Systems enhance guest experience
Hotels are following the “smart home” trend by increasingly integrating their access systems with other functions such as lighting and temperature controls. Such integration is improving guest comfort, helping hotels save money and energy – and changing security.
Many hotels already utilize new technology for access control and temperature control in guest rooms. Some are integrating those systems for benefits that converge and apply to both guests and the hotels. For example, guests can soon receive their access credentials via their smart phones or directly onto RFID-equipped loyalty keycards, eliminating the need to check in at the front desk. When a guest enters their room, the system could then tell the thermostat to turn on to a particular setting and to set the lights to a predetermined setting.
Hotels enjoy more streamlined service, cost savings and environmental benefits
The guest has walked into a comfortable setting while, from the front desk, staff can be alerted that the guest has arrived in the room. Hotels enjoy more streamlined service, cost savings and environmental benefits.
“Every major hotel chain is very aware of energy savings,” says David Nowak, director EMS, Sales and Business Development with VingCard Elsafe. VingCard Elsafe provides electronic locks, in-room safes, and advanced energy management systems for the hospitality industry. “Hotels all have active plans for things like water conservation,” he says, citing the fact that many hotels encourage guests to re-use their bath towels rather than having them laundered each day.
“But hotels want to go beyond those existing measures, because energy is the second highest cost for hotels behind salaries, so effective energy management is essential,” he adds. “A lot of room technology works behind the scenes to enhance a guest experience and it allows the hotel staff to monitor and solve potential problems before they become an issue.”
At the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, a 659 room flagship property, door locks for guest rooms and meeting rooms, in-room safes and thermostats all communicate with the hotel’s property management system.
“Engineers can move about the property with their iPads and look for any alerts, monitor energy usage, and drill right down to the room level to see what’s happening with every system on that network,” says Nowak.
Guests at the Hyatt can also be provided with an access card equipped with RFID technology. The date and details of a guest’s stay are then sent to their smart phone via text message and the hotel can simply transmit the lock information to the guest’s card.
NFC for room access
Within the year, as the technology becomes available, the Hyatt plans to upgrade to providing room credentials to guests via their smart phones equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology, so that guests can enter their room by simply tapping their NFC-enabled phone to the lock.
“But from a security and safety perspective, I miss the part where you have human contact and control regarding who is checking in.”
“There is real simplicity in using your cell phone to check into hotels and open doors and I think this is where the future lies,” says Richard Buske, who worked in hotel security for 15 years and is currently security manager for a municipality in Stockholm, Sweden. “But from a security and safety perspective, I miss the part where you have human contact and control regarding who is checking in.” As an extra security measure, Buske, who also teaches hospitality students about these issues, recommends keeping staff in the lobby area to deter potential criminals.
In his experience, one of the main challenges when working with new systems is the clash of expectations from various stakeholders. “A solution has to be approached from all angles and it’s really hard to satisfy the different demands,” says Buske. “Administrative and maintenance people want a system that is easy to use, the hotel manager wants to improve the guest experience and security people want to increase safety and security.”
Integrated access solutions do provide security benefits, says Nowak. “We can have access to very precise information to help safeguard the guest,” he says. The locking system is intelligent enough to tell the front desk not only when a guest room has been unlocked, but whether it was a guest or staff key, if the door was opened from the inside or outside and if the deadbolt was opened or closed.”
Having the in-room safes at the Hyatt on the same network has had a huge security benefit. “At the front desk, we can tell if the safe is open or shut,” says Ed Brandes, director of engineering at the Grand Hyatt. “So if a guest is checking out, we can advise them to go and check their safe. The first time we had this happen, a couple had left their passports in the safe. We caught them before they left the hotel, ensuring they made it to the airport just in time for their flight home to Japan.”’
The integration of hotel systems is bringing security and service closer together.
The integration of hotel systems is bringing security and service closer together, as Richard Buske points out: “Safety and security are on one side of the coin and service is on the other. The two sides shouldn’t struggle against each other!”
By Rachel Sa and Cari Simmons