What We Learned at Hotel Tech Live 2017

6th Oct 2017

Hotels - and the hospitality sector more broadly - are amongst a handful of customer-facing businesses occupying the frontline of WiFi innovation, acting as the testing grounds for increasingly sophisticated and connected guest experiences. 

Whether or not the hospitality sector desired this ‘privileged’ position is indeed debatable. Many hoteliers are finding that the provision of robust, business-grade, guest WiFi can be a challenge and the hardware required is often a far-cry from the previously adequate BT routers and other such consumer-grade kit. 

This shift in both the potential of hotel WiFi and the technology now available to the hospitality and restaurant sectors to leverage their connectivity for ever-better guest experiences was exemplified by the exhibitors at 2017’s Hotel Tech Live event (26th & 27th September).

Here's what we found... 

The market has your back

Where opportunity exists, the market is usually quick to react, and it is fair to say that Hotel Tech was awash with solutions aimed at improving every aspect of the hotel experience which can be linked to technology. From wireless charging and unattended check-in kiosks, to POS solutions and smart call-for-service systems, hoteliers have a great deal of tech-choice.   

Some hotel owners and operators may fondly recall the days in which the provision of a clean room, fresh sheets and a decent shower were enough to provoke a beaming review, but hotel WiFi and the associated technologies are now a conspicuous differentiator – something which became glaringly obvious last week at London’s Excel ICC.

Apps, apps and more apps

As we traversed the exhibition floor, what became very clear after only a few minutes was the appetite for hotel-specific apps, most of which were aimed at either unifying data to streamline hotel operations and resources, or enhancing the on-premises customer experience. 

Here are a few which caught our eye:

Ordinii: Aimed more specifically at the dining experience of restaurants (not necessarily applicable to all hotels, but…), Ordinii uses WiFi enabled technologies to add layers of intelligence to the management and efficiency of the dining experience. 

Decreasing wait-times and bottlenecks, the app allows restaurant (or hotel) managers to monitor targets and KPIs as well as ‘up-selling’ with prompts for customers to order, and even to make easy payments. 

Mi-Room (from Wi-Q): As is stated front-and-centre on Mi-Room’s website, “65% of hotel guests connect to WiFi within seven minutes of checking in”, which provides a huge opportunity for hotels to ensure that their guests have constant access to all of their services. 

Facilitating such things as food and beverage ordering, alarm calls and taxi booking, through an easy-to-use app seems mutually beneficial for hoteliers and guests, don't you think?

Hotelkit: Aside from providing guests with more efficient and effective ways to communicate with hotel staff, a number of apps on show at Hotel Tech Live focused primarily on hotel operations. One that grabbed us from the throng was HotelKit, an app which covers all manner of internal and inter-site hotel communications. Using the app, hotel staff can streamline their work, whilst taking guest requests and receiving real-time feedback through completed customer surveys. 

*N.B.*. Now, I am aware that mentioning just three hotel apps out of around 200 exhibitors is a little unfair as there were many with merit. I should add that their exclusion is by no means a comment on their quality, or anything else for that matter. 

What does the above tell us about hotel WiFi?

Well, for us, what Hotel Tech Live 2017 made crystal clear – if it wasn’t already - is that the hospitality sector stands to gain a great deal from what is essentially a consumer-driven demand for connectivity. What began as a ‘nice-to-have’ for hotel guests and quickly evolved into a basic - yet sought after - amenity, WiFi has now surpassed these to become an ‘enabler’ for countless hotel services. 

Although some investment is obviously required, the potential for generating a return – and even creating new revenue streams – from hotel technology is high, to say the least. 

Of course, all of these innovative applications and other associated technologies rely heavily on both wired and wireless infrastructures. The more ‘mission critical’ these solutions become, either for enhancing guest experiences or for organising and streamlining staff and other resources, the more important robust and pervasive WiFi becomes. 

'Business-grade' has never been more important 

It’s a drum we bang on a daily basis, but it’s a drum worth banging!

Aside from the sheer number of ‘guest experience’ and ‘business enhancing’ technologies on show at this year’s Hotel Tech, the absence of business-grade WiFi suppliers struck us as significant. If hoteliers wish to make the most of these liberating and enabling technologies, whilst still providing fast, secure and robust guest WiFi access, it seems – to us at least – that the quality of the infrastructure takes on an even greater importance. 

A wise ‘techie’ once told me that many guest WiFi networks are ‘under spec’d and over-subscribed’…let that sink in for just a second.       

What he was describing is essentially the core reason for the bad guest WiFi experiences we can all, I’m sure, relate to in some way. Have you ever been able to ‘see’ a WiFi network but, after logging-in, have been unable to access any web-based services? If your answer is ‘yes’, then we are on the same page. 

Get the spec right

So, in order for hotels to really benefit from their aforementioned ‘privileged’ position at the spearhead of guest and customer WiFi, their network infrastructure design simply must take into account the unavoidable additional ‘load'.

Without these precautions, adding layers of ‘experience enhancement’ and revenue generation will merely spawn more bottlenecks and have the opposite effect to the one we’d like to see both as ‘techies’ and as hotel guests.  

Did you attend Hotel Tech Live? Let us know what you thought of the exhibition

What Next?

For advice on designing or upgrading your hotel WiFi network and associated systems, to the deployment of security solutions like Next Generation Firewalls and Endpoint Network Security, please contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.