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Siegel Sez

November 01, 2019

Siegel Sez

This is the time of year where it seems we are going nonstop with industry events that Hospitality Upgrade supports or attends. Out of all the events I have been to in my life, easily the most memorable will be the HFTP Annual Conference last week at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. How to make a long story short is never easy, but since I am now solidly in the industry gossip channel, let me give it a shot. On second thought, let me just give you the highlights: Your heart is supposed to beat around 60 beats a minute. Mine wanted me to experience 260 beats a minute. No, that is not a typo. There are quite a few stories circulating about what happened, but simply I passed out in an elevator at the Rosen Centre Hotel. A woman in the elevator turned out to be my hero. The EMTs were called and I ended up in a hospital for two days. When I was released, I went back to Atlanta. I tell people it was a near-death experience, and in my mind, it was. But truthfully it wasn’t. There are no lingering effects to worry about except when I asked the cardiologist if it could happen again and he said it might never happen again, could happen again in 10 years or maybe in two weeks. Did he really need to add two weeks at the end? Anyway, all is well, and it is back to work and events, but to all that heard about my episode and sent notes to say get well, thank you. I especially want to thank Frank Wolfe, CEO of HFTP, for his help and Ron Hardin of Sandestin Resorts who was at the conference and was kind enough to get my iPad and most importantly my phone charger out of my room and bring them to the hospital for me. It was my first time staying overnight in a hospital and I don’t know what jail is like, but I am thinking it can’t be much worse than being in a hospital and connected to machines. Weird!
The HFTP Annual Conference was quite successful (from what I was told) and let me add my congrats to citizenM Hotels CEO Michael Levie who is now HFTP president. Hospitality Upgrade is also very proud to be a founding sponsor of the HFTP Foundation, the newly established philanthropic arm of HFTP. If you want to get involved or have a better understanding of the goals of the foundation, click here.
Next week I will be in beautiful Kohler, Wisc., at the Kohler Resort for the Springer-Miller Host Users Conference (HUG), which is probably my favorite user conferences being the only one run by the users, not the vendor. It is always well attended and supported by the industry and I am always glad to be invited.
After HUG, it will be HX in New York City which having transformed itself from the old IHMRS show has proven that quality over quantity is a better formula for success. It is always great to talk to so many who exhibit there and have them share so much positive feedback. Plus, it is NYC which is always a great experience.
After HX, I will be attending a celebration of life for Larry Hall in Atlanta. Hopefully you have seen the beautiful piece in our fall issue of Hospitality Upgrade written by Victor Vesnaver on how Larry impacted the industry and so many people. We lost him way too soon.  If you would like to read the article is available online.
Then, it is directly to Monaco for the HTNG European Conference at the Fairmont Monte Carlo.  I am honored to be asked to do a session with Australian consultant Ted Horner regarding the history of technology for hotels and the investments made for systems. Were dollars wisely spent and were there returns on these investments? I am not sure who is more nervous, HTNG or Ted Horner about this session but it should be fun and hopefully interesting for the attendees. Attendance this year looks amazing for HTNG. I am really looking forward to Monte Carlo.
Here now is the real reason we are here: the latest technology happenings and Doug Rice’s revisit to energy management systems which as a hotelier or traveler I would encourage you to read. Thanks again to those who have reached out. Let me close by saying a near-death experience isn’t the worst thing in the world. It gives you a chance to reflect on your life. That is a good thing, right?

