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Siegel Sez

July 26, 2019

Siegel Sez

by: Rich Siegel

With our 18th annual CIO Summit coming up the first week of September, we have gotten a great deal of feedback from CIOs attending about the biggest challenges they are facing. To no one’s surprise, it is cybersecurity. I remember a few years ago when my bank account was compromised and how my bank just simply accepted that it happened and gave my money back. I had to close that account, create a new one and did everything I was told. And then, it happened again, and I had to do the same thing all over. It was interesting how the bank accepted this as the cost of doing business. I wonder how much this cost banks each year though, of course, there are controls in place to limit their losses. In the hotel space, I remember doing a session a few years ago with many CIOs and the question to them was how to avoid a data compromise. The answer then was simply it was not a question of if it would happen, only a question of when. The fellow panelists all nodded their heads in agreement. Has it gotten any better today? Hopefully so. At the CIO Summit we have taken our attendees’ lead and will be visiting the IBM X-Force Command Center. We are going to get hacked and then experience what happens. At our CIO Summit we will then have a speaker who will advise us why we no longer must accept that it isn’t a question of when, it will be how to avoid being hacked. Of course, we will all be sitting there wondering if it is possible. This will be a great experience for all in attendance. The world of technology never ceases to amaze me. Please check out the CIO Summit agenda or to learn more about the IBM X-Force Command Center.

I will keep this short since Doug Rice has done a great job with RTLS (Real Time Location Services) which is coming into play more today especially with so many cities mandating that hotel employees are equipped with staff safety devices. Doug advises that RTLS goes way beyond that. I recommend you take a few minutes to read his thoughts.  I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. Boston, here we come!

