Hotel Online Special Report

Wireless Technology: 
Where We Have Been, Where Are we Going?
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By Geneva Rinehart, November, 2001

At the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York this November a panel of industry experts came together to discuss wireless technology, its past and its future. Moderated by Rich Siegel, publisher of Hospitality Upgrade, the panel included Dan Phillips, COO, ITS Inc.; Antonio Dimilia, President, StayOnline; David Sjolander, VP Hotel Information Systems, Carlson Hospitality Worldwide; and Bill Lashley, COO, Inter-American Data, Inc.  

From Marconi to MACH-1

Often the best way to put the present into perspective is to take a look at the past. When it comes to wireless technology Guglielmo Marconi began the process more than a century ago with the birth of the radio in 1897. And the advances of wireless continue to unfold.   

From scanners to identify guests upon arrival to remote check-in services, the applications for wireless technology in the hospitality industry seem limitless.  At first glance these technologies are a welcome savior for a more guest-centric experience. Upon closer observation a number of roadblocks impede its progress into the hotel marketplace.

While many advances have been made in the industry regarding wireless technology with each advance comes its own list of challenges. When considering a wireless application currently a hotel is faced with a lack of standards across the industry, concern about the payback of the new system and the fact that the current second generation (2G) of wireless applications is sluggish. Dan Phillips said that many of the applications that are being brought into the hospitality industry are technologies that have been developed outside the hotel industry and are being retro-fit to accommodate the needs of hospitality. When searching for a wireless applications Phillips cautioned that a technology should be brought in to enhance the guest experience and make a hotel more profitable and competitive.  

Additional challenges to wireless are acceptance of the technology, security of the system and the cost of the new technology. While the security issues can be, and should be, addressed with your perspective provider, the cost issue is one that should be addressed based on the particular application. Antonio Dimilia estimated that a wireless high-speed access system could save up to one-third the cost of rewiring an existing hotel. The non-invasive installation of such a system also can be considered a positive cost advantage as guestrooms would not be taken out of service or guests inconvenienced with an invasive installation. While some wireless applications cost less than similar traditional solutions other wireless technologies have up front costs with the anticipation of return on investment coming through its administrative use or as a revenue generator over time.

According to Dimilia some additional considerations include whether the solution is expandable for future enhancements, does the provider guarantee a level of service and does the provider understand the needs of the guest. Needless to say hoteliers need to carefully consider the vendorís business model to ensure continued support and service 12 months down the road. If the business model doesnít make sense the vendor may not be able to continue its service to your hotel.

A wireless solution currently in action is the MACH-1 (Mobile Access to Carlson Hospitality) system from Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. MACH-1 is completely wireless, running on a Compaq iPAQ system and is used for business information, guest profile information and for management notifications. It is designed to alert management of specific business information, such a VIP at check in or if more than a certain number of guests are waiting for rooms to be cleaned and released or any of a number of triggers defined by management.  

Bill Lashley, of Inter-American Data a property management system company servicing large hotels and casinos, believes that the infrastructure for wireless technology is the most important consideration. He mentioned hardware challenges from multiple device communications to a consortium of vendors to develop solutions that continue to need to be overcome. He feels that the technology and cooperation is already ready and available. Inter-American Data has successfully used wireless technology in its Opryland Hotel and The Venetian installations for data collection and check in purposes. He mentioned other practical applications including housekeeping and baggage handling.

Carlsonís David Sjolander believes that wireless technology will follow a standard cycle. Based on the Gartner Group hype curve Sjolander charted the emergence of wireless over the following points: technology trigger to the inflated expectations, the trough of disillusionment, the slope of enlightenment, and the plateau of productivity. Following this cycle wireless has already passed through its inflated expectations around the time of BlueTooth hype and is currently working toward the slope of enlightenment, which means that we can expect that there will be a plateau soon where productivity and acceptance of multiple applications will emerge. 

Geneva Rinehart
Associate Editor
Hospitality Upgrade magazine 
and the Hospitality website

Also See: Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementations / John Schweisberger and Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2001 
What's Up With Call Accounting Systems (CAS) / Dan Phillips / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2001 
Technology Dilemmas: What have IT investments done for you lately? / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001 
Full Circle from Centralized to ASP - The Resurrection of Old Themes and a Payment Solution / Gary Eng / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2001 
A High Roller in the Game of System Integration / Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
CAVEAT EMPTOR! Simple Steps to Selecting an E-procurement Solution / Mark Haley / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
Your Bartender is Jessie James and He Needs to Pay for College / Beverly McCay / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000 
Choosing a Reservation Representation Company / John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Spring 2001 
Understanding and Maximizing a Hotelís Electronic Distribution Options / by John Burns / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Fall 2000 
The Future of Electronic Payments - From Paper to Plastic and Beyond / J. David Oder /  Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Summer 2000
Timeshare Technology Steps Up / by Elizabeth Lauer / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / July 2000 
Biometric Payment: The New Age of Currency / by Geneva Rinehart / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / Mar 2000 

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