Mr. O'Day

Mobile Technology

Fiber to the Room: New Architecture to Meet the Needs of the Digital Guest

By Michael P. O'Day, Vice President, Wireless Networks, Corning Optical Communications

There is no doubt that today's technology-savvy guests want instant check-ins, mobile access to amenities, streaming video with high definition quality, and an in-room experience that rivals the one they enjoy at home. Hotels are now striving to deliver on those demands in new and better ways - and they are doing it through technology investments.

According to Hospitality Technology's 2016 Lodging Technology Study, 54 percent of hotels stated they plan to spend more on technology this year than in previous years. Of those hotels, 56 percent indicated placing a priority on guest-room technology, with 45 percent focusing on increasing bandwidth. Mobile technologies, including mobile keys and apps, were also found at the top of must-have lists for many major hotel brands.

By investing in these technology initiatives, hotels are looking to provide a better guest experience. But they're also seeking to differentiate themselves to compete in a crowded space to increase guest loyalty, and drive efficiencies - all while controlling costs.

To achieve these goals, many hotels are directing much of their technology strategies on the guest room. Here we take a closer look at guest-room technology trends we can expect to see more widely adopted and implemented in the coming year.

Mobile Guest Apps and Keyless Entry

The 2016 Lodging Technology Study from Hospitality Technology also indicated that more than 20 percent of hotels are looking at ramping up on-premise mobile apps including keyless smartphone room entry for their guests. After using their mobile phones to check in remotely, guests can use the same phone to open the door to their rooms - bypassing the front-desk check-in process entirely.

Keyless entry is just one example of using mobile technology to make the guest room experience more convenient. Guests can also use hotel-branded apps to pre-order poolside drinks, text the front desk with a question, access concierge services, order room service from their smart phones, and enjoy a more convenient as well as customized guest experience - all from their room.

WiFi with Wider Bandwidth

Along with convenience, guests demand connectivity which in turn requires faster, bigger, better WiFi in the guest room. Today's hotel guests travel with multiple connected devices, all of which they expect to use in their rooms - often at the same time. They also want an in-room digital experience that's just as good - if not better - than the one they have in their own living room.

To deliver this experience, hotels are equipping rooms with flat screen TVs - and even emerging 4K and Internet Protocol television (IPTV) - that support the latest HD content. Guests want to be able to push content from their devices onto these smart TVs, to enjoy it in all its high-definition glory. This demand for more in-room content requires more in-room bandwidth. The challenge hotels face is attempting to meet these increased bandwidth demands with a legacy or traditional copper infrastructure.

Room Automation

While more hotels move toward building automation to drive energy efficiency and cost savings, they are also looking at individual room enhancements. According to the 2016 Lodging Technology Study, 22 percent of hotels have placed a priority on room control devices that allow them to individualize each guest room experience while elevating guest loyalty.

Some hotels are adopting innovations that give guests the ability to remotely identify all manner of room preferences before they even arrive - from the room's temperature and lighting, to the mattress' firmness setting, to the cable channel on the TV, and finally to the beverages stocked in the minibar. Imagine being able to have all of these preferences "preset" and in place upon the guest arrival. This level of instantaneous room personalization makes a lasting positive impression on guests, building loyalty that leads to repeat business.

The Right Infrastructure for In-Room Technology

Before hotel owners and operators implement technologies to improve the in-room experience, they must first look to their infrastructure. Will that infrastructure support the applications, bandwidth demands and services that guests demand today and tomorrow? If built on copper wiring, then the answer is not entirely clear. While copper can support most of today's connected technologies, it will not have the scalability to accommodate future technologies that require more bandwidth and faster speeds.

The fact is, in today's digital world where guests are constantly connected, copper has significant limits - particularly when it comes to the in-room experience. When compared to optical fiber, copper has slower transmission speeds. The longer the length of copper cable, the lower the quality of data transmission traveling over it. Additionally, because copper conducts electricity (fiber doesn't), it is more vulnerable to interference and downtime that can wreak havoc on a network. Copper cables are also more likely than fiber to break or be damaged, requiring costly and disruptive repair.

