Smart Networks Spell Success

Written by: Steve Johnson, Networking Sales Director | Content sponsored by: CommScope® 

The hotel industry is under pressure as never before. Covid-19 has forced managers across Europe to look long and hard at how they do business. This economic shock has seen a renewed drive to modernize and exploit every tool in the technology box.

Networks and Wi-Fi connectivity lie at the heart of how we all use technology today. Connectivity is critical when we are on the move. CommScope is a global leader in network connectivity steeped in the realities of how to keep hotels and their guests fully connected.

CommScope works with businesses and telecoms providers across Europe, providing the technical infrastructure and communications know-how that keeps Wi-Fi services up and running. CommScope can introduce hotel groups to smart new services that tell managers everything about activity and guest movement under their roof.

Technology makes hotel operations more efficient and bulletproof networks deliver that efficiency. Take a 4-star hotel in downtown Berlin with around 400 rooms — CommScope has networked the mini-bars to tell the hotel if they have been opened in the past 24 hours. This means staff only enter and check those mini-bars that need inspecting and replenishing. This has cut workload on that task by 40 percent.

Looking at what makes a guest dissatisfied inadequate Wi-Fi is the prime irritant. We have all become used to constant connectivity and react badly when this is snatched away due to flaws in the hotel network.

Hot Spot

RUCKUS Analytics from CommScope digs into data and finds out where networks are falling short. It is possible to anticipate where guests may be about to have problems getting their online services. This in turn allows hotel managers to spot where extra investment in the local Wi-Fi network is needed and to justify that spending. It is all about isolating and dealing with a problem before it escalates.

Mobile devices mean Wi-Fi networks must be ubiquitous. While guests might be sitting in obvious areas such as rooms or the bar area when they use their laptops, handheld tablets and smartphones go everywhere. Wi-Fi service must be in every corner of a hotel building including areas like stairwells. A watertight network means the entire building is a welcoming place for connected business travelers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has generated a lot of noise. But look behind all the hype and you find a revolution in the way ordinary devices have become sources of valuable business information.

The IoT amounts to a host of electronic items connected together via the local Wi-Fi network. For instance, if a guest departs on a very hot day after leaving a window open while the air-conditioning is on full, connected devices will alert the hotel. Therefore, that air-conditioning can be paused remotely and restarted when someone re-enters the room. The trick to making everyday objects work for the hotel and its guests is the connectivity that CommScope installs and maintains.

Key-card door locks are another source of information. Link them up to a network and it is possible to see if someone is trying a random card on different rooms in succession. Clever data management software can set up a rule for how to respond to a specific situation. So, if an intruder trying out multiple locks, this alert about this activity can be synchronized with security cameras to throw up a video image of the corridor in question.

Data Harvest

RUCKUS uses dedicated software to pull all of this information together. Every valued item can be garnished with a little electronic tag that tells the hotel if it has moved. This practice is being used to protect works of art that unscrupulous guests might be tempted to remove from their room.

The IoT approach can also protect staff. IoT-enabled panic buttons embedded in simple bracelets allow hotel workers to alert security to their location if they feel unsafe.  

All of this electronic activity hums away in the cloud. When everything is controlled from those remote data centers it becomes much easier to roll out new technology at speed. Making changes just the once is much more efficient than adjusting the computers installed in each hotel. The appeal of this approach to large hotel chains is obvious.

The cloud makes replicating smart new ideas easier and quicker. CommScope sees this trend on a daily basis as hotel chains migrate into the cloud. CommScope aim to add intelligence to these clusters of computers. For instance, CommScope has rolled out connected door locks for hotel chains in Europe.  This aligns to the types of commitments hotels are promising guests around ‘less contact, more convenience’ and health and safety protocols.

In a pandemic-conscious world, we all want contactless services. A phone app can switch on a room light via signals that are handled in the cloud. But a tiny delay in that signal to a battery of computer servers means an irritating pause before the light comes on. The term for such microscopic but annoying slow-downs is latency. CommScope’s network management savvy banishes latency and keeps guests happy.

Gathering Intelligence

Covid-19 has changed the game for all of us. Until the pandemic, hotels wanted guests to congregate in areas such as lobbies and bars. Seating and lighting were all arranged to encourage this. Now, hotels want guests to stay apart. Restaurant reservations have to be managed to stagger the number of guests present and gyms must be carefully controlled to avoid too many people arriving at once.

The hotel’s Wi-Fi network has become the primary means of monitoring just how many people are gathered in any one place. Mobile phones transmit their location and guests can be encouraged to log on to the hotel’s own systems to see when the restaurant is free or when the gym might be too full for them.

These electronic connections allow guests to exert control over their situation while the hotel reimagines the guest journey. This is about visibility – letting everyone see where people are and then making the most of that information. And, it all flows from an efficient Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi tells you where people are moving, whether a lift is too crowded, or a reception area should be redesigned to spread people out.

A virus-secure environment for guests comes in many guises. They can download a TV control app to their phone so they will not need to touch the remote controller. That is one less item for hotel staff to clean. And, if they can control the lights from that app, they are less likely to touch fittings and switches.

Innovative ideas amount to a roadmap out of the pandemic. New services relying on flawless Wi-Fi connectivity will give guests and staff more confidence about their stay and their working environment as the virus loosens its grip. A well-supported technology offering should make guests feel at home. If they do not notice the network, then it is doing its job.  

We will be living in the shadow of Covid-19 for a long time. Fears of a resurgence of the virus and new varieties of infection mean that hotels will have to manage guest density for the foreseeable future. So, analyzing phone signals to see how best to plan the lay-out of the whole building is vital.

With reduced guest numbers, hotels should make more of every opportunity to impress travelers. They will do this with dynamic technology powered by networks that are alive and awake to every hotel’s needs.

Steve Johnson is the Region Director for North and East Europe for CommScope’s RUCKUS solutions, and has been with the company through the last six years of its incredible technology evolution. His background is firmly in Networking, having held leadership roles at companies such as Extreme Networks and 3Com prior to joining CommScope which is a channel-centric organization that provides AI-driven network technology, switching, Wi-Fi  and analytics for the campus.

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