Contributed By

RYeldell

Regan Yeldell

Director, Vertical Marketing at Comcast Business

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The Internet of Things: Innovation to Improve Guest Experience and Enhance Operations

September 29, 2015

From its humble beginnings in computer science laboratories of the 1960s to its explosion in the mid-1990s as a cornerstone of culture and commerce, the Internet has changed the way the world works, communicates, and entertains itself. Now, the Internet is moving beyond the realm of computers, tablets and smartphones.

From its humble beginnings in computer science laboratories of the 1960s to its explosion in the mid-1990s as a cornerstone of culture and commerce, the Internet has changed the way the world works, communicates, and entertains itself. Now, the Internet is moving beyond the realm of computers, tablets and smartphones to encompass all manner of physical objects or “things” connected with each other over the Internet.

From smart thermostat systems and washers/dryers that utilize WiFi for remote monitoring, to on-board automotive diagnostic systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) helps us connect the components of our lives in new and productive ways. Businesses are also starting to recognize the benefits of the IoT for its ability to enhance customer service and improve operations. And the hotel industry is no exception.

Hoteliers are poising themselves to take advantage of the benefits the IoT can bring to all aspects of their business, including entertainment, food and beverage, guest security, energy and mechanical systems, guest relations, and more. First, however, they need to make sure their data networks will support the increased Internet traffic these devices will generate.

IOT IMPROVES THE GUEST EXPERIENCE

Connected devices can provide numerous conveniences for guests from the moment they step through the front door. For example, lobby kiosks help to streamline the check-in/ check-out process. Automated keyless door entries let guests enter their room via their smartphone. Sensors inside in-room mini bars can send messages to housekeeping when items need to be refilled; data can be stored on the guest profile to ensure favorites are fully stocked on their next visit.

Automatic triggers controlled by the hotel and guest-controlled mobile apps can adjust guest room climate control, lighting and blinds so the room environment is ready when the guest walks in. Coffee makers can brew the flavor of choice on demand. And in-room entertainment systems can gather and act on data about guest preferences, so that when the guest walks into the room, the TV turns on with a personalized welcome message and the radio tunes into a favorite station. The goal for hoteliers should be to create a home- away-from-home experience for guests.

IOT IMPROVES HOTEL OPERATIONS

From real-time data that provides insights on guest needs and preferences to operational efficiencies afforded by connected devices, the IoT is helping hotels consolidate business operations and reduce costs. For example, the same in-room minibar sensor that alerts housekeeping when Mrs. Johnson in Room 214 needs more ginger ale can also auto-bill for items consumed, reducing the amount of resources needed for the function, as well as eliminating the potential for human error and allowing staff to focus on higher-value activities.

Property monitoring devices can send video footage to cloud storage for cost-effective archiving and easy review. Indoor and outdoor smart lighting systems can help properties save on energy costs while providing needed security. Climate control and other mechanical systems can be monitored and regulated for savings as well.

“Smart” refrigerators can help Food and Beverage managers track and re-order inventory, monitor food for spoilage, send a notification when a door is left ajar, and adjust temperature settings.

These operational efficiencies — with more to come in the future — not only streamline both back- and front-of-the-house operations, they also allow hotel staff to focus on what really matters: guest service and satisfaction.

ROBUST DATA NETWORK ALLOWS FOR CRITICAL IOT CONNECTIONS

As the IoT matures and more devices are added to it, the amount of data traveling over the Internet will increase exponentially. Hotels need to be sure that they have a secure, high- performance network to power this connectivity.

Consider the check-in kiosk: It requires quick and reliable access to guest data, including room preferences, affinity club data, and private payment data, all of which can be turned into actionable information at the point of service. The system must communicate effectively with the hotel’s reservation system, and potentially remote data centers.

With a strong network, IoT applications can run smoother, faster and more reliably. High bandwidth is a key enabler of a strong network and allows large amounts of data to be sent and received quickly. Also important are the network’s reliability, its capacity to identify different types of traffic and prioritize them, and its ability to minimize latency.

Ethernet provides a proven networking protocol to achieve these goals. It enables low-latency networks that are scalable, cost-effective and easy to secure and manage. Ethernet doesn’t just connect hotels with the IoT, it allows them to connect with data centers, backup providers, and remote offices and employees. And it does so quickly and reliably, reducing delays and limitations. Plus, it is easily scalable, unlike traditional T1 network technology. Hotels can acquire what they need today and can easily increase their bandwidth as their security, storage or collaboration needs grow.

Hoteliers looking for a network that supports IoT strategies should seek a full service provider that offers fast scalable and reliable network connectivity. Secure, private networks can provide hotels with reliable connections — even across geographically dispersed properties — instead of over the public Internet.

CONCLUSION

The Internet of Things has the potential to revolutionize the way hotels provide guest services and conduct operations. To realize this potential, hoteliers must have a scalable network.

When evaluating data service providers, look for one that understands your industry and can offer robust solutions catered to your specific needs. A provider with customized products unique to the hospitality industry can help provide support and a powerful foundation for your IoT strategy.

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