The headlines grow more prevalent and sensational seemingly by the day: “When guests sexually harass your employees”, “Advocates push for stronger measures to protect hotel workers”. Underneath the lurid details the problem is clear – hotel employees suffer work related incidents at a rate that is nearly 50 percent higher than the average rate across all industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2017. The same report shows that hotel workers are more likely to suffer injuries than even coal miners, roofers, and chemical manufacturers!
Hotel managers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe while they are on the job. The good news is that they realize this and are working to improve the environment for their employees which, not coincidentally, also makes for a better guest experience. Solutions range from implementing better policies and training to providing hotel staff with portable panic buttons. Some of these solutions work while many have not. Hotel managers continue to look for ways to keep employees safe, connected and in control, and with the 3D location technology, they have a powerful new tool.
Technology enables location across three dimensions
In order to truly appreciate the challenge faced by hotel managers in keeping employees safe, it is imperative to understand the infrastructure and layout of a hotel. The largest hotels such as the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas resemble small cities, with more than 5000 rooms across 124 acres accommodating 12,000 guests serviced by 8000 employees. Even much smaller properties employ hundreds of employees, depending on the size and type of hotel. At any given time, employees can be working on a remote floor where their safety can be at risk from accidents, medical emergencies, theft, intruders, other employees, or even guests. Being able to locate the employees in real time and quickly provide for their safety is key to preventing incidents. In high-rise or expansive properties, knowing employee’s location through a mobile phone or other device is an important tool that hotel managers now have access to via easily downloadable mobile apps. However not all location technologies are created the same, and for cost-sensitive hotel managers who wish to deploy a solution quickly, some technologies are better than others:
- Localized solutions include indoor positioning based on Wi-Fi access points, Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) beacons, and other custom equipment that is installed in individual buildings. These work in coordination with devices and assets equipped with the necessary sensors. The advantage of this type of solution is that increasing levels of accuracy can be achieved with increasing quantities of access points and beacons. The downside is the cost of site surveys and equipment, time to deploy, and the limitation of location for specific devices or tags.
- Device-based solutions are the location platforms provided by the operating systems, such as iOS or Android. These solutions provide the default location for mobile applications with generally expected but varying results. However, to date, these solutions do not provide a reliable vertical component, so are not useful for high-rise hotels.
- Wireless operator-provided solutions generally use standardized interfaces to convey a device’s location to the wireless network operator. These solutions have some advantages as they can leverage specific cellular techniques that are not currently available with device-based solutions. However, many wireless devices do not support this type of location positioning outside of emergency 911 calls. In addition, this technology excludes devices used in the hospitality industry that rely exclusively on Wi-Fi for connectivity, making it an impractical choice for hotel managers seeking a more universal solution.
- ‘Over the Top’ solutions are positioning techniques that build on top of the device-based solutions and can incorporate localized information. That is, they start with a device-based location and add measurements such as barometric pressure and Bluetooth combining all the available information in a framework that combines the information in an intelligent and robust way. This approach has several advantages in that it improves the (x,y) accuracy and provides a reliable floor level vertical location (z-axis) estimate. Further, deployment is simple and generally involves integration of a Software Development Kit (SDK) into any application that requires location related information, making this a readily-accessible and easy-to-deploy option for hotel managers.
Pinpointing an employee’s location
Imagine a hotel housekeeper, who has previously logged their personal smartphone with their employer and given permission to be located while on the property during work hours, is cleaning rooms on the 25th floor of a downtown skyscraper hotel. A fire breaks out two floors below and alarms go off while firefighters are called. Because hotel security is able to pinpoint employee location on a 3D map, they know exactly where employees are currently and can direct help immediately, or contact the employee to provide instructions to head to a different floor until the fire is brought under control. This solution is equally applicable to other scenarios, such as harassment by an intruder, theft, or an injury or medical emergency where the employee’s exact location within the building is not known.
Besides improving work safety, having real-time awareness of an employee’s location within a high-rise to the exact floor number enables hotel managers to elevate the customer experience and improve operational efficiency at the same time. Management can respond to service calls more quickly by dispatching the staff closest to the guest room and by making adjustments to staff assignments.
Having a 3D view of employees in real time is a tool that many public safety departments are using today. With the ‘Over the Top’ location solution described above becoming more accessible via downloadable mobile apps, and the near universal use of smartphones, what was once considered a solution for mission-critical industries only is now being deployed by a wide range of business to locate employees and assets. The hospitality industry is taking notice and forward-looking hotel managers are relying on 3D location to ensure their employees are able to work in a safe and secure environment.