6 Key Wi-Fi Insights from HT-NEXT 2017

Last week, several of our team members attended the HT-NEXT event in Orlando—a first-time collaboration of HTNG North America and Hotel Technology Forum. The event brought together hospitality technology thought leaders and included information from the Central Authentication workgroup presented by our very own VP of Product, Eric Sullender. When our team came home from the conference, the office was a buzz with all the exciting discussions, learnings and sessions, so we wanted to share our key insights as they relate to the future of guest Wi-Fi.

1. Brands are taking control of the Wi-Fi experience.

Hotel brands need to deliver consistent, high performance Wi-Fi across all of their properties. This is a challenge given that each hotel was originally set up as its own network with different hardware, software and service providers. Today, more brands are standardizing on a Central Authentication solution which enables hotels to securely grant guests access to the Wi-Fi network from one centralized point by verifying login credentials. Central authentication allows the brands to review real-time data at the property level and across all properties to ensure a great guest Wi-Fi experience. Brands big and small are realizing that Wi-Fi is much too important to manage any other way.

2. Guests want Wi-Fi to be easy and secure, just like at home.

Today's modern guests want to connect automatically every time they arrive at one of your properties and expect their data to be protected. Passpoint (HotSpot 2.0), a connection standard developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, provides secure, instant connection after one-time authentication with the added benefit of providing a fully-encrypted connection for added security. Passpoint streamlines network access by eliminating the need for guests to search for and authenticate each time they connect. ElevenOS supports Passpoint connection and enables a seamless homelike connection, while delivering the highest WPA2™ security.

3. Casting is the most tangible opportunity in the IoT today.

The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a dazzling array of future opportunities to personalize the guest experience but what guests want most today is casting. Business and leisure travelers want to watch and listen to their own content on in-room devices, just like they do at home. They no longer want to spring for Pay Per View or watch standard channels. The ideal experience is created when a guest's devices are automatically and securely connected to in-room devices, like the big-screen TV, so she can control her entertainment experience. The IoT presents complex security challenges that need to be managed with both hardware and software solutions.

4. Personal Area Networks are core to the truly "Smart Hotel Room".

With guests carrying an average of three devices that need to connect to smart TVs, temperature and lighting controls, window blinds and audio systems, there needs to be an easy way for non-techie guests to connect their devices to the hotel's devices (most of which are browser-less). Personal Area Networks (PAN) create a secure, dedicated network for each hotel room on the property. Guests can be easily on and off-boarded and seamlessly and securely connected to hotel-managed devices to control their room settings or entertainment choices for a truly personalized experience.

5. Geolocation is intriguing, but presents challenges.

Since hotels become a home-away-from-home for guests, there is a fine line for hotels to walk between truly engaging them with relevant promotions and offers onsite during their stay and raising the "creepy" factor. Hotel brands are still figuring out just how far they can go with proximity marketing and yet they have significant interest in the data that comes from geolocation to improve the guest experience. Only time will tell how geolocation can be leveraged effectively, but we think there are some very exciting opportunities.

6. It all comes back to loyalty.

Every guest-facing technology under consideration, from keyless entry to virtual reality, is intended to remove friction and personalize the guest experience to build loyalty. Hotel brands will continue to need to identify guests when they arrive and reward for their loyalty. Wi-Fi authentication becomes a central way to authenticate guests and connect to loyalty and Property Management Systems to create guest profiles that help brands serve them better.

HT-NEXT was a great conference and we are more convinced than ever that great Wi-Fi is critical to guest loyalty. From Centralized Auto-authentication to Personal Area Networks, Eleven is committed to developing products that meet guest and hotel connectivity needs.

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