Definitely Doug

by: Douglas Rice

Where in the hotel is Carmen Sandiego?
Most of us know that geolocation is the ability to locate something spatially. We use it every day in apps like Google Maps, Waze, and the ever-important Starbucks store finder. But in recent years, we have started to see indoor location applications emerge as well. Not surprisingly, many of these are finding their way into hotels. Wayfinding and marketing beacons have been around for quite some time, having migrated from retail into a more limited set of use cases relevant to some hotels. More recent applications use Real Time Location Services (RTLS), which locates people or things in real time.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association’s 5-Star Promise initiative has resulted in brand mandates for employee safety devices. Legislation has also been passed requiring this for all hotels in certain cities and states. Doing this requires determining with high accuracy the location of an employee (such as a housekeeper) who needs urgent help. This is driving a lot of activity and innovation in the RTLS space for hospitality, as different vendors and technologies vie to provide solutions prior to the deadlines. The innovation is not limited to staff safety devices, however: the same technologies, once in place, can often be used for multiple purposes at little or no additional cost.
Hotels and commercial buildings have requirements that generally render consumer-grade panic buttons ineffective. A consumer panic button is intended for home use by someone who lives in a known location. This isn’t enough for hotels, where you need to know the exact location (floor and room) of a staff member who could be anywhere, and initiate response requirements that are more complex (often with onsite teams as well as local first responders). Hotels may also have areas where cellular reception, on which consumer devices rely, is marginal or nonexistent.
Staff alert technologies can be challenging for hotels to analyze, because the many different providers use a variety of RTLS technologies, each with its own infrastructure requirements.  HTNG recently published a great buyer’s guide with lots of details and all the relevant questions for selecting a staff alert solution, but it doesn’t really explain why some of the questions may matter to you. I’ll try to cover some of those issues here. The buyer’s guide also focuses specifically on staff alert technologies. It doesn’t address some of the other interesting applications of RTLS that some of the technology approaches and products enable, so I’ll provide some examples of those as well.
Infrastructure matters. While staff alert technology may be the most urgent investment right now, selecting a solution with the right infrastructure can enable useful future applications as well. Numerous interesting location applications have appeared: ones that track or even geo-fence assets (rollaways, maintenance equipment, housekeeping carts, AV equipment, room service trays); ones that optimize around the location and current status of staff (for example to assign a housekeeper to a rush room), ones that track guests (such as recognizing when an elite member has entered the lobby), ones that help staff locate guests who have ordered food or beverage in public spaces, ones that push messages to guests for marketing purposes or to enhance conference communications, wayfinding applications – these are just a few of the examples.
There are several different technologies that can be used, alone or in combination, to locate something or someone on a hotel property. Each one has benefits and drawbacks.
The first one to consider is Wi-Fi, if only because most hotels already have it. Wi-Fi can locate devices that have Wi-Fi radios, or can help a smart device locate itself. But not all Wi-Fi systems are designed to do that easily and/or with sufficient accuracy to pinpoint a specific guest room.  For some applications, like room service tray pickup (TrayAway), any Wi-Fi infrastructure may be accurate enough. But for life safety applications, the greater precision of a more modern Wi-Fi or Internet of things (IoT) infrastructure is needed. More advanced access points now come with built-in Bluetooth radios and sophisticated back-end software, and can act as, or detect, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons as well; they can save you the expense of putting a standalone BLE beacon in every room.
Standalone BLE beacons are indeed an option. They are typically deployed in each area or guest room where things or people need to be tracked. A device (such as a panic button) can then determine its location accurately by identifying the closest beacon. The downsides of this approach (used by many of the commercial staff alert vendors) is that the device finds out where it is, but still has to have a way to communicate this to the monitoring system, which may require Wi-Fi, the cellular network, or (for redundancy) both. With many hotels now putting access points with BLE beacons in every guest room, and the staff alert button needing a network to communicate back, the question is why would you need standalone beacons? Ideally you shouldn’t, but this depends on whether the staff alert vendor supports the same BLE protocols (such as iBeacon or Eddystone) as your access points. Standalone beacons also have the disadvantage of additional cost and the need to monitor and periodically replace batteries. These are not insurmountable issues (cost has come down and battery life has gone up), but they are more likely to make sense when a hotel’s Wi-Fi infrastructure isn’t robust enough and won’t be upgraded soon.
One interesting startup, Creating Revolutions, came out of the Near-Field Communications (NFC) space, and uses that technology instead of Wi-Fi or beacons. In a housekeeping deployment, two inexpensive NFC disks are installed per guest room, one at the entry door and one in an unobtrusive location inside the room. The housekeeper taps the first one with a mobile phone when entering the room, and at that point a timer starts. She can inspect the room for threats, and if there are none, mark herself safe by tapping the interior disk. If the timer runs out before that happens, an alarm is raised. This has the advantage for a staff member whose reaction to a threat may be to freeze; this not-uncommon reaction can prevent them from reaching or activating a panic button (especially if the panic button requires multiple presses). It requires no action on the part of the staff to activate, and it doesn’t depend on the Wi-Fi network functioning, or on Bluetooth beacons operating in the overcrowded 2.4Ghz spectrum. There could, however, be more false alarms if staff are not trained well. Also, finding the right place for the interior disk to maximize safety and to avoid disturbing guests in the room while it’s being serviced could be challenging. The approach could also fail if the guest or an intruder enters the room after the housekeeper has tapped herself safe, or if the housekeeper is moved after the alert is raised but before help arrives. Whether this is a better solution would require some real-world testing, but I was intrigued with its potential and cost profile; I suspect it might best be used in combination with other technologies. It also has some other interesting life safety applications that some hotels might find useful.
Often overlooked, other hotel systems may be a source of location data. Many housekeeping systems can tell you where a housekeeper or supervisor is, based on their reporting via a mobile device when they enter a room or report from within the room. This information can be integrated into the staff alert technology to provide more information that can supplement other sources. Indeed, some of the best solutions take information from as many sources as they can, because no one source will ever be 100% accurate.
A final technology I’ve seen for RTLS in hotels is ultrasound. This requires no new infrastructure, it can be done with software. Used in conjunction with a less precise location technology, it can enable two mobile devices to find each other with an accuracy of about 1 meter. This could help a first responder trying to locate a staff member in distress if other technologies aren’t precise enough. Some of the vendors claim they can support ultrasound, although I haven’t yet seen it live for staff alerts. Where I have seen it is in mobile F&B ordering, to help wait staff locate a guest who has ordered something (Reva Hospitality). Think about poolside service, or serving drinks in a crowded cocktail reception, and it’s easy to see use cases. The two devices communicate with each other by ultrasound and the software can determine the direction and distance of one from the other.
With staff alerts, another question is what technology is used to communicate an alarm to the system that will dispatch responders. This is important because Wi-Fi doesn’t always work, and cellular networks may not be accessible from some parts of a building. The more options a solution has (e.g. multiple cellular carriers, Wi-Fi, IoT networks connected to wired LANs) the less it depends on good batteries (like those in the housekeeper’s mobile phone), and the more that battery health can be monitored, the lower the likelihood it will fail when needed.
Another point to consider is spectrum conflicts. BLE beacons operate in the busy 2.4GHz spectrum. If your Wi-Fi solution is still running on 2.4GHz, it will degrade the performance of BLE devices and may compromise reliability or accuracy of beacon-based location technologies. For staff alert and any other application where accuracy is critical and beacons are the preferred choice, you should consider moving your Wi-Fi to the 5GHz spectrum (something you will eventually do anyway).
Lastly, some RTLS solutions require activation, such as a staff member pushing a panic button, while others may track a person all the time, or when they “tap in” at an NFC disk. Each approach has different privacy implications and may also be more (or less) acceptable to unions.
There are numerous competitors in the staff alert technology space, using different combinations of these technologies and in some cases offering additional, unrelated indoor geolocation capabilities such as asset tracking and geofencing. Ones I have seen include Creating Revolutions, Enseo, Lifeline Response, PwC, React Mobile, Roar for Good, and TraknProtect. Zebra Technologies and AT&T also offer staff alert products I have seen, but I can’t give you links because I couldn’t find web pages. Others I have run into but haven’t viewed personally include Beckon Technologies and RF Technologies.
As always, the companies listed here are to encourage you to explore new and different technologies that may not be on your radar. They aren’t recommendations, and due diligence is always in order.
What other RTLS applications or products have you seen that would be useful to hotels? Drop me a line and let me know!
Douglas Rice
Email: douglas.rice@hosptech.net
Twitter: @dougrice
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ricedouglas/


