The hospitality industry is facing complex operational and environmental challenges amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most pressingly, how to keep guests and staff safe as travel and hotel-based events resume. For example, how to keep a thousand conference attendees moving safely between breakout sessions, recognize signs of illness in a member of the wait staff or mitigate the spread of germs between guests as they socialize at a wedding reception.
New and emerging technologies can help to address these and other challenges, but they depend on robust business-critical data infrastructure for the reliable and efficient flow of actionable information. Private broadband networks offer hoteliers the reliable foundation they need for critical communications, video security and analytics that will support their businesses through the pandemic and beyond.
Hotel technology and communications infrastructure during the pandemic
Advances in private broadband, such as the availability of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, offer greater capacity, more reliability and better security to support technologies that can help keep hotel guests and staff safe. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered analytics in video cameras now have new features and capabilities that support occupancy counting, face mask and social distancing detection and indications of elevated body temperature. These capabilities are helping to automate processes that used to be manual, creating and logging incidents and providing actionable pandemic-related insights for hotels.
For example, in shared spaces, such as ballrooms and conference rooms, automated occupancy counting can replace manual counting of visitors and prevent overcrowding. It can alert staff to areas of congestion, so that they are dispatched only when necessary. This same technology can also detect if social distancing requirements are being followed. If people remain too close to one another beyond a designated period of time, the technology will create an incident alert, which will notify the appropriate staff. This gives hotel staff the situational awareness to make changes to traffic patterns and shared spaces to increase the safety of everyone on the property. AI-powered video technology can also detect if individuals are wearing face masks where required and notify staff, so that they may encourage adherence to mask policies and can disinfect surfaces that violators have contacted.
In some cases, new staff positions are being created for taking the temperatures of individuals as they enter a space, since a fever is one of the main indicators for COVID-19. However, this puts those doing this job at risk due to proximity to potentially ill guests. Specially designed thermal cameras with elevated temperature detection that rely on edge-based analytics are now able to detect when someone has an elevated body temperature. This eliminates the need for manually screening every guest and allows the hotel to take further screening measures only when indicated to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Looking beyond the pandemic
While the pandemic is driving the adoption of new technologies and underscoring the need for rapid data capture and transmission to support critical operations, the utility for private broadband has manifested in other ways over the past year and its potential will extend far beyond. From interoperable voice communications across two-way business radios and compatible smartphones and tablets, to door sensors and video cameras, to powerful software to support productivity and collaboration, private broadband can increase operational efficiency and safety across a property.
With the availability of CBRS networks, hotels can easily extend today’s investments in video security and analytics to ensure a safe and rewarding guest experience, prevent incidents and protect against liability. Further, deploying cameras in outdoor areas, such as parking lots and pools, can also help staff to anticipate guests’ needs and improve the hotel experience.
Seamless voice communications between hotel staff are also pertinent to keeping hotel operations running smoothly. During the pandemic, two-way radios have allowed smaller-than-normal teams to both distance and effectively collaborate. Going forward, reliance on push-to-talk is likely to grow, especially with the adoption of networks that connect staff seamlessly across radios, smartphones, tablets and other devices best suited to their jobs.
The integration of data further enhances the efficient completion of everyday tasks. Private broadband networks are more reliable, more secure and support higher effective capacity than public WiFi networks, meaning staff can share photos and videos to enhance communications. For example, housekeeping and maintenance staff can leverage wireless ticket systems, document damage as it occurs and use video and IoT sensor technology to monitor equipment. In the event of medical emergencies or threats, security and medical staff can communicate with minimal delays and dead zones for faster resolutions and improved safety.
While the world, hotel operations and personal interactions have changed since the beginning of 2020, technology is helping to address the multitude of new challenges. The investments hotels continue to make in private broadband infrastructure, video security and analytics will help to mitigate the impact of the pandemic today and improve hotel safety and efficiency in the years to come.
About the Author
Scott Schoepel is vice president of Global Enterprise at Motorola Solutions. In this role, he is responsible for the direct sales, engineering, program management and service teams for all commercial verticals. Scott has led the Enterprise Markets organization since January 2015. Prior to this role, he held various positions in North America government sales. Scott joined the company as a systems engineer directly after graduating from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.