Definitely Doug

Sustainability, EMS, and IoT
My last installment covered several innovations in the area of sustainability. I glossed over Energy Management Systems (EMSs), promising to return to them later, as I am doing today. Along with EMS I also include systems known as Guest Room Management Systems, which add guest controls to a basic EMS; I’ll use the term EMS here to refer to both. While EMS has not exactly been a hotbed of innovation in recent years, it is nevertheless an area where innovation is having a profound impact on how solutions need to be evaluated and selected, whether for new builds or retrofits.
What’s not in question is that these technologies – which can include thermostats, occupancy detectors, keycard switches, networked door locks, light switches, door and window open detectors, bedside and wall-mounted control panels, and integration of information from property management systems (PMSs) and real-time location services – can save a lot of money. Benchmarked studies by vendors show that the best solutions can generate 25-30% energy savings vs. a simple thermostat (in the range of $125 per room per year at typical electrical costs). Many believe that evolving Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have the potential to save even more.
Of course, vendor studies are often conducted under ideal conditions, on new installations and with the vendor constantly monitoring performance and tweaking. There is evidence that savings may drop off substantially if the system is not properly maintained and monitored. Further, some studies have shown that hotels are not particularly good at doing this. This doesn’t mean that hotels shouldn’t still consider these systems, but rather that they need evaluate this aspect when selecting a system and try to find one that they are confident they (or a third party) can maintain and monitor effectively – and include the costs of doing so in ROI calculations. I’ll cover some of these issues today.
EMS systems tailored for hospitality have numerous important features not found in thermostats designed for homes, or EMSs made for office buildings and other structures. Vendors I’ve looked at who claim at least some specialization in hospitality space EMS or GRMS include AuVerte, CIRQ+, Control4, Crestron, Enseo, Evolve Controls, Honeywell (INNCOM), Interel, Legrand, Lutron, Minxon, Schneider Electric, Telkonet, VDA, Verdant, and WiSuite.
First, let’s review the known approaches to managing guest room energy use. Most of them are in use today in products available from vendors like the ones I mentioned. A few have been hypothesized and, in some cases, tested or piloted, but not yet introduced into the marketplace. I’ve included a few that I think have good promise, because you should be talking with vendors about them to see if they’re on their product roadmaps.
The largest source of energy savings for most hotels is through thermostat setbacks, done when the guest room is unoccupied. Typically, the setpoint is raised (in cooling season) or lowered (in heating season) by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) when the room is believed by the system to be unoccupied. Lights and some powered appliances may also be shut off. But please don’t make the all-too-common mistake of powering down the outlet that is recharging my PC while I am out!
A key differentiator is how the system detects occupancy. Occupancy detectors alone generate only small savings, and can cause comfort problems for the guest if, due to the guest’s location in the room or the lack of motion of a sound sleeper, they decide the room is empty when it is not. It can be quite disconcerting if you need a nighttime bathroom visit, but it turns out to be longer than the time-out interval, and all the lights go out (hotel bathrooms at night can be very, very dark!). Similarly, keycard switches are often ineffective because guests override them using a spare key (or, with most switches, any stiff card that’s the right size).
This problem can be substantially reduced by connecting an occupancy detector to the door lock (and this is a minimum brand standard for some major brands). In most rooms, a guest can’t leave without opening the door, so if motion is detected while the door is closed, the system can assume that the room is occupied until it is next opened – even if the occupancy detector says otherwise. Similarly, if no motion is detected for a reasonable interval after the door was last opened (typically maybe 10 minutes), then the system can reliably assume that the guest has left and can safely do a setback.
Refinements to this approach include distinguishing whether the door has been opened by the guest or by a staff member – information the door lock can provide to the EMS. Staff may enter the guest’s room 2-4 times per day when the guest is away, for housekeeping and room inspection in most hotels, for minibar or turndown service in some. If the timeout is 10 minutes, this can save 20-40 minutes of heating or cooling cost every day the room is occupied. With a PMS interface, the system can be notified when guests check in and out. Even without a door lock connection to the EMS, knowing that the room is not checked in can override occupancy detectors so that staff don’t trigger heating or cooling. Many systems also enable a larger setback for rooms that are checked out, vs. checked in but unoccupied, a source of additional savings.
Some vendors have been evaluating additional refinements, using real-time location services or even the use of a guest’s keycard in the elevator to alert the system that the guest is about to return to the room. This can allow a slightly greater setback (or make it less likely that the guest will notice the existing setback). Most guests are not sensitive to a 4-5 degree (Fahrenheit) setback as long as, when they re-enter the room, they can hear the heating or cooling fan running. But this means that activating the fan before they open the door is critical; otherwise they may feel the need to adjust the thermostat set point up or down, at which point it will call for additional cooling or heating until the guest decides it’s gotten too cold or hot and adjusts the set point back.
