Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January
By Cheryl-Anne Sturken
WHAT’S NEW IN HIGH-TECH HOTELS
A look at some of the modern miracles coming soon to a
property near you
Less than five years ago, high-speed Internet access first
became the talk of the hospitality industry. Soon, “wired and ready
for business” was the claim of many hotel chains, which rushed to
hook up guest rooms and meeting space. But the price to plug in
proved steep for most travelers, and reliability was an iffy
Today, however, technology has become a major determining factor
in who gets travel business, and hotels are committed more than
ever to meeting the challenge. Several major hotel chains,
including Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Gaylord Entertainment, Park
Place Entertainment Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, have
relied on San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems to work its
technology wizardry to bring them up to speed.
What technologies are hotels implementing, and what new
capabilities can business travelers expect to find when checking in
a few months from now? Peter Alexander, vice president of worldwide
marking operations and commercial marketing for Cisco, recently
shared some insights in a talk with M&C.
Q: What’s new in services you offer to hotels to benefit
A: We’ve introduced a new technology called long-reach Ethernet,
which can run at high speed over existing phone wiring for great
distances. Any hotel can now offer a local area network system for
business travelers’ laptops.
Q: Is it true that only 10 percent of laptops are ready to go
A: It is difficult to tell just how many laptops have wireless;
only a small percent have the capability built in, but many people
add on cards. The demand from the consumer is growing very quickly.
Increasingly, we are seeing hot spots for this kind of access in
airports, hotels, even in coffee shops. It tends to be more
prevalent in high-population areas.
Q: What issues come up regarding the security of
A: There are two areas. As a hotel property connects to the
Internet to allow customers to access their e-mail, the hotel needs
to have safeguards in place to stop the customer from getting into
its own system. That’s called a firewall, which is something we can
A related technology that we can supply is a Virtual Private
Network, or VPN. Basically, it is the software in your laptop that
has the ability to electronically encrypt and protect any of the
data flowing between you and your corporate network over the
We think it’s a definite marketing plus when hotels can assure
their guests that the system they have in place is VPN
The beauty of it is that, ultimately, security along with
broadband access in a hotel infrastructure will allow business
users to extend their telephone and videoconferencing capabilities
right to the laptops sitting in their rooms.
Q: How will this new system work?
A: It’s what we like to call “soft phone” technology. Basically,
it involves a telephone that runs on a laptop and allows you to
both make and receive calls as if that were your desktop telephone.
What happens is I dial your extension number, your company network
sees you are on a secure connection back at the Fairmont, and your
PC rings. You answer the call by either clicking on your e-mail or
by plugging a headset into the computer.
The next step will involve videoconferencing using a laptop
equipped with an eyeball camera as the terminal device. It would
allow you to participate in a meeting from your hotel room,
utilizing voice and video, with your laptop.
It sounds pretty futuristic, but this is only about 12 to 18
months down the road.
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