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- Crescent Hotels & Resorts Hires Nancy Johns as VP Digital Strategy
- INTELITY Appoints Ira Dworkin as Chief Product Officer
- Interstate Hotels & Resorts Names Andrew J. Arthurs Chief Information Officer
- GCommerce Announces Lindley Cotton as President
- NewcrestImage Names David Perel CIO and Caroline Lerner Perel CDO


For more information on People On The Move for 7/26/2019


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Travel Tripper, a technology innovator serving the hospitality industry, now provides its platform of reservations, distribution and digital marketing solutions to more than 85,000 hotel rooms across the U.S., including nearly every hotel on Fremont Street.


- SHR Integrates with Duetto’s Rate Engine to Provide Personalized Guest Rates
SHR, Sceptre Hospitality Resources, a pioneer of advanced hotel revenue generation technologies, has become fully integrated with Duetto’s Rate Engine (DRE), providing SHR Windsurfer clients who have a loyalty program the opportunity to set dynamic room rates based off of members’ profile and value. 

- Maximize Hotel Profitability With Group Business
An analysis of the U.S. meetings and events market by PwC, revealed that the U.S. meetings industry generates approximately $30B – or just over one in five dollars – in hotel room revenue, while another $110B in revenue is generated from ancillary services such as food and beverage, event space, equipment rental, ground transportation, audiovisual (AV) support, and other services. Unfortunately, current revenue management practices tend to evaluate hotel group business performance based on the revenue per available room (RevPAR) index, which is not the best metric for determining a group’s overall profitability. There are several factors contributing to this faulty approach.


