Hotel Online  Special Report

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First Wi-Fi Symposium Sets Direction for Future of Wireless in Hospitality
-- 70 Top Hotel & Technology Execs Participate at
Sandestin Event Presented by StayOnline --


ATLANTA, Ga. (April 26, 2005) – At the StayOnline-produced North American Wi-Fi Symposium which ended Friday at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, more than 70 industry leaders were hard at work defining the future uses of wirelessly-enabled applications and mobility computing in the hospitality and travel industry.  These leaders are challenged with leveraging their existing hotel’s “end-to-end” wireless networks,and creating the vision for their properties going forward.
 
“This unique event presented by StayOnline represented a coming together of some of the best, most experienced minds in the wireless hospitality arena,” said attendee Bill Croke, Executive Vice President, Hotel Operations for Interstate Hotels & Resorts.  “With the lightning fast adoption of wireless technology by consumers, it is imperative to bring suppliers and customers together in a way that enables a strong interchange of information.  The fact that StayOnline, a clear market leader in wireless, created this first-time event and that interest was so strong marks a turning point.  From here out, I believe that the hospitality and travel industry will take the lead in how wireless will be used in the future.”

On Friday, following an excellent full first day featuring presentations by nine of the nation’s leading wireless providers and manufacturers, the Symposium attendees – comprised of top level hotel and resort owners, management company execs, IT leaders and product innovators -- provided feedback and an energetic brainstorm of ideas on future wireless Infrastructure, Applications, Security and Business Process Transformations, which was facilitated by event sponsor EDS.
 
Antonio DiMilia, Chief Executive Officer of StayOnline, said “Based on consistent, positive feedback from our attendees, we feel strongly that this Symposium was not only a conduit for essential sharing of information, but also for future alliances that will drive the ways each of us will interact with technology to make our travels more efficient, and more personal to each traveler.”

Most of the Symposium’s speakers commented that hospitality is in one of the best positions of any industry to leverage wireless technology to give the consumer what they want. 
 
“Airports, restaurants, hotels and resorts are becoming virtual mini-cities,” said Jim Bailey, Director, Hotel Technology and Services with Intercontinental Hotels Group. “Travelers, whether on business or leisure, are driving the need for every segment of the hospitality industry to adopt and offer wireless capabilities so that seamless communications while they are on the road can be maintained with their home or office networks or the world at large.  With this Symposium and the chance to blue sky the future, StayOnline has provided great leadership and has clearly shown its support for our industry in helping us understand how we might enable future travelers with the latest Wi-Fi technology. “

 
The Future
“Most of us think about wireless access for HSIA (High Speed Internet Access),” said lead presenter Jeff Wacker, EDS Futurist and Fellow, “but it is so much more.  For example, if you played golf here at Sandestin, over a wireless network you could use a GPS enabled system to tell you what clubs to use, the lay of the greens, and even keep score.  Handhelds are going to be everywhere. If you as the hotel or hospitality industry are not going to play to this, you will miss an opportunity to interact with your customer in a meaningful way.”
 
Wacker, who is a World Future Society Fellow and frequent national media interview guest, led off the Symposium with a session called “the Wow and the Now,” which focused on the customer driving the need for instant access to information.  Wacker referenced the exponential growth in wireless networks and users; in 1992 there were 1.6 million Wi-Fi users in North America; today there are 16.5 million with 31 million unique users projected by 2007.
 
Wacker’s talk was followed by eight other speakers who wowed the audience with demonstrations of what is here now or right around the bend in wireless connectivity.
 
New Applications Today
Jason Gill of California-based Vocera demonstrated a VoIP communications system that is worn on a lanyard around the neck and enables hotel employees or perhaps even guests to talk to one another over a hotel’s wireless network, rather than via spotty cell service or costly PBX and local phone systems.  The Vocera application is currently being implemented at a upscale northern California hotel.  One symposium attendee wondered out loud about the use of the devices for families to stay in touch on large resort properties, since they provide a built-in locator signaling to the caller the close proximity of their intended call recipient.
 
Vijay Sarathy of Sun Microsystems gave attendees a thorough lesson on RFids -- Radio Frequency Id tags -- and their potential uses to track both inventory and guest data – anything from robes to rental bicycles to a guest’s preferences.  Scott Miller of Boingo explained the benefits of the exploding convergence of cellular and wireless technologies, both for the end user and the hot spot access provider.  Allan Watkins of StayOnline demonstrated a work order system his company is developing to help hotels save manpower and efficiently troubleshoot problems on property.  Alex Cioth of SpectraLink showcased SpectraLink’s latest VoIP handheld communication device that enables hotel staff to easily communicate on property without using landlines or cell service.
 
Technology
On the more technical side, several speakers touched on the new and emerging improvements in back end products that enable robust and efficient wireless networks to support a myriad of applications.  Stewart Swanson of Paradyne focused on the unique capability of ADSL to provide expanded area coverage for wireless Access Points and to segment channels that can separately house data, voice and video signals without interference.  Ki Chun, founder and CEO of Renasis, discussed his company’s recent development and deployment of both structured and free mesh networks to strengthen the reach of wireless signals.
 
Chris Calvert of Cisco Systems addressed the continual improvements to wireless security being made by his company, particularly its advances in detecting and suppressing “Rogue Access Points,” those hot spots set up by hackers and sometimes even well-meaning employees who want a stronger signal near their work station.
 
Moving Forward
“The products that we have talked about here are real – they are products designed to help the hotel staff get closer to their guests. These are not theoretical applications,” said DiMilia.  “Hotels and resorts need to realize that a properly constructed wireless network can be a differentiator for them because of the applications it will enable.  They must know that their selected wireless vendor is capable of installing and managing mission critical applications. That’s what we and our partners who are here are committed to, designing and developing one single wireless network, which is very different from delivering HSIA.”
 
 
About StayOnline
StayOnline’s wireless high-speed Internet solution is installed in 63,000 guest rooms in nearly 500 hotels and resorts across North America in more than 30 hotel brands, as well as a variety of unique boutique and historic properties. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, StayOnline provides secure wireless high-speed Internet access solutions and flexible wireless infrastructure for the hospitality industry. The company operates the largest, 100% WLAN in hotels in North America.  StayOnline meets the highest quality standards and is Intel® Centrino™ verified.  For additional information on StayOnline, visit www.stayonline.net.



Contact:
Beth Hawks
KPK & Co.
Telephone: (404) 814-1015
Email: beth@kpkco.com
or
Karin Koser
KPK & Co.
(404) 276-6027
Email: karin@kpkco.com

Website: www.stayonline.net
Also See: StayOnline Designs New Generation Wireless for San Francisco's Intercontinental Mark Hopkins / April 2005

StayOnline Strengthens Management Team with Three New Hires; Wireless Hospitality Professionals Parrish, Lewis and Watkins Join Company / April 2005

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