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Technology Check-In: Does Your Hotel Pass These Three Mobility Challenges?
Dirk Dumortier, Director, Healthcare and Hospitality Sales APAC, ALE
Hospitality is a connected industry. Even back in 2014, 40 percent of people traveling on business had three or more connected devices, as smart and wearable tech offer far greater functionality to people on the move. Inside the hotel, guests are turning to their own technology for information and entertainment rather than traditional hotel services.
Hoteliers realise that to grow their business they need to invest in technology. The top priority is to increase digital customer engagement in a secure environment, and for this, mobility and connectivity need to be at the center of their digital transformation strategy.
Wireless connectivity is now an essential amenity. In fact, Wi-Fi is so central to the guest experience that only room cost ranks higher in importance to guests. But providing Wi-Fi is more than just providing connectivity bars on a device— balancing easy access with security is key.
Challenge 1: From the Lobby to the Lounger—Pervasive and High-Quality Wi- Fi
Providing consistent Wi-Fi access can present a major headache in hospitality environments due to a number of factors like— large number of users, devices and amounts of data on the network and buildings that weren’t designed with networks in mind!
Managing the network infrastructure footprint, particularly in historic hotels, is one of the first considerations. Old buildings with thick walls or metal structures mean that it is just not possible to run all the cables you need to support room technology. Over in Europe, the 140-year-old Waldhaus Flims Alpine Grand Hotel and Spa recognised this problem, but through the use of hospitality access points (AP), the hotel rooms could each be connected via a single LAN cable. These specialised access points act as ‘mini-switches’ which ensure access to internet, telephony and video entertainment, only with a much smaller footprint. Where it is impossible to bring Ethernet to some areas of hotels, Wi-Fi meshing can provide the solution.
In fact, Wi-Fi is so central to the guest experience that only room cost ranks higher in importance to guests
With IoT becoming the norm—room automation, IP security cameras, point of sale systems and virtual assistance devices—the growing pressure on networks to deliver uninterrupted quality of service to guests starts to become an issue.
It is not simply a case of adding a few more access points around the hotel—you need a solution in place to ensure simple and secure guest access and authentication. This simplified connectivity needs to ‘follow’ the guest around the premises, providing access to services where and when they need them.
Challenge 2: Follow that Device—Mobile Guest Services from Digital Reception to Check-Out
A guest that uses the spa, the restaurant and the gym leads to a better bottom line. The key to unlocking this is the guest’s personal device—from providing direct bookings and services before guests arrive, to saving time by checking-out straight from their smartphone. This type of personalised experience ultimately means better guest engagement.
This requires frictionless digital interaction between guest and hotel departments—be that the front desk, restaurant or other facilities. With today’s open APIs (application programming interfaces), it is becoming easier than ever to integrate voice and message capabilities directly into guest loyalty or eConcierge apps.
Beyond this, location-based services are quickly establishing themselves as a way to offer guest services.
Hotels are also using technology to ensure they are also getting the most out of each guest. For example, Accor Hotels is using a cloud-based system with a licensing model that allows them to only pay per occupied room per night, sharing the risk and reward with vendor and partners.
Behind the scenes, in hotels such as The Buddha Bar Hotel in Paris, enhanced mobility services are enabling staff to stay connected anywhere on-site, resulting in more attention made to guests’ demands. There are apps which enable employees to instantly report room availability via a code on their mobile device, or log and respond to maintenance issues on the move.
Challenge 3: Securing Networks and Containing Threats with Containers and Pans
Hotels are a growing target for hackers and data thieves because of their open, guest-facing nature. With so many mobile, wearable and IoT devices entering the hotel space, balancing guest access while keeping data, hotel functions and back-end services secure is vital.
One of the core principles behind building a secure network for hotels is containerisation technology—a method of creating virtual isolated environments on a single converged network. The idea is to group connected devices with a common function and the respective authorised users into a unique, virtual IoT ‘container’. As connectivity grows and with so many devices in guest rooms, you also need to consider what each guest can interact with—smart TVs, intelligent room assistants or climate control. The answer to this is the Personal Area Network (PAN)—a dedicated Wi-Fi network for every room, where guests can interact with room technology—but crucially only in their room.
To drive these benefits to their bottom line, hotels don’t just need to offer better mobility; they need to offer smarter mobility. Hoteliers need to add a personal touch to their technology offerings. That means enhancing guest experience with services that transform the Internet of Things into the Hospitality of Things and mobile engagement that offers timely and appropriate services to guests. But with digital criminals on the prowl and tech savvy guests highly aware of digital risks, securing hotel networks can no longer be an afterthought—secure connectivity needs to be at the center of design.
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