HITEC is a big show – the largest Hospitality Technology Show to be exact, so I should give you more background as to what my role is in the industry and what was my focus when walking the floor before I am able to give you my unbiased views and impressions of this year’s event:
My name is Alex Ajdelsztajn and I lead Marriott International’s Property Internet Program for the Americas Region. In my role, I am responsible for defining a strategic approach to deliver a platform in which not only our guest can work and play, but our associates can rely on to deliver exceptional services to our guests. You can think of it from a few different angles: Internet for the guests in all guestrooms, public spaces and meeting areas of the hotel, back-of-the-house network for all associate computers and property-wide wireless to enable our associates’ mobile devices. I also serve as Chair of the Scalable Cellular Service group at HTNG, working with a strong team of technology professionals to identify, document and empower hospitality stakeholders with the best options to deliver ubiquitous cellular connectivity for hotels worldwide.
Now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you about the show:
This year’s HITEC in Toronto was extremely interesting. It seems like it was a year of self-reflecting and rediscovery for many of the companies in attendance. The focus shifted from launching groundbreaking products or technologies to partners looking at expanding the reach and breadth of their existing services, providing a more holistic view of the guest experience rather than discussing size and color of the box in the ceiling or behind the desk.
Look at hotel Wi-Fi and property networks as an example: Between integrators, OEMs or carriers, there were well over 50 companies in attendance. They all participate in some way of what can be a great or lackluster delivery of internet to hotel guests. How can these companies differentiate themselves in such a competitive landscape? I believe some of them did, and I want to split my thoughts into three main areas:
Backhaul: A circuit is a circuit right? WRONG! Purchasing bandwidth can be an incredibly time-consuming experience, having to deal with lead times, infrastructure availability, construction needs, hardware compatibility and overall product flexibility. The most interesting business propositions I noticed this year were not only those that included options to deal with some of these pain-points, but also created additional value. Circuits with redundant 4G LTE backup options that would manage an automatic fail-over are high up on the list, right along with overarching portal capabilities to monitor and assign bandwidth in near real time (with dynamic pricing). Other interesting options included Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to reduce logistics and equipment delivery times, as well as carrier-agnostic SIP services to ride voice and data together at a reduce cost rate.
Property Infrastructure: Long are the days where Cat6 structured cabling was the only option for hotel networks. Welcome fiber and coax to the hospitality world! GPON and DOCSIS are making waves in providing flexible options for properties with very large complex networks, hotels with limited renovation budgets or complex building structures. The use of such technologies heavily reduces cooling needs, designated equipment space, conduit space or the need to rip and replace your legacy cable runs. Expect these technologies to arrive at one of your hotels very soon (if not there yet).
Intelligence: Providers have responded to hotel owners, franchisees and managers, who are thirsty for more ways to understand network performance, user behavior or proactively identifying guests needs. There’s a rise on the number of connected devices, module hardware options and enhanced dashboarding services to enable additional network services or displaying a multitude of data points. Props to those working on next gen unlicensed spectrum sharing for cellular offloading, overarching geolocation visuals for identifying trends in the guest journey or short range connectivity options to enable communication to in-room IoT devices such as thermostats and door locks.
The most exciting thing for me was to see partners interested in becoming an active part of hotel technology roadmap designs.
The writing is on the wall: partners who are just focused in providing hospitality triple-play will quickly realize the growing importance of property networks with the increased convergence needs that will surface over the next 2-5 years.
Do you agree? I would love to hear your feedback…
Happy Canada 150!