Articles

Les Spielman, founder of Hospitality Automation Consultants, has written many articles for publication in the hospitality press. Here are a few you might find interesting.

Dave Berkus, COO of HACL, is known as an expert in corporate growth, governance and finaince issues.  Here are links to a few of his blogs and videos:

 

 

World’s leading hospitality tech consulting partnership created

Two of the world’s leading Hospitality Technology Consulting firms have created a global partnership that will provide unparalleled services to the hospitality industry.

HACL (Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd., USA) and Pertlink (Pertlink, Hong Kong and Philippines) have more than 100 years combined hospitality and consulting experience covering the major continents and an extensive client mix. HACL and Pertlink play an instrumental role in successfully pioneering the implementation of new technologies and techniques for streamlining operations that also enhance the customer experience.

The new entity brings together industry-leading domain knowledge. Their global reach  allows hospitality companies to work with one firm that can fulfill all the technology and hospitality consulting needs of their business.

Lester Spielman – President and CEO of HACL said of the partnership; “Dave Berkus, my partner at HACL and I are very excited about the synergy behind the partnership which perfectly leverages the infrastructure and telecoms expertise from HACL and merges it into the unique guest-experience expertise from Pertlink thereby providing a one-stop shop for the client.”

Terence Ronson, Managing Director of Pertlink added: “We live in a global village.  The advent of new technologies has made change the only constant in this evolving global hospitality environment. This partnership helps our partner hospitality groups to make sense of it all and apply these efficiently and cost-effectively. Our goal is to work with clients on a global basis and we are confident this partnership provides the correct platform to do just that.”

The two firms grew from opposite sides of the world with HACL in the U.S. and Europe, and Pertlink in Asia. By combining their global insights of the industry, the partnership can help businesses avoid unnecessary time-consuming analysis, starting projects with an understanding of what works among emerging products and technological systems designed for the hospitality industry.

As hotel brands expand worldwide, they look to work with firms who can translate their corporate strategy to new regions while remaining sensitive to local cultural nuances. Having had far-reaching experience of operating in the global marketplace, the newfound partnership of HACL and Pertlink can help do just that.

Some of the unique areas of expertise that the new joint venture brings to the hospitality industry are the experience of identifying emerging hospitality technology companies and assisting these companies in bringing their products to new geographic markets.

Providing the legal and financial framework required to penetrate new geographic areas, the partnership oversees everything from the initial hiring of the country manager to acting as guardians for the parent entity. HACL and Pertlink have an international network of industry-proven personnel that ensure their success in any market. The venture empowers their clients to fully control the customer experience. HACL and Pertlink achieve this by sharing their insights through decision processes and providing experienced and structured vendor qualification.

The two companies draw from a global talent network, allowing the partnership to cover technical, operational and management areas of a hospitality project from concept to delivery.

About HACL


Based in California, USA, HACL has been providing services to the Hospitality industry since 1979 when the firm was founded to provide consulting services to both vendors and hotel organizations.  A member of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants, HTNG, HFTP, and other industry associations, the partners of HACL combine to provide experience deeply rooted in hospitality, with clients from among the largest hotel chains to newest independent properties.  HACL has helped its clients bring to market the newest technologies to enhance the operating environment and guest experience, particularly in the areas of in-room systems and guest-facing technologies. The firm is recognized as a leading expert in telecommunications strategies, one of the areas most challenged in the hospitality industry due to reduced payback and increased guest expectations for connectivity.  HACL also has successfully provided the services and infrastructure for vendor firms expanding into new continents, and is credited with a number of major vendor expansions over the years.  Partner Les Spielman, HACL founder, is recognized as a leader in telecom advances in hospitality.  Partner Dave Berkus, a member of the HFTP Hall of Fame, is known for his deep understanding of new technologies and leadership in advancing the use of these throughout the industry.

About Pertlink

Pertlink was established in 2000 and is based in Hong Kong.  Since its inception, it has been involved in a number of unique and pioneering projects that have set trends in technology in the hospitality industry. Some have become world famous too!

