Technology for Travelers: Enabling IoT in a Hotel
As hotels race to roll out ultra-personalized services and high-tech amenities to attract savvy travelers (especially millennials and Gen Z) and compete against sites like Airbnb and VRBO, many brands have naturally gravitated toward the Internet of Things (IoT).
Hilton Hotels is equipping more than 700,000 hotel room doors with Bluetooth technology so guests can use their smartphones to access their rooms via the Hilton app. The hotel chain is considering adding a way to connect bar and restaurant POS systems to the app, so guests can charge food and drinks to their room via their phone.
Savioke’s Relay hotel robots are stationed in about 70 hotels worldwide to perform menial tasks such as toiletry and room service deliveries. First deployed in Starwood Hotels’ Aloft brand in 2014, the robots have also been adopted by Marriott, Hilton and Intercontinental hotels.
Marriott teamed up with Samsung and Legrand to create an IoT concept guestroom in its Maryland headquarters’ Innovation Lab. The room will comprise multiple responsive IoT systems, applications and devices that communicate to deliver an optimized, personalized hotel experience. For example, a guest can tell the room’s personal assistant to dim the lights and play soothing music at 11 p.m., and schedule the assistant to gradually turn on the lights at 6 a.m. and play the sound of birds chirping to wake the guest.
An IoT-enabled hotel can reap an array of benefits, including:
- Improved decision making
- Reduced overhead costs
- Real-time marketing
- Reduced human intervention
- Higher-quality data
- Better customer experiences
- Process improvement
- Optimized asset utilization
The quandary for many hotels, however, isn’t how or why to apply IoT.
It’s how to support it. This article from Zinwave discusses how hotels can support IoT devices via a reliable network connection.
IoT Needs Reliable Connectivity
In very general terms, the IoT chain has four components: a device and its data, connectivity, analytics and management. No data can be sent or received without constant high-bandwidth connectivity that supports real-time data flow from the hundreds – even thousands – of devices and sensors living on the network. Without the layer of wireless connectivity, IoT can’t exist.
Wi-Fi is falling short on the demands of high-volume and critical IoT applications. It has no guaranteed quality of service, so networks that require high bandwidth, capacity or reliability aren’t certain to deliver the needed connectivity to make the whole system work.
That’s where enterprise-grade connectivity solutions come in, like a distributed antenna system (DAS) with private LTE capabilities. Private LTE is an alternative to Wi-Fi, taking advantage of technology commonly reserved for cellular communications and putting it to work for individual organizations.
A private LTE solution provides a hotel with its own cellular network. Such solutions are designed from the ground up to support business-critical applications, while also being able to scale IoT deployments as the scope of the deployment grows.
This type of connectivity operates in frequencies comparable to Wi-Fi, but DAS equipment is much more powerful than traditional Wi-Fi access points. With the right equipment, an enterprise-grade solution will be able to cover wider areas, thus reducing the number of access points and wireless noise in the area. These solutions stand to outperform Wi-Fi in every metric.
Importantly, user experience is guaranteed with enterprise-grade DAS, which is a critical benefit for hotels running mission-critical applications on their IoT deployment. No hotel wants to be on the receiving end of a bad review because a guest missed their meeting when their “smart” room failed to wake them up.
While there are several available options for an enterprise-grade DAS, it’s important to keep in mind a few specific requirements when choosing a network.
Finding an IoT-Ready DAS for a Hotel
Look for a network that:
- Facilitates the ways employees prefer to communicate now;
- Is multi-carrier, to give access to everyone in the entire hotel, no matter what carrier they use;
- Is full spectrum, so it can access all of the most utilized cellular and public safety signals as well as all of the frequencies available between 150 MHz and 2700 MHz on a single hardware layer
- Supports simple, inexpensive upgrades to meet guests’ future connectivity and communication requirements;
- Offers simple installation, with a minimum amount of hardware needed, to keep installation time and costs down (which will minimize disruption to guests);
- Uses a “one-and-done” approach to hardware installation, with the single original hardware layer able to support all carriers and frequency bands, as well as new connectivity and technology requirements in the future, without additional hardware;
- Is fully fiber based, instead of coaxial cable based or a hybrid of cable and fiber, to ensure optimal performance, as well as to keep costs lower and minimize installation time; and
- Supports emerging technologies like IoT as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and 5G cellular – all of which need stable and reliable cellular connectivity.
These critical traits will guide a hotel toward a network that is IoT- and future-ready – and, importantly, will provide a reasonable, simple way to scale for future IoT technologies and capabilities that might still be but a twinkle in an engineer’s eye.
Embrace the Future of IoT
In a world where business is increasingly technology-driven, organizations that embrace new technology and techniques will flourish.
IoT will play an undeniable role in modernization across the hospitality industry, and because wireless connectivity is the foundation of IoT technology, hotels need to guarantee connectivity to take advantage of it.