As a follow-up to our recent article in Hospitality Upgrade, “The Future of Hotel Wi-Fi”, we have pulled together our insights plus thoughts from some of the industry’s best and brightest to present you with our top six predictions for hotel connectivity in 2018.
1. Network investment is critical to guest experience
The recent 2018 Lodging Technology Study from Hospitaity Technology indicates that 61% of hotel brands will increase IT spending in 2018 with 46% focusing on enhancing digital experiences for guests to build loyalty. The hotel’s network is a core enabler of these digital experiences and software-enabled allow hotel Wi-Fi to be managed from a central location to ensure that guest networks can deliver high-quality, personalized experiences such as video and audio streaming. Today, “bandwidth is the only thing standing between you and rave reviews."
2. Automatic Wi-Fi connection is here to stay
Most of the major brands have announced or are deploying technology that connects their loyalty members to Wi-Fi automatically and rewards them with free and/or higher performance access. Many brands are using a device’s MAC address for authentication to create this seamless experience, but this can create challenges with spoofing and device continuity.
Wi-Fi Certified Passpoint® (a.k.a. HotSpot 2.0) requires loyalty guests to download a profile on their devices upon initial authentication, that then enables them to connect automatically at any property within that brand. A significant benefit is that Passpoint uses 802.1x to authenticate users onto WPA2 encrypted connections. A resurgence in 2017 of malware attacks associated with the “Darkhotel” groups have made it that much more important to use secure connections to protect guest data.
3. To stream or not to stream?
It’s really not a question. Guests have voted with their phones to skip the limited selection of in-room entertainment and instead watch their favorite movies and shows streamed from their devices to the in-room TV. According to a recent study by Pew Research, 67% of millennials prefer to watch TV via streaming services and pay for an average of 3 of them.
The simplest, most secure way for guests to stream content to the in-room TV is using a Personal Area Network (PAN) that is dedicated to each hotel room. This is a private virtual network that only guests in that room can see and enables secure connections between guest devices and hotel-managed devices like smart TVs, printers, and thermostats. The guest room PAN can also be accessed from anywhere in the hotel for ease-of-use and added security.
4. The IoT is knocking on your door
In a November Skift article, brands like Hilton and Marriott paint grand visions for next generation “smart hotel rooms” that know and anticipate guest behaviors and preferences to allow for a more personalized experience. Guests can control the lighting and room temperature with their mobile devices, stream content or play games on the smart TV, and order room services using voice commands to name a few. The first step toward this vision is the deployment of digital room keys and mobile check-in, which not only delights guests, but frees up associates to do more important tasks.
The “future of guest rooms, though, will be voice activation.” A more recent Skift article spotlights brands like Wynn and Best Western, which are currently testing Wi-Fi-enabled personal assistants, like Amazon Alexa and Google Echo Dot, in hotels nationwide to create loyalty-building guest experiences.
5. Meeting & public spaces get more connected
Meetings and conferences are strategic, highly profitable services for hotels. Meeting planners, presenters, and attendees expect the highest levels of performance to support multimedia presentations, HD videoconferencing, and large file sharing. Because this activity eats up precious bandwidth, real-time Wi-Fi management tools are a must. Today’s tech savvy event planners want self-service, easy-to-use tools to manage connectivity for a single event or across many events to ensure attendees get the performance they expect.
A recent Hotel News Now article discusses the trend toward hotel lobbies, bars, and restaurants becoming social centers where guests can leave their rooms but still access Wi-Fi for work or leisure. Guest enhancements like public lockers, smart kiosks, interactive video boards, and active gaming zones will continue to raise the bar for the highest levels of network performance.
6. Big data, big question
With technology driving each of these guest touchpoints, there is an immense amount of data that can be used to better understand and serve guests. The million-dollar question, though, is how to make this data actionable. Ideally, it would be used to create more personalized experiences that build loyalty, and thus revenue. Suddenly, high-touch guest experiences are directed by low-touch technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). Someday, data scientists could very well be at the center of guest experience and satisfaction.
As the world becomes more connected, it's important for hotels to balance Wi-Fi connectivity with human to human connection. With a cloud Wi-Fi management platform, hotels can free up staff to focus on guests. We look forward to seeing what 2018 holds for Wi-Fi in hospitality and beyond.
Can we have 20 minutes of your time to show you what we've been working on to improve Wi-Fi for guests and hoteliers in 2018?
Passpoint is a registered trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance ®