The latest in-room and facility equipment, in conjunction with guests’ phones and wearables, promises to free up staff and reinforce brand loyalty. But improper planning for a variety of technology upgrades can create more work and even negatively impact your brand.
Imagine a location that supports nearly every part of an active person’s life: Dining, sleeping, entertaining, working out, communicating, traveling, meeting, relaxing. Yes, you’ve checked into a hotel.
Now think of the diverse number of devices, apps, sensors, networks, and information resources tied to these pursuits. Consider how many ways they interconnect; how much data is moving around—and how many service and security pitfalls present themselves when things fail to work as designed.
Welcome to today’s hospitality world, at the intersection of everything digital but nonetheless committed to providing a personalized experience for every guest. In fact, for the savvy traveler, technology offers many fresh ways to consistently enhance guest services—and not coincidentally, deflect “sharing economy” players like Airbnb.
How hotels handle this business-model transition from simple lodging-on-offer into a competitive platform for current and future technology—both the operator’s and the guest’s—will depend on how thoughtful they are about the infrastructure they acquire and deploy.
The pressure is on for facilities in the hospitality industry to deliver reliable high-speed Wi-Fi access for its guests. This is especially important when charging for the service, either as a Wi-Fi access charge or as part of a resort fee. As technologies have shifted from laptops to tablets and smartphones, a more robust WLAN and Internet backbone are needed to meet customer demands. Since many of the newer technologies have a lower range than traditional laptops, many rooms that had adequate coverage 5-7 years ago, now fall short with the iOS and Android devices available today.
Last year, a national hotel & casino client realized this issue needed to be addressed quickly to improve their guests’ experience. Their properties did not have an existing WLAN to be used by guests or staff members in key areas, including the casino, pool, kitchen and valet. The guest rooms had an existing WLAN, which was no longer adequate for the number and type of devices being used by guests. They also wanted to leverage the network to improve customer experience through wayfinding applications, which would allow the casino to perform targeted marketing based upon the guests’ needs and location within the facility. In addition to traditional WLAN use, this client was also looking at device usage to increase efficiencies within their staff. Those devices ranged from iPads for housekeeping to communication devices that operate on the WLAN spectrum in lieu of traditional frequencies.
In order to achieve these goals, Velociti’s client would need to install a complete WLAN infrastructure in all of its public areas and upgrade the existing system in all of its guest rooms while still operating a fully functioning facility. This project involved extensive cabling and the installation of over 40,000 APs across 37 locations in a short period of time. With limited access to guest rooms due to occupancy, this was quite a challenge and required comprehensive project planning and management to execute without disrupting business or the guest experience.
In reality, the task is daunting, but hotels have no choice but to transfer control to the guest, who expects his or her smartphone to provide tools for ever-deeper interaction with the physical world.
For example, consider the many ways a single app—messaging—could touch the hotel. Some hotels have created a new “texting concierge” role to monitor these requests:
– “Just landed. Will my room be ready early?”
– “Need a downtown shuttle at 7 am tomorrow.”
– “I’m running late. Checkout at 1:30?”
– “2 margaritas poolside please. Room 1182.”
– “The a/c is noisy in room 251.”
Other smartphone apps can act as entry keys and remote controls; set room temperature, lighting, and curtains; send videos, photos, and playlists to the in-room SmarTV (which will come with its own bag of tech tricks and definitely needs to support guests’ various streaming-video subscriptions); offer 3D tours of nearby attractions; and undoubtedly receive promotional offers for future stays.
Our team of experts has worked closely with a variety of technology providers, such as Janus, to install digital signage solutions for enhancing meeting spaces; ASSA ABLOY Hospitality for installing Mobile Access-enabled guestroom door locks that increase security and convenience; Wandering Wi-Fi for managed wireless solutions; and many more. The list of technologies and providers that hotels are turning to is continuing to grow exponentially.
For most of this to work, hotels will need to fully embrace Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which embeds active and passive sensors throughout the facility, both to respond to guest requests (and increasingly their watches, biometric trackers, and other wearables) and to provide status and time-series trend feedback to managers.
Adopting these technologies is necessary to remain on the cutting edge of innovation. Partnering with a deployment expert who understands how these technologies interact, can advise you about product reliability and connectivity, helps pilot and evaluate new technology options, and thoroughly grasps what the successful contemporary hospitality environment requires, will help avoid many common pitfalls that can derail even the simplest technology upgrades and impact the guest experience.
Written By: Deryk Powell, President