The Mobility Challenge
The hyper-connected hospitality industry is finding novel ways to benefit from IoT by reducing costs and improving
customer experience securely
By Vinita Bhatia
That hospitality is a connected industry is an undeniable reality. However, with Internet of Things (IoT) gaining ground, connectivity has been taken to yet another level. These devices and solutions offer services that are far more intelligent and offer a lot more value, not just to the customer, but also to the hotels.
Till a few years ago, when wearable and smart technology was just making their appearance, close to 40% of guests in upscale hotels had already started travelling with IoT devices. Today, in some properties, like W Goa, the percentage of guests carrying connected devices has gone up to almost 99%.
Talking about this, Munish Sharma, IT manager, W Goa said that there is an increasing trend where guests prefer to use their own devices for specific purposes. For example, they use their own portable PlayStation or other gaming devices as well as their own IP devices to enjoy TV programmes of their native country and movies-on-demand. With Netflix coming in and offering online streaming, the face of television has drastically changed and people have comfortably allowed this to become a part of their lives.
While the hospitality industry is set to leverage the benefits of IoT, it is not immune to the challenges that this evolution is presenting currently. And the biggest one at the moment is stability in network connectivity. â€śMany hotels have network issues because of their Internet Service Providers (ISP); the networkâ€™s reach and signal strength. Another challenge we faced was that guests found the WiFi login authentication procedure lengthy â€“ a problem faced by other hotels too. However, because it was a priority for us to come up with a better alternative, we created a seamless authentication process,â€ť Sharma stated.
W Goa also decided to interact with guests and address their queries with WhatsApp messaging, since most preferred it for communication. For in-room check-in, the hotel adopted SPGâ€™s keyless system, where guests can enter their room using their phone. The idea was to make every process at the hotel as smooth and convenient for the guest as possible.
â€śWe want our guests to feel immediately at ease when they enter the property. We are always working to innovate and increase efficiency at our hotel to match industry trends,â€ť Sharma added.
LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS
Once a guest checks into a hotel, they want frictionless digital interaction between every department and not just the room. Whatâ€™s more, they want this seamless access to be provided securely as many use the network for fiscal transactions too. Hoteliers, therefore, need to have a fully mobile approach when it comes to communications that does not interfere with guest experience. W Goa managed to do this by following a simple authentication process while granting uninterrupted connectivity throughout the hotel. â€śWe have a centralised access virtual controller that looks at every device on the property. We also have around 120 in-room access points, 15 outdoor and 65 corridor access points for smooth coverage of the resort,â€ť Sharma elaborated.
To manage this network infrastructure with minimal downtime and uninterrupted access to internet, telephony and video entertainment and provide superior quality of service, the property has implemented load balancing, where it can use two ISP for backup. Also, the primary ISP contract has an uptime of 99%. â€śAll devices are set with alerts on emails to ensure we are notified immediately when any device goes down. This helps maintain efficiency and also keep track of everything,â€ť Sharma pointed out.
While embracing IoT, hotels should not just look at offering mobility better, they should also aim at offering mobility smarter. And yes, they should also aim at offering it securely, because security cannot be forfeited at the altar of speed.