that, in effect, has kept him busy for the past 15 years.
Hibox, a Turku-based provider of internet-protocol television (IPTV) and over-the-top (OTT) media solutions, was founded on that very realisation, to develop in-room entertainment technology for hotels and cruise ships.
“But we quickly realised that the same technology could be used in consumer environments,” says Granholm.
Today, the company is focusing primarily on two distinct market segments: on the one hand, on the healthcare, hospitality and maritime industries; and, on the other, on broadcasting and telecommunications companies providing on-demand content to homes via mobile devices, setup boxes and smart TVs.
Its solution for the former is called Hibox Smartroom and latter Hibox Aura.
Both segments are growing rapidly. Most people today are at least familiar with, if not (yet) active users of, one or more over-the-top services such as Amazon Prime, DNA TV, Elisa Viihde and Netflix. Many also stare routinely at screens in the waiting rooms of hospitals and other public institutions in search of distraction, and in hotel rooms and ship cabins in search of information on nearby goings-on.
“Some 600 000 end users use our solutions in some way every month. That includes all hotel guests and residential users,” tells Granholm.
Because Hibox itself deals exclusively with business clients, its name may not be recognisable to many despite the relatively high number of end users. So here is a quick run-down: the company has a staff of 33 and has recorded an increase in revenue in all but one of its 15 years of operation, including an almost 30 per cent-jump to slightly over five million euros in 2017–2018.
Most of the revenue this year is derived from Finland, according to Granholm.
“That’s because we’ve gotten most of our latest big contracts from here,” he explains. “But we have big international accounts, too. We still have more hotel rooms installed in North America than in Finland.”
Hibox, he tells, realises that it cannot continue on its current growth trajectory by focusing only on the domestic market but must look actively for new clients and partners to help to expand its international presence.
“This is a big part of what we’re focusing on right now: finding partners that can open up business opportunities in new regions,” he says.
Customisable and scalable
Hibox is hoping to woo international clients especially with the customisability and scalability of its solutions. Both Hibox Aura and Hibox Smartroom, Granholm underscores, can be tailored to satisfy the needs and wishes of each client and consequently enable them to maintain a uniform and high-quality brand identity.
“Everything we do we keep in the same software stack, so that it’s just one solution. We try to make everything into a feature that can be configured separately for each customer,” he explains.
The purpose is not only to entertain but also to inform – possibly about life-threatening emergencies.
“Emergencies are an area we’ve been focusing on as well,” tells Granholm. “Our system can be integrated with the fire alarm and evacuation system so that the alarm is sent automatically to all TVs. Alternatively the hotel can trigger the alarm manually.”
“This is actually something that has been shown to work very well in practice,” he adds. “There was a fire in one of our client hotels and one of the guests was later asked by a newspaper reporter if he felt unsafe at any point. The guest said no, because he woke up to the fire alarm in the middle of the night and saw that the television had switched on automatically and was showing evacuation instructions.”
The Turku-based company is also committed to treating its clients not only as such, but rather as partners with whom to share its knowledge of the technology so that they, in turn, can provide the best possible service to their customers.
“We’re not only a technology provider but also a service provider,” concludes Granholm.