Renovations and technology upgrades go hand in fist given how rapidly it changes.
Some of us still remember days when the hotel guests were quite happy with just telephone and TV technologies in the guestroom. Those days are becoming history. Demand for Internet services is widespread. Good coverage for cell phones is largely expected. A growing number of municipalities mandate the installation of First Responders communications support systems inside new buildings. Many hotel owners and operators are employing jack-packs and building control management systems.
Let’s take a closer look at these technologies.
How many people will not stay in a hotel with no Internet Access in the room?
How many will complain and/or not come back if the Internet is slow?
How many guests will not be satisfied with Internet speeds that they were fully content with just a few years ago?
Nearly all of them.
Renovations and technology need to be thought of together because technology changes far more quickly than the choice of fabric for the lobby chairs.
Federal government employees can only use wired Internet because of the strict security requirements for the content. Some business travelers desire the flexibility of the wireless Internet, so they can use their laptops anywhere in the guestroom. Still, other guests, especially younger ones, prefer to sit with their laptops in public areas such as pools and bars. And of course, the meeting and administrative spaces require wired and wireless Internet access, as well.
To make a long story short – most of the hotel premises will require access to wired and/or wireless Internet and speed is a very important factor. A single T1 line, or a single DSL line, which worked fine just a year or two ago, is not enough anymore. Even relatively small hotels (80-120 guestrooms) today are choosing to order 5, 7, 10, and more Megabit/second download bandwidth from the Internet Service Providers. And although the cost to an operator may be as high as $12 per room/per month, this cost is likely to bring a higher degree of customer satisfaction and may improve the bottom line.
Cell Phone Coverage
Even if a hospitality facility is located in the heart of the large metropolitan area and enjoys good native coverage outside of the building, that is not a guarantee the in-building cell reception shall be good. Renovations and technology must be considered together to account for changes since the technology was last considered and designed. And the use of cell phones and the required bandwidth demand to accommodate the growth in usage requires that the technology be evaluated with every renovation. For example, using low e-glass technology severely diminishes signal strength inside the building. When that is the case, a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) may need to be employed.
DAS systems typically consist of a donor antenna located outside of the building, a set of amplifiers and other head-end equipment, and send/receive antennae located throughout the property. While the capital expense of such a system may be as much as $0.80 to $1.80 per square foot for the covered area, return on investment may very well be high due to the higher demand for the guestrooms and conference areas. Some event organizers would only consider the premises for their event if DAS is employed as a way to verify cell phone reception for the event’s attendees.
First Responders Communications Support System
In the aftermath of 9/11 events, a growing number of municipalities mandate the installation of an amplification system for the 800 MHz band used by the first responders, such as police, firefighters, and other emergency services. These systems are similar to DAS but operate in different wavelengths and typically are less costly than DAS.
Building Management Control System
Many owners/operators today are choosing to invest in control systems that can automatically control HVAC and light switches depending on the status of occupancy for the guestroom. For example, if the system determines that guests have left the room, it automatically resets the temperature to a more economical setting and switches the lights off. When guests return, all the settings are restored to the original ones.
Remote Jacks, also known as jack-packs, provide convenient access to the TV, Internet, and power ports in a single device, typically located at the desk. TV ports can be used for playing music, video games, etc. at the hotel TV set.
That is today. What about tomorrow?
The speed of change with technology makes predicting ‘tomorrow’ a difficult task. However, it is certain that the use of technology will grow.
- As demand for the Internet use continues to grow, the requirements for the High-Speed Internet System security, bandwidth, and other features and accessibility are expected to grow as well.
- As the use of cell phones spreads to more and more groups of the population, demand for quality cell coverage is expected to grow as well. Also, the cost of DAS implementation is expected to go down.
- It is likely that more Hospitality Facilities will be required to or will choose to install First Responders Communication Support System.
- Implementation of Remote Jacks might grow and other in-room entertainment/convenience devices are likely to be introduced.
- Building Management Systems will continue their journey into the future and other related cost-saving systems are likely to be introduced.
- More and more telephone systems (PABX) will use voice-over IP technology and cordless phone technology.
- More MATV service providers will use the IPTV distribution systems.
- More and more infrastructure convergence between Voice, Data/Internet, TV, Security, Building Management Control System, etc. is expected to take place.
Renovations and technology must be considered together. Today we use more sophisticated technologies at the hospitality premises than we even imagined when these facilities were built. Tomorrow, we will witness more ingenuity, sophistication, and versatility in the technology use. Once introduced in one place and proved useful and convenient, customers, authorities, and economics will demand the spread of these technologies.
by Ilya Rapoport, PMP, RCDD/NTS