For all of these reasons, and more, a growing number of major hotel brands are embracing fiber networks for their infrastructure. What's more, they're pushing that fiber all the way into the guest rooms.

With fiber, hotels can bring more bandwidth to the outer edges of their network. This allows for wider in-room bandwidth that provides for a better digital experience. Inside their rooms, guests can hold video conferences, quickly download email, upload photos and videos to social media, text the front desk, and enjoy all of their content on all of their devices. Because fiber can support these high-bandwidth applications with low latency, guests can experience seamless delivery of their content with minimal buffering.

Not Just for New Builds

In the quest to bring guests the most technologically evolved experience, new hotel properties are paying just as much attention to infrastructure design as they are to interior design. With clear advantages over copper, fiber has become the obvious infrastructure choice for new hotel builds. Fiber is simpler and faster to install than copper wiring, less expensive, requires fewer cables thus taking up less space, and can be easily deployed all the way to the room.

But fiber isn't just for new builds; it's also a smart strategy for hotel retrofits. Hotels that plan to roll out major technology initiatives are well advised to embrace fiber to the room. Here are the advantages many major brand hotels are realizing as they transition from legacy copper to fiber to the room.

Preserve Space and Architecture

A single fiber optic cable can do the job of multiple separate copper wires, making it a space-saving alternative for hotels. With less cabling required, fiber is also less disruptive to the hotel environment. This allows hotels to preserve their current architecture - an important advantage for properties whose brands are built on recognizable or historic architectural features. With more space to work with, hotels are adopting other technologies that support a better guest experience-whether in the cable pathway or the telecommunications closet(s).

Ready for Future Demands

Many hotels have experienced the disruption and cost that comes with periodically ripping out and re-installing copper during upgrades. More hotels are coming to the realization that with fiber, they only have to wire their property once. Fiber is future-ready for whatever technology initiatives hotels may launch down the road. As guests continue to demand more in-room technology, more bandwidth, more convenience, and more personalization, hotels are preparing to deliver with fiber to the room.

Lower Costs

Fiber is often perceived as expensive. In reality, hotels are discovering that fiber can actually lower capital and operating costs - especially given that fiber supports multiple applications. Fiber is also much simpler to install and maintain, reducing related labor and downtime costs. What's more, fiber consumes less power, saving those related expenditures as well.

Greater Efficiencies

While lowering costs, hotels have seen improved staff efficiency and productivity as a result of pushing fiber to the room that supports mobile technologies. With guests using smart phones to request services and assistance, hotel front-desk staff free up their time to focus their time on providing a better, more customized guest experience. Because staff can now be more productive, they are also able to respond more quickly and efficiently to guest requests.

Is Fiber to the Room Right For You?

There is no question: today's guests expect an outstanding in-room experience that rivals the one they enjoy at home. They want the convenience of mobile services, more personalization and customization, the bandwidth to support their multiple devices, seamless access to HD content - all within their room. Hotels that deliver on these demands deserve repeat business.

More than adopting technologies to support this in-room experience, hotels must also have the right infrastructure. Fiber can also be extended to public spaces where millennial minded travelers are also spending more and more of their time. Connectivity in lobby facilities may create an environment where guests want to spend time, and consequently spend money. The investment you make in infrastructure now will become an asset for the future. Whether you're building a new property, or plan on upgrading the technology in your existing property, take a closer look at an infrastructure that enables fiber to the room for an enhanced guest experience that translates to improve guest loyalty.

Mike O’Day is the vice president of the wireless market department at Corning Optical Communications, which is a sector within Corning Inc. that’s specialized in fiber and wireless solutions for communications networks. Since assuming this role in February 2015, O’Day has spent the past two years leading Corning’s wireless business unit. He is responsible for creating new markets and demand for the Corning® ONE™ wireless platform, an all-optical solution for enterprises’ cellular, Wi-Fi and Ethernet backhaul needs. Mr. O’Day is a telecom industry veteran with over two decades of experience. He joined the Corning family in 1998 with Siecor, which later became Corning Cable Systems (CCS). Mr. O'Day can be contacted at 607-974-9000 or michael.oday@corning.com Please visit http://www.corning.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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