Deciding Your Network Needs

Written by: Robin Veinotte, Director of New Business Ventures

Whether you are opening a new property, renovating an existing facility, or simply updating the network needs inside an existing venue, it is important to take some time to decide what you need from your network. With rapidly changing technologies you cannot afford to implement your networks like you have in the past – everything is evolving and you need to as well.

Consider these questions: Have you considered your security risks? What about the internal IoT (internet of things) infrastructure that you need to run your business like security cameras, door locks, or alarms? What do you want your overall experience to be for your guests and have you considered what technologies play into that? Are you using cheap “at-home” hardware instead of enterprise quality?

The ongoing management, updating and security of a properties technology systems is as important and high risk as ever, and is easily left out of the picture. Hacking is becoming an everyday event and client data is a valuable commodity on the black market. Every piece of technology that you have on your property is a potential hack target if it is not considered and secured appropriately.

Consider these questions when you are looking at building your next network infrastructure to ensure that you and your technology partners are not missing something:

Who are your guests and what technology and experience are they demanding when walking on site?

Industry experts are showing that expectations of guests are changing. As indicated by VRMIntel, millennials are currently Americas largest generation and typically take 4 vacations a year. Do you know what your guests expect and demand when they land at your door?

In a survey done by Oracle Hospitality, “Some 78% of hotel operators said that allowing guests to manage room controls and ambiance via voice commands will be a widespread feature by 2025.” If every room in your property has a voice activated application, is your network set-up to support all these WiFi enabled devices?

Consider improving a network at an airport to take advantage of increasing IoT demands. Business Insider indicates that “ground operations, security checkpoints, runway monitoring, baggage handling, and building management” will all be taking advantage of new WiFi enabled technologies to streamlines processes. Imagine if the catastrophic repercussions if security of these internal networks was not properly scoped?

Our point is this: staying current on research in your industry and understanding what your guest’s expectations is paramount when designing a network infrastructure.

What is the experience you are looking to deliver when they walk on site?

Many industries are moving to a technology driven guest experience which puts an emphasis on a robust network. Some examples include: self-check-outs in retail locations, self-check-in kiosks in hotels and airports, online check-in and electronic door locks for vacation rentals, to name a few. If your guest experience relies on these types of technologies, is your network being designed to not only support, but also secure them?

Consider this list of property systems common across multiple industries when designing your network:

  • Property Management System (PMS) – Room Bookings, housekeeping, accounting, etc.
  • Point of Sale System (POS) – Food and beverage, charging food back to rooms, lobby gift shop, processing payments, etc.
  • Back of House Systems
    • Front/back desk WiFi connectivity
    • Network security and firewalls
    • Corporate WiFi, systems WiFi and network
    • Maintenance staff and systems (IE communication tools, smart devices, tablets, etc)
    • Door codes or key cards
    • Building lighting
    • Building HVAC
    • Building security cameras and alarms
    • Cabling specifications and where cabling is run to each room
    • Ad Screens, elevator TV’s, etc
  • Guest Entertainment Systems, which may include:
    • Guest WiFi and levels of service for various guests (Do VIPs/Reward Members get a higher level of service?)
    • Self-check-in/out systems
    • In room video entertainment
    • Telephony services
    • Door locks
    • Mini Bars
    • In room controls – Lighting
    • In room controls – HVAC
    • In room voice control (IE google home, Alexa, etc)
    • Digital concierge systems
    • Gym, pool or common room systems like video, WiFi, security, etc
    • Bar or restaurant systems and technology
    • Meeting Rooms/Ball Rooms, etc
    • Guest technology support (WiFi, etc)
    • VIP or Reward benefits and system integrations

Hotel Example: Things to consider is that modern hotels have everything connected. For example:

  • The PMS talks all of these items for a variety of reasons:
    • It talks to the WiFi to allow guests to input their guest details (IE name and room number) to get online.
    • It talks to the TV’s, video systems, and phone systems to display guest welcome messaging and place any charges to their bill for purchased content (IE movies or long distance calls).
    • It may also talk to the HVAC systems to adjust the room temperature based on guest arrival/departure. Rooms do not need to be heated/cooled to the same temperature if a guest is not present.
  • The POS is integrated to take payments on everything and in some places even via the online access point (AP).
  • The guest entertainment systems must be fully integrated to give a “Like-Home” experience (IE allowing someone to Chrome Cast or use their Netflix account) without sacrificing any security or privacy along the way.

STL Hotel Intro Technology

In this day and age, not considering the varying levels of technologies that you have at your property could have a catastrophic impact on your business. It’s important to have a discussion around your expectations from and for your guests and convey those to your various technology partners to avoid any embarrassing situations. It’s also important that you consider enterprise grade hardware, suppliers, and network managers (like us). If you want to operate a secure and efficient network then you need to look at higher grade equipment and steer clear of the “at-home” solutions. That would include everything from your WiFi/Network Manager, building manager, building wiring company, and architect.

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