Leveraging next-generation infrastructure for a connected hotel

While some may be more informed than others, not everyone in hospitality is fluent in tech-speak. For many hoteliers, half the battle sometimes is getting those who do know about ever-evolving technologies and applications to bring such information down to earth and present it in a clear, understandable format.

At The Hospitality Show, that was the objective of the session entitled “Leveraging Next-Generation Infrastructure for a Connected Hotel.” In a non-technical discussion moderated by Larry Birnbaum, principal consultant at Xenios Group, panelists were out to explain how a comprehensive network design could help reduce infrastructure costs while creating operational efficiencies. Participating were: Daryl Corral, technology and innovation lab manager for Hyatt Hotels Corp.; Greg Dawes, solutions architect for Advanced Media Technologies; Steve Letke, solutions architect/market development, in-building networks for Corning Optical Communications; and Richard Wagner, director of certification and compliance, Nomadix.

Birnbaum also is with AHLA’s Hospitality Technology Next Generation Vendor Advisory Council work group on converged network infrastructure, which works on industry standards around technology for hoteliers and the vendor community, and has produced a white paper the moderator told the audience is geared to serve as a technical guide.

Corral noted historically hotels have run on on a series of network switches and wireless infrastructure with purpose-built networks that are for a particular system, such as the CCTV cameras, back-office systems, administrative or guest Wi-Fi.

“We have converged networks now [with] technology that's been around for quite a while, but these physically built networks are separated logically where I think we use the VLANs (virtual local area networks) to separate the use of all of these different systems that exist at hotels. We can leverage that technology to consolidate and condense a series of separate, physically built networks to one set of switching, and use that for your buildings,” he said. [A VLAN is considered a virtualized connection that connects multiple devices and network nodes from different LANs into one logical network.]

Different Assets, Different Needs

Letke indicated it’s important for those designing a network for a hotel or hoteliers assessing what’s best for the their asset to understand the property type.

“Is it is it a large sprawling type of place? A high-rise? A boutique hotel? And when you're designing [a network] with a new [build], it's a little easier to do a converged design, because you can take advantage of everything up front, and then design it how you want. In the case of a renovation, a lot of times you may choose to use existing services and incrementally add things. So, in those scenarios, you can still definitely do a converged design, but you may have to make a choice: just upgrade my Wi-Fi today if that's the need, and maybe the TV service might come on later. So, it’s a phased approach.”

He added converged infrastructure can be scaled up or down, from convention hotels to small boutique hotels, and suggested fiber design makes sense in a lot of situations; hybrid solutions are another option.

Wagner said it also “could be a decision of the brand, of the situation, on what they’re going to do.”

Toward making an informed decision, he said “all the data, all the information about the technologies that you could deploy in a converged network” is in the white paper/technical guide. “So, if you decide it's a new build, and want to use [a particular type of] technology, there's enough information in the document to say how [to] do that.”

Corral cautioned there are certain systems, e.g., CCTV, that by law may need to have proprietary networks and probably be minus internet access. “I know [in] Nevada, for example, a lot of their casino gaming runs on its own set of switches.”

The panel added brand, municipal, state and country standards also can affect what runs on a converged network, particularly in areas that include fire, safety and surveillance data.

Layers of Complexity

Birnbaum acknowledged “there's layers of complexity between construction, design, implementation, deployment” as hotel developers and/or operators look at finding and managing the most appropriate network infrastructure.   

“There's not one technology that's going to fit everything,” said Dawes—who, like some of the other panelists who worked on the white paper, considers himself a fiber advocate.

“We've had some people that have called us on that a few times just to make sure we’ve given all the different technologies an equal look [in the guide]. I think it's a pretty fair and balanced approach.”

The comprehensive guide also includes information on wireless, cellular and IoT protocols.

Dawes added: “There’s lots of scenarios you have to look at. You really need to talk to an integration company or one of the vendors and get a perspective on what's going on. And every building is unique. Every one needs to be looked at differently.”

The Hospitality Show is produced by Questex, Hotel Management's parent company, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Next year's show takes place Oct. 28-30 in San Antonio. For more information, visit TheHospitalityShow.com.