The Rosedale on the Park (Hong Kong) was featured on CNN when it became Hong Kong’s first cyber boutique Hotel in 2001. When the Langham Place was launched, it was heralded as Asia’s most technologically advanced hotel. Pertlink designed and put together the unique technology for TANGULA the luxury train service from Beijing to Lhasa, before the project was shelved for government regulatory issues. It also steered the Sofitel Wanda Beijing during the 2008 Olympics in its quest to establish new levels of technology for this re-launched brand. Pertlink was also involved in several exciting projects; PuLi (Shanghai), Jumeirah Zendai Himalaya (Shanghai), Guoman Hotel (Shanghai), South Beach (JW Marriott) (Singapore) and a cloud-enabled business transformation for Aryaduta Hotels (Indonesia) and National Hotels (Hong Kong). Current projects include Ventria Residences – a luxury state-of-the-art Senior Living facility in Hong Kong, Dusit D2 Hotel and Hotel Management College, Manila, Philippines and the renovation of Hotel Windsor (Melbourne).

Pertlink helps manage the successful Hospitality Technology Forum for HOFEX, and chairs panels in various regional and global conferences focusing on technology in the hospitality industry such as Hotel TECH, HTNG and CHTA. Terence Ronson is an active member of HFTP and HTNG, the author of a Hotel Technology Blog, and the creator of the popular DO’s and DON’T’s of Hotel Technology.

For more information please contact:

HACL

Lester Spielman: (USA) +1 818 763 4449
ceo@hacl.net
David Berkus (USA) +1 626 355 5375
dberkus@hacl.net
www.hacl.net

Pertlink

Terence Ronson: (Hong Kong) +852 946 80848

(Philippines) +63 917 887 2049
terence@pertlink.net

Take advantage of modern TV technology & save $

By Les Spielman

In our last article, “Are you wasting money and losing guests with your HDTV?”, I described the minimum requirements needed for today and the future for your in-room TV sets. Today, we examine some new technologies that could potentially save you and your property (ies) a lot of money in infrastructure and legal video content fees, both “real time”, “VOD”, and “streaming internet content”.

Many TV sets today, including LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Vizio, Sony and several others, but not Westinghouse, offer a large variety of “apps” built directly into their higher end HDTV models whether they be LED, LCD, or Plasma. These TV sets are now equipped with WiFi capabilities, and also LAN (RJ45 inputs). This added functionality, allows you to save huge amounts of money, and in many cases increase your pay per view revenue.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

If you can currently receive OTA (over the air) TV programming via a regular TV antenna, you will find that in over 90% of the U.S., and many other countries, you can supply your guest with local TV stations on a FTG (Free to Guest) basis. Free, with no fees to any company or individual. In most areas you with find the type of signal that the local TV stations are being broadcast in is 1080i format. Your cost for that content is $0.00 [local license fees may apply].

Now for the most interesting part, the built in “apps” in the HDTV with WiFi, and/or LAN enabled, are all VOD content. An interesting free “app” is AP NewsTicker.  It is a screen crawl positioned on the bottom of the screen, about 1 – 2 inches high, which feeds the latest breaking news in the areas that you are interested in (sports, politics, stock market, weather alerts, world news etc.) The following is only a partial listing of available “apps”. Some are free, some are PPV, where you, the hotelier, can make extra commissions: NetFlix, Vudu, Yahoo, Accu Weather, Cinemania, Explore 3D, FaceBook, YouTube, Blockbuster, Google maps, Hulu Plus, Napster, Pandora, SPS TV, and Texas Holdem. Plus you can go to the TV set’s main “app” menu and drill down to exactly what you want to watch, i.e., sports, kids, games, news, etc. More and more content is being added as this article is being written. There are several accounting systems that can charge the guest for extra bandwidth, or PPV content [This is still in Beta as of this writing]. However, the choice is yours.

WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS?

By now you are probably wondering what are the pitfalls. First and foremost, you will need a WiFi enabled TV set. With this you also require additional Internet bandwidth but there is a huge bright spot here. If you are building a new property you don’t need to install a wired TV network. You can simply deploy a WiFi network. In the case of a retrofit, there is no need to start breaking walls for HSIA cables. There is no need for cable. We have previously seen costs of over $500,000 for this. However, you will need more WiFi Access Points.

IS THERE MORE TO COME?

You bet there is. Just keep on reading this series right here, or contact the writer, Les Spielman at ceo@hacl.net .

Are You Losing Revenue and Guests with your HDTV?

By Les Spielman

Consider the average in-room TV fifty years ago. The TV was black and white and very fuzzy (Color TV was not available yet), and a guest often had to slide a 25 cent coin in a slot at intervals or the TV would shut off. Both the coin requests and the average TV quality would have been annoying to any guest.

