Short Range Connectivity For The Individual Hotelier
Connectivity refers to the carrier of data in and out of your hotel and how it is distributed to devices and applications within your network. Typically, we think of fixed broadband or WiFi. Connectivity can also be delivered to applications and machines across a very short range. Although only covering a short range – some literally centimetres – they need a comprehensive unified network to ‘join all the dots’ and relay the data to dashboards and mobile applications.
Bluetooth is a well-known example, but some devices may rely on other networks such as:
NFC (Near-Field Communications)
NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices. This can happen when they’re touched together, or brought within a few centimetres of each other. This is commonly found on most smartphones, most notably for enabling contactless payments.
NFC applications within the hotel include:
- Replacing room keys with mobile phones
- Easy payments using NFC tags
- Maintenance with NFC tags provide equipment information to a smartphone
- Register hotel staff presence
NFC labels can be attached to almost any item and can include triggering a forwarding website link. This would enable a person who is interested in purchasing an item seen in a hotel, to be directed to the website where the item could be purchased. This form of advertising could become commonplace, especially in the hospitality sector where new products are often showcased.
BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)
Like Bluetooth, BLE operates in the 2.4 GHz ISM band. Its difference is that it remains in sleep mode constantly except for when a connection is initiated. It is designed to provide significantly lower power consumption. BLE applications within the hotel include:
- Door locks
- Simple and accurate panic buttons for staff
- Beacons to personalise guest experience
RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification)
RFID uses radio-frequency waves to transfer data wirelessly, with no contact. Passive RFI tags have no power of their own and are powered by the radio frequency energy transmitted from RFID readers/antennas. RFID applications within the hotel include:
- Anti-theft and asset tracking
- Auditing stock
- Managing hotel uniforms (what’s laundered, sizes available)
- Key cards
- Various IoT (Internet of Things) applications
MESH: Zigbee & Z-Wave
Z-Wave and Zigbee are two alternative wireless radio frequency communication protocols designed for control, monitoring, and status-reading of connected devices with a range of 50-100 feet.
Mesh networking allows a Z-Wave or Zigbee signal to ‘hop’ through other respective devices to reach the destination device. Certain powered Z-Wave or Zigbee devices can act as wireless repeaters to increase the range and strength of the mesh network.
In practice Z-Wave and Zigbee are very similar, but there are some notable differences. One is that Zigbee uses the same 2.4GHz radio band as WiFi and Bluetooth networks. Z-Wave, by contrast, receives and transmits on a much lower frequency band – 868.42MHz in Europe, and 908.4MHz in the Americas. Z-Wave can handle longer distances between devices than Zigbee.
Zigbee uses an IEEE 802.15.4-based specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks, with small, low-power digital radios.
MESH applications within the hotel include:
- Personal area networks
- Smart room automation
- Door locks
Managing short wave connections in a unified network
Many of these protocols are developed for limited data exchanges, and low battery usage. Zigbee for example is built for low power low bandwidth needs. It can be used for door locks with Assa Abloy, for example, who have developed a specific secure version.
The difficulty the industry faces is the multitude of network protocols, their evolution over time and the need to manage all of these within a property. They need a comprehensive unified network to ‘join all the dots’ and relay the data to dashboards and mobile applications.
If you’re looking to simplify your network system and modernise your services, we can help. Take advantage of our free installation offer, with no up-front cost for three months*. Talk to one of our friendly technicians for more information and let us get you up to speed.