- INTELITY and Silverware Partner to Fully Automate Food & Beverage in Hospitality
INTELITY® announced that its robust guest engagement and staff management platform now integrates with Silverware’s point of sale (POS) system. The integration between INTELITY and the hybrid-cloud POS will make in-room and mobile dining solutions more accessible to hoteliers and provide them with further insight into the performance of their food and beverage programs. 


- Radisson Hotel Group Enters the Future of Digital Hospitality with the Launch of its New Multi-Brand Platform
Radisson Hotel Group, one of the world's largest hotel groups, is proud to launch its new multi-brand and mobile-first global website, RadissonHotels.com, which also serves as the unique platform for Radisson Rewards members.


- Aileron Management Partners with ProfitSword to Maximize Performance Forecasting Abilities and Ensure Unmatched Business Intelligence Efficiency
ProfitSword, one of hospitality's premier developer of business intelligence and data integration softwares, has been selected by Aileron Management to implement its ProfitSage operational and financial reporting solution across all of its current locations within the U.S.


- INTELITY and BluIP Partner to Implement Phone Calls Through In-Room Tablets
INTELITY, a provider of some of the broadest enterprise guest engagement and staff management platforms for hospitality, announced that it has integrated its platform with BluIP, a premier provider of cloud-based connectivity and communication solutions.


- Quore is Helping Hotels Deliver Exceptional Pool Experiences via its Pool Readings Module
Quore, a hotel workforce communications platform used by more than 3,900 hotels is helping operators ensure that their pools, hot tubs and spas meet water safety standards by automating the water-testing process within its pool readings module.

- TraknProtect, Sonifi Team Up for Hospitality Focus
Sonifi Solutions has partnered with TraknProtect to offer the company’s real-time location technology to hotels, including employee safety devices, inventory and room tray tracking as well as vendor and service contractor monitoring.

- The New InterContinental San Diego Implements InvoTech Uniform System to Significantly Improve Operational Efficiencies 
The InterContinental Luxury San Diego Hotel implements RFID technology using InvoTech Uniform System.


- Prince Waikiki First Hotel in Hawaii to Stand Up to Protect Their Employees
The Prince Waikiki is the first hotel in Hawaii to invest in real-time protection for their staff, 24/7, anywhere on property. The luxury resort has partnered with React Mobile, a market-leading hospitality safety technology provider, to deploy one of the industry’s most advanced panic button technology.


- Hospitality Upgrade Announces Recipient of the John Cahill Student Seat for the 2019 CIO Summit
Hospitality Upgrade Publisher and President Rich Siegel today announced the next recipient of the John Cahill student seat will be Smit Patel, a graduate student of the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration program. The upcoming CIO Summit will be held Sept. 4-6, 2019, in Boston.
- HFTP Annual Convention 2019 General Session Speakers Announced, Covering Communication, Leadership and Travel Industry Trends
Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) is set to offer motivating inspiration at its upcoming Annual Convention. The event offers a full educational program dedicated to the most current industry trends and topics of interest, pivoting around a captivating general session speaker each day of the convention.
- Thomas J. Corcoran, Jr. to Receive Above and Beyond Lifetime Achievement Award at 25th Annual “The Lodging Conference” in Phoenix this September
Harry Javer, producer and founder of The Lodging Conference, one of the industry’s leading events for hotel owners, CEO's and deal makers, announced that Thomas J. Corcoran, Jr., president & CEO of TCOR Hotel Partners, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Above and Beyond Lifetime Achievement Award.


- GDPR Comes to California. Is Your Hotel Compliant?
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- The Impact of Technology on Hotel Sales and Marketing


For more information on Piqued Our Interest for 7/26/2019


And now for you-know-what.…  

Three drunk guys entered a taxi. The taxi driver knew that they were drunk so he started the engine and turned it off again. Then said, “We have reached your destination”. The 1st guy gave him money and the 2nd guy said, “Thank you”. The 3rd guy slapped the driver. The driver was shocked thinking the 3rd drunk knew what he had done. But then he asked, “What was that for?”. The 3rd guy replied, “Control your speed next time, you nearly killed us!”

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