An important point of difference among solutions is the networking protocol. While some older designs use infrared (IR) connections (for example between the thermostat or occupancy detector and the door sensor), most systems today use ZigBee or Z-Wave mesh networks, and a few newer ones use Bluetooth or IP (mostly now Wi-Fi) networks to communicate among devices in the room (notably Interel and Telkonet). Both mesh and IP networks have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and most devices built for the home use some variation of mesh (a reason why most hotel EMSs do as well). For hotels, however, a point of consideration is that while security management protocols and resources are (hopefully!) in place to manage existing hotel IP networks, these are often forgotten when it comes to hotel mesh networks, which may be used for the single purpose of supporting an EMS.
There has been much discussion about IoT security in hotels, and this is an important consideration as IoT devices start to become commonplace within the guest room. ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth protocols are reasonably secure if properly managed. However, the proliferation of home IoT devices running on ZigBee or Z-Wave means a larger community of hackers attacking them. This leads to a greater need for hotels to ensure that security updates are made, and proper procedures followed, for example when adding a device to the network.
A white paper published by ZigBee member NXP, which manufactures most of the RFID chips used in hotel keys, offers a useful glimpse into some of the complexities of ZigBee security. If you read this and similar documents, you will quickly realize that most hotel engineering and IT departments will not have the skills or knowledge maintain mesh network security. Management of vendors using mesh networks can also be tricky; the software stacks for mesh networking protocols are updated over time to fix security issues, but these need to be incorporated into the products and some may require upgrades to devices already installed in hotels. Hotels should realistically determine how they can manage mesh network security over time – with specialized corporate IT staff, contractors, contractual requirements with vendors, and/or third-party services. Third-party security overlays for RF networks, such as offered by LevL in the automotive market, may at some future date offer hotels options that reduce exposure to bad actors attacking IoT devices. LevL uses radio frequency fingerprinting to securely identify mesh network devices and thereby greatly reduce the risk of spoofing and relaying (which can be easy to do if a device was configured less than perfectly). LevL is currently focused on the automotive market, where its technology can thwart increasingly common “relay” car thefts. But technologies like this could be very useful in any IoT application that has significant security risks, such as hotels.
With both IP and mesh networks, it is critical to monitor the health and network visibility of the various devices. A device that goes offline or is misconfigured will not produce energy savings and may even produce a drain; this can continue for days, weeks, months, even years if not detected by a guest or inspection. Some EMS providers will monitor devices as part of a service contract, or the hotel can do this itself – but again, the question of skill sets and resources can be important. Hotel or corporate staff or a contracted Network Operations Center (NOC) will generally have the resources to monitor and diagnose IP devices, but may require specialized training or skills for mesh networks. Meaningful alerts to local staff need to be sent when anomalies are detected that require onsite remediation.
In addition to monitoring device health and connectivity, it is important that EMSs monitor that results are consistent with settings. A thermostat that keeps calling for heating or cooling for extended periods of time may be an indication of a fan coil unit that needs repair or replacement. A good network monitoring system and dashboard will not only highlight significant issues but can help prioritize preventive maintenance or replacements. For example, a hotel may decide to replace 30 fan coils each year to spread the cost over several years. Instead of just selecting two floors each year, good reporting would allow them to prioritize the rooms with units that are performing the poorest, yielding better guest comfort and more energy savings with the same cost. The more data a reporting system can collect, correlate, and report, the more intelligently the system will work.
In evaluating monitoring systems, hotels should consider the ability and willingness of hotel staff to proactively review performance and address issues. Because many hotels have found this difficult to manage effectively with on-site staff and high turnover, some EMSs are starting to build in more intelligence or even to offer proactive management as a service. These approaches can raise alerts to hotel engineering to check specific issues rather than waiting for someone at the hotel to check a dashboard.
Last but not least, it’s critical to verify that system installation meets the manufacturer’s specifications. One new hotel that got a lot of guest complaints about the heating did a test and put networked sensors at several points in multiple rooms, only to discover that the thermostats were reading as much as 10 degrees off. It turned out that whereas the manufacturer had specified a thermal barrier between the thermostat and the wall, the contractor had claimed that wasn’t necessary. Because of the building design, the heating and cooling did not penetrate to the between-the-wall spaces behind the thermostat, and the lack of a thermal barrier led to incorrect readings. Adding a thermal barrier as a retrofit resulted in substantial and immediate savings.
There is no doubt that modern EMSs can save money far in excess of their costs, but hotels should realistically evaluate how they are going to manage a set of technologies that is both complex, and in many cases unfamiliar. Otherwise, the anticipated savings may never be achieved, or may not be sustained.
Douglas Rice
Email: douglas.rice@hosptech.net
Twitter: @dougrice
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ricedouglas/


