Advanced location technology creates safer work environments

Many recent advancements in technology can deliver a cost-effective solution with pinpoint accuracy—whether in a 50-story hotel or a sprawling resort. Photo credit: Umajin (Umajin Wynn)

Harassment of hospitality employees is unfortunately very common. Unite Here, a hospitality trade union, surveyed 500 hospitality employees, and found that 58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers surveyed have been sexually harassed by a guest. 

Unions have been pushing the industry to respond to this issue for years. Several cities and states have passed legislation addressing to address the issue. And in 2018, the American Hotel & Lodging Association announced its 5-Star Promise, which made commitments to hotel employees on policies, training and technology to improve worker safety. 

A key element of all of these commitments is to provide workers with a rapid response button to call for assistance when needed. Although that sounds like a simple solution, the existing technology was not initially reliable enough to quickly identify precise location in a complex building like a hotel. However, there have been many recent advancements in technology that can deliver a cost-effective solution with pinpoint accuracy—whether in a 50-story hotel or a sprawling resort. These advancements can provide hoteliers the peace of mind that they are doing everything they can to protect their employees. 

Location is everything

Given the ubiquity of GPS systems on phones and in cars, it seems like reporting accurate location should be relatively easy. However, GPS is optimized for use outside, not in buildings.  In fact, tracking location inside buildings can be extremely challenging. The walls and hallways of a complex building like a high-rise hotel degrade the performance of GPS. Another option, triangulation using Bluetooth beacons, can be expensive to install and maintain. And these systems also struggle to perform accurately because radio frequency signals reflect off surfaces like light waves. None of the beacon-based systems tested by a major hotel in Chicago were more than 60 percent accurate to room and floor. This delay in finding a person who is signaling for help can have serious consequences. Responders risk losing valuable time and disrupting innocent guests by knocking at the wrong room.

New location technology

The good news is that in the past two years, a new indoor location technology has been developed that doesn’t require hardware installation and is 98 percent accurate to the floor and room, irrespective of the type of building. This system works by initially capturing the “fingerprint’ of existing RF signals in the hotel from Wi-Fi access points and existing Bluetooth sources. Once the fingerprint is captured, the system can determine the location of a rapid response button by comparing the RF signals using a cloud-hosted machine learning algorithm.  

This system has been shown to be highly accurate in both high-rise hotels and in properties with distributed villas (even on golf courses) and can provide more precise location both in guest rooms and public spaces like casino floors. The solution can be deployed by hotel employees in a day or two using an automated scanning solution.

Call button

The button itself can have a variety of form factors. Typically, is a lightweight wearable button, with a double trigger to prevent accidental activation. The response button can be integrated into a key fob or an ID badge. These form factors are light, functional and inconspicuous, ensuring it is always there when needed. Alert devices should be assigned to specific users, identifying them automatically when they request help.

Once the button is triggered, the system quickly calculates the location and sends an alert to a management dashboard, which can incorporate a 2D or 3D map of the property to facilitate a rapid response. The property can also configure additional automatic alerts via SMS or other messaging systems to inform individuals who may be in a position to respond quickly

Conclusion

Hotel staff need to be able to call someone when they need assistance—wherever they are on the property. The call may be made because the employee is facing a threat, or because they come across another type of emergency situation. The technology needs to be simple, but above all, highly accurate and dependable. This type of advanced location technology has been and continues to be deployed in large hotels, resorts, and casinos across the country, and provides a cost-effective solution to keep employees safe and comply with the 5-Star Promise. 

David Brebner is the founder and CEO of software development platform Umajin.