19, 2006]—Expanding on the success of the first North American Wi-Fi symposium,
event sponsor StayOnline gathered more than 80 hospitality technology movers
and shakers in Miami late last month for a second symposium. Whereas
last year’s conference invited speakers and participants to blue sky the
coming applications to be used over Wi-Fi, the focus for the 2nd Annual
North American Wi-Fi Symposium was about the increased need for broadband
to drive new applications, those that exist and those that are coming soon.
Presentations from top technology providers included AT&T, Cisco, Globestar Systems, Farpoint Group, Divitas and SpectraLink.
Craig Mathias, an in-demand speaker from the Farpoint Group, who will also speak at HITEC this year, led off the event with a talk on the increased need for mobile wireless broadband solutions for business travelers. Mathias addressed metro-scale Wi-Fi models, including those operated by cellular carriers, municipalities, WISPs, co-ops and freenets.
He also explored the evolution of WiMAX, WAN, WLAN and Wi-Fi, concluding that the ease, low cost and availability of Wi-Fi continues to make it the best solution for the hospitality industry.
“The latest phenomenom of Wi-Fi mesh is particularly appealing in terms of adding reach for hotel and resort properties that are spread out,” said Mathias. “Mesh networks enhance the guest’s experience utilizing the existing wireless infrastructure.”
Eric Shepcaro, Sr. Vice President of AT&T’s Business Development division, took his speaking opportunity to drive home the point that broadband and wireless are revolutionizing the business traveler’s experience. “It’s an IP-based, networking-centric world,” said Shepcaro, “and with that challenge comes opportunity to create a unique guest experience that is scalable, introduce guests to new and additional services, generate behind-the-scenes operational efficiencies, make more effective use of staff time, strengthen brand loyalty and build repeat business, and boost occupancy rates and profitability.”
“The demand first for an Internet connection, then for the ability to transmit mail and share files, and now for downloading of large music and movie files and podcasts increases the bandwidth requirement of our hotel customers, in order to effectively meet the needs of the guests,” said Antonio DiMilia, president and CEO, StayOnline.
“And, in addition,” said Shepcaro, “video surveillance and archiving, the use of RFID for inventory and security purposes and the use of E-loyalty and data-mining programs also increase the bandwidth requirement from a back haul standpoint.”
According to Shepcaro and AT&T research, total wireless service spending in the hospitality sector is expected to increase from $730 million in 2005, to nearly $1.2 billion by 2012. He reasoned that this increase is due to a number of factors including: the migration towards IP Telephony, which allows easier integration within existing applications at lower costs; and the benefits of investing in telecom which can result in improved staff productivity, operating efficiencies and increased efficiencies in property management.
Richard Watson, Director of Product Management for DiVitas Networks, unveiled his company’s enterprise-centric mobility communications platform that is device, OS, and network independent. According to Gartner, by 2008, 80% of enterprise users will use VoIP over WLAN for business use. DiVitas offers a device and software which provides enterprise customers with the ability to use dual-mode phones and seamlessly control the usage and cost of cellular airtime for employee users.
Watson also underscored the statistic that by 2009 there will be over 36 million cell phones with dual chip technology in use in the US.
Watson also emphasized the need for greater bandwidth in the coming convergence of VoIP and cellular phone service. “Congestion can be a problem where people congregate, and overlapping coverage is important for good voice quality,” he said. “Wireless voice alone requires approximately 140-180Kbps.”
Alex Cioth, Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for SpectraLink, discussed communication inefficiencies that hotel management teams and employees often face in operations.
“Traditional communication, namely landline phones, two-way radios and even cellular phones, result in delays and inefficiencies all around,” said Cioth. “Wireless telephony deployment not only severely reduces theses inefficiencies, but also results in maximized guest satisfaction through instant personalized service and real time staff contact.”
SpectraLink, which is primarily in the business of providing VoIP phone sets for enterprise operations and hospitality facilities, believes that its offerings easily integrate with existing technologies, provide better security and increased RevPAR.
“All of the solutions in place or proposed by our presenters have the benefit of running over existing wireless networks of the type that we install in our customer hotels, resorts and vacation properties,” said DiMilia. “This maximizes the initial ROI that the customer has spent on their wireless network and allows for great flexibility to meet the increasing guest and back hall bandwidth needs.”
The need for the Symposium and the information presented was echoed by many of the attendees. “The second annual Wi-Fi Symposium was very informative and timely. I met a lot of good contacts and I am bringing back lots of information to use at the Renaissance Nashville and my other Marriott properties,” said Mickey Keaton, Director of Hotel Technology for Renaissance Nashville Hotel. “As far as the content of the meetings, the speakers were all quite knowledgeable in their fields and all brought good information to the table.”
Visit StayOnline at HITEC 2006, Minneapolis
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