- Aimbridge Hospitality and Interstate Hotels & Resorts Complete Merger
The combined company will manage a portfolio of more than 1,400 branded and independent properties in 49 states and 20 countries.
- Cloud5 Communications Announces Recapitalization Led by Oaktree
Transaction allows for additional growth capital to support continued expansion.


- The New Pegasus Poised to Be the Leading Provider of Distribution and E-commerce Services to the Worldwide Hotel Industry
Merged Pegasus and Travel Tripper move forward as a single entity, Pegasus, symbolizing total commitment to technology innovation combined with five-star support.
- Triptease Launches Retargeting for Hotels
Triptease Retargeting significantly increases the return on investment (ROI) of a hotel’s online marketing strategy by intelligently serving personalized, price-led ads to potential guests after they leave a hotel’s website.


- IDeaS Releases Hotel Revenue Management Ultimate Buyer's Guide
- Beonprice Academy Prepares Future Revenue Management Superstars
- Rainmaker Group, a Cendyn Company, Receives Top Honor in Gaming & Hospitality Industry Awards 
- IDeaS Revenue Solutions Surpasses 4,000 Hotels in 60 EMEA Countries


For more information on Revenue Management for 11/1/2019


- MCOMS New Standalone Casting Solution Brings Your Guest’s Content on the Big Screen
MCOMS is proud to announce that is expanding its HOTstream Cast solution offering, with an innovative standalone casting option, agnostic of the TV model, or Guest TV system. 

- InnSpire Leverages Zyxel's Nebula Cloud Network Solution to Deliver Robust, Seamless Wi-Fi and IPTV Solution to California's Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino
Luxury gaming property deploys scalable, cloud-managed wireless network to address connectivity complaints, add IPTV and build a future-proof foundation for guestroom automation.
- INTELITY to Exhibit at The Hotel Experience Expo in New York City
INTELITY announced that it will exhibit at the Hotel Experience (HX) expo, which will take place this November 10-11 at the Javits Center in New York City.


- RMS Announces New Guest Loyalty Module for 2020
RMS - The Hospitality Cloud, a leading provider of all-in-one, cloud-based hospitality solutions, has introduced Guest Rewards, a brand-new module that allows hotels to reward guests for staying with them.


- Quore CapEx Tool is Helping Hotel Management Companies Save Time and Money
Don’t get caught in the trenches of stressful budget planning again; Quore’s CapEx app is helping multi-property owners/operators make better financial decisions via easy-to-implement capital request approval flows, long-term tracking capabilities and detailed future forecasting.
- Ownership Destination The Mountain Club on Loon Migrates Enterprise Accounting to Aptech’s PVNG
Aptech Computer Systems, an industry standard for hospitality financial systems, announced The Mountain Club on Loon, a four-season ownership ski destination, implemented Aptech’s PVNG Enterprise Back Office hotel accounting software system.


