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Hotel security technology is doing more than what is visible. We explore the discreet systems and processes at work that are revolutionalising guest experiences

BY RASHMI NAICKER

Contemporary hotel guests tend to be travellers tethered to tablets and smart phones, and these tech-savvy consumers desire a hospitality experience that centres on connection, convenience and comfort. While technology is everybody’s favourite buzzword today, it is aptly so as it addresses every aspect of efficiency and safety. As CP Singh, founder, Smart Group, rightly says, “Hospitality sector is a most prominent service industry focused on customer satisfaction teamed with utmost security. It has a huge responsibility to provide the best services to customer in a right time. With automation and digital control, this sector aims to be made more communicable, full of information, convenient and valuable with regard to its relation with their customers.”

ACCESS CONTROL
Gone are the days when hotels merely installed cumbersome metal detectors and baggage checking machines at their entrances. Today, security technology is increasingly discreet and seamlessly merging with interiors. A guest or staff may not realise, but apart from physical frisking by a detector, there are many other security devices in place today that are constantly
monitoring the hotel premises 24×7. Häfele has advanced significantly in the area of access control systems with its product Dialock. This is a smart identification and locking system that uses radio frequency identification technology. Besides the guest’s floor and rooms, this electronic lock ensures the guest can access his spa or fitness-room locker, elevators and public areas, where access is required and can be validated.
Each key card is pre-coded and the Dialock software allows for a detailed audit to be downloaded from an access terminal. This helps track every access point the card was used.
Security in the hospitality industry has the increased burden of being elegant and hospitable. And suppliers are constantly using innovation to keep up. Visionline, a wireless locking system that has standalone, electronic hotel locks operating in online mode through a radio frequency that is based on an open platform. While allowing guests to access their rooms, this product can also remotely cancel key cards, alert security about intruders and open doors, and let reception know about guests who have not vacated. On top of this, it will also allow guests to send room-change request from a remote location, track card users, manage automatic check-out, track remote audit trails and access maintenance records. Although the security systems are expensive, this is not an area that the hotel industry risks to cut down on. Just as employees are considered an investment, mandatory investment of approximately Rs80-90 lakh in security systems, depending on size and location
of the hotel, is treated as project cost.

SELF CHECK-IN KIOSKS
With everything going onto fast track these days, the check-in processes at hotels have also got on to the express wagon. The primary intention of the check-in kiosk is to check the guest in as quickly as possible and get him to the comfort of his room after his arrival; and hotels ensure its proximity to the manned reception counter to further ensure easy personal connect. The automatic system is open to all application programming interface, which makes it easy to integrate with existing in place software and devices. The key cards generated from the check-in kiosk can be used as swipe cards for the vending machine and as security access card for the rooms, business centre, gym and elevators. A mini call centre is then set up to attend to all guest calls while providing 24×7 access to various guest facilities through swipe of the key card itself. This system supports delivery model in a tightly manned operational structures, facilitating day to day operations, ensuring optimal resource efficiency and greater profitability.
The kiosk administers and provides assistance for various processes, such as:
1. User interface design and information for room services,
business concierge, existing and upcoming hotels, city information, help lines, maps, what to see around the hotel, important festivals etc.)
2. Guest fingerprint identification
3. Document scanner
4. Encoded room key generation
5. Receipt printer for guests
6. Notification guest card printing for guest service associates at the front desk.

SOUND SYSTEMS
From lobbies and elevators to restaurants and bars, from the gym, spa and pool side areas to corridors, pre-function areas and auditoria, sound is everywhere. But each of these areas requires different kinds of sound. Elevators and lobbies require high quality background music, which cannot be localised. Guests are immersed in sound, which becomes a part of the ambience. New trends are constantly changing the face of hotel sound systems with automated controls and music servers. With the advent of new, more compact devices that can play music anywhere, hotels are now opting for server-based systems such as DMX and Moodmedia, which are able to run four or five streams simultaneously. These solutions bring in a wide range of customisable music solutions designed to handle the music, from meticulous song selection to all aspects of daily management including delivery, updating and licensing requirements.
When it comes to amplification, hoteliers are increasingly seeking a consolidated control panel for amplifiers, which control all the systems in the hotel’s audio network, allow easy access and can be easily monitored and controlled through computers and even smart phones.

MOBILE APPS
In India, much of the app-related development has been restricted to the booking area, whereas internationally,
hotels are taking apps into rooms, behind reservations desks and into F&B areas. However, many hotel chains in the country are now looking at the device to take the traditional hotelier-guest experience to a new personalised, electronic level. Guests accessing the hotels’ club lounges and libraries, for example, have the opportunity to download their favourite
newspapers, magazines and novels directly to their iPads, as well as videos and other new media. E-concierge not only deals with immediate guest requests electronically, but also connects to various other apps, where staff can channel relevant information back to guests to improve their overall hospitality experience.
The biggest challenge hoteliers face is the lack of a universal app that transcends hotel brands and operating platforms. As the problem with individual hotel apps is that their use is limited to only loyal guests of the hotel; one cannot picture a guest downloading apps for each and every brand he/she stays with. With an app that works across all hotel brands and operating platforms, the guest would need to just sign in and have access to the complete gamut of services at various hotels in various locations.

IN-ROOM TECH
It all started with the TV. Entertainment was the first stronghold of in-room technology. However, now the in-room management system can integrate lighting, temperature, curtain control and a number of other room functions on a single bedside panel. It can also be customised to include dimmers, mood lighting, etc. Many high-end hotels now also provide tablets and iPads with the feature to manage every comfort aspect in the room. This can be integrated with an online hotel management system or building management system to store the guests’ preferences, so more personalised service can be provided.
One of the newer and widely adopted products is a wireless, battery-less controller that will perform a number of tasks – that of a controlling a key card access switch, lighting and HVAC in hotel rooms. It is an energy saving devices that requires no additional wiring so can be called eco-friendly, and also doesn’t add points to operating costs. Moreover, it is connected to a thermostat that will receive a signal when someone inserts the room key card i.e. enters the room. The lights and devices in the room will be on when the guest enters, and not only that, but will be adjusted to the optimal level. When the room is empty, i.e., the card is not in the slot, the thermostat gets the signal and the HVAC unit is set to economy mode, shutting down power to the AC and lights. To mention some more innovations, there is a keyboard in the room that gives flight details of some airlines. As of now the business category hotels still use bedside panels/consoles.
However, at the rate technology is progressing there’ll soon be hands-free products, that function on mere voice recognition.

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