- Shift4 Payments Releases Customer Case Study Detailing the Benefits of Their Integrated Payment Solution
Shift4 Payments, a leader in integrated payment processing, has released a case study on one of their customers, Tanglewood Resort. The study chronicles the resort's implementation of the joint solution from Shift4 Payments and Springer-Miller Systems, a leading guest-centric hospitality management system, as well as the resulting cost savings and improvements to their operations.


- Hotel Effectiveness Launches PerfectWage
Hotel Effectiveness, a leader in labor management software, announces PerfectWage, a hospitality wage benchmarking tool that offers some of the broadest, most accurate coverage in the industry.


- dormakaba, the provider of secure Saflok™ and Ilco™ electronic door locks, will be at NYC’s HX Hotel Experience show to demonstrate its new RT Plus and Saffire LX mobile access capable electronic locks
dormakaba, the provider of secure Saflok™ and Ilco™ electronic door locks, will be at NYC’s HX Hotel Experience show to demonstrate its new RT Plus  and Saffire LX mobile access capable electronic locks.

- TraknProtect Launches Educational Series on Staff Safety (Panic Button) Alert Legislation, Compliance and Implementation
Leading hotel technology provider to deliver industry education and informational resources for hoteliers looking to deploy staff safety button solutions.
- Stonebridge Companies Takes Control with the New VENZA Everest Ltd. Package
Stonebridge Companies does it all—ownership, management and hospitality development—so why shouldn’t they tackle their own PCI DSS Compliance? With the help of the right product and VENZA’s proprietary Compliance Portal and SAQ Wizard, Stonebridge Companies will be doing just that.


- HSIA Research: 50% of CIOs Respond That 5G Will Never Diminish the Value of Hotel HSIA Services
Connectivity is key when it comes to hotel guest satisfaction, and 5G will not have a big impact on the hotel high-speed landscape in 2020 and beyond. These are just two of the major insights gleaned from hotel CIOs and technology directors in the results of Hospitality Upgrade’s 2019 Connectivity Study, available now on the company’s website.

- U.S. Hotel Industry Resilient, GOPPAR Up in September
The third quarter ended on a high note for U.S. hotels, as September profit per room climbed year-over-year, indication that the current cycle still has teeth. GOPPAR in the month was up 1.9% over the same time last year, part of a third quarter that saw profit grow 0.2%, dragged down by a challenging July when GOPPAR decreased 2.0% YOY, according to data from HotStats.


- That Sold-Out Message from Hotels Online is Usually a Lot of Hooey
- Millennial Heaven: Super 8 Debuts Shared Room Concept, Decked with Foosball Table, Cornhole
- Japanese Robot Hotel Chain Ignored Repeated Warnings that its In-Room “Bed-Facing” Robots Could Be Turned into Spy Devices
- The Delicate Balance between Securing Data and Providing a Positive Technology Experience


For more information on Piqued Our Interest for 11/1/2019


And now for you-know-what.… 

A professor stood before his class of twenty senior organic biology students, about to hand out the final exam.

"I want to say that it's been a pleasure teaching you this semester. I know you've all worked extremely hard and many of you are off to medical school after summer. So that no one gets their GPA messed up because they might have been celebrating a bit too much this week, anyone who would like to opt out of the final exam today will receive a 'B' for the test."

There was much rejoicing in the class as students got up, walked to the front of the class, and took the professor up on his offer. As the last taker left the room, the professor looked out over the handful of remaining students and asked, "Anyone else? This is your last chance."

One final student rose up and opted out of the final.

The professor closed the door and took attendance of those students remaining. "I'm glad to see you believe in yourselves," he said. "You all get 'A's."

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