Fast forward to the present day, 2010. Very little has changed. The hotelier now pays for the TV and the content, the TV is much flatter, but the quality, in many cases, has gotten worse.

What? You ask. After spending over 150 nights a year in hotels around the world, I can attest that this statement is true. Today’s TV sets are in a16.9 format, digital, and some are in HD. That doesn’t mean that all video content is broadcast in that format. I have seen too many properties that have attempted to fill the full TV screen to its maximum. This leads to large distorted images on the screen, or portions of the top and/or bottom cut off. To make matters worse, the color adjustments are not set properly and we now have green or bright red people with disproportionate bodies. (Halle Berry, what have they done to you?)

Expecting at least the quality of home TV, many guests get upset, and surely make a mental note regarding their next visit to that property.  This is only the beginning. Forget about PPV revenue. The guest will not want to pay to see such a poor quality distorted picture. You may even lose that repeat guest.


NOW FOR THE TECHNICAL STUFF

To meet today’s standards you must also have a “pro:idiom” compatible set. Please see: http://lgcommercial.com/content/featured/downloads/proidoimfactsheet.pdf . Many sets that were bought just 3 – 4 years ago are not compliant with these standards. Therefore, the hotelier faces replacing non pro:idiom TV sets, or paying for an expensive work around. One of our clients was getting ready to spend over $100,000 on new TV sets until we showed them an inexpensive solution. The words “commercial TV set” do not mean “Hospitality”. Two different technologies.

HDMI.  Yes my sets are all connected via HDMI cables, so I’m OK. But are you? What version of HDMI cable are you using? There are many different versions being specified and used in hotels today. The ones that are in most common use today are HDMI V1.3. (For discussion sake, we won’t get into the subcategory issue.) If you are using the 60Hz HDTV in your rooms, you are fine. However, if you are using 120Hz or 240Hz HDTV, you must use HDMI V 1.4 cable. Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI#Version_1.4 . Otherwise, do not waste your money on these sets and just buy 720P sets and use any good quality HDMI 1.3 cable. Remember, this cable must run from the HD signal source to the HDTV. The least expensive method is to run the HDMI cable from a STB (Set Top Box) to the HDTV. Do not use cable runs with HDMI cables longer than five meters. Anything longer, amplification must be used. An internal infrastructure of RG 6 is mandatory.


In conclusion

The HDTV field is loaded with landmines. You do not have to step on these; There are many good vendors and consultants available to assist you. Make sure that the vendor has your interests at heart, and offers many different brands. Check with your content provider as well. Make sure that the services you want are offered. Utilize the expertise of a good hospitality consultant who knows this subject well and has had a lot of experience with the different TV and content providers. Do not have your in-house maintenance person set up your HDTV sets. They can install it, but bring in a professional to have the color and screen resolutions settings adjusted correctly.

Look to the future. We are in the midst of a content and technical period of innovation and rapid advances. Interactive TV will soon be commonplace as will 3-D HDTV. In-room teleconferencing will become commonplace soon as well. Internet Video is already here.

Each year at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) we observe dramatic increases in TV technology. Prices continue to decrease and quality and screen sizes continue to increase. Remember to “THINK GREEN”. LED HDTVs exceed all ENERGY STAR requirements and may even result in tax credits that will actually help defray your HDTV costs. They will also cut your electrical bills considerably over conventional, same size screen LCD or Plasma TVs. Your room HDTV sets should have the following as a minimum: 720P, 2 HDMI ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Pro:Idiom compliancy, Ethernet connectivity, WiFi enabled, smart media card capability, iPod connectivity, VGA input, and a coax connector. Remember, these are minimum requirements.

HDTV?

The Real 411 on “411” Calls At Your Property

By Les Spielman and Dave Berkus

So you did your audit on your phone system and you just negotiated great rates with your long distance vendors. You are not happy about the return on your telecommunications investment, but you have to maintain telephone service in order to rent rooms. Then why are you reading this article? What did you miss?

Help!  You have a very large leak of revenue that is pouring through your phone system and you don’t even know it. The worst part is that no matter how good your call accounting system is, or how well you read your telephone bill, you won’t find it!

Interested now?

SO TELL ME, HOW AM I LOSING ALL OF THIS REVENUE? 

Ahh, now the fun begins.

Most of the nation’s Local Exchange Carriers (LECs), and your local telco company have all decided  that they are now in the business of supplying you telephone number information not only in your own area, but also on a national basis.

So you think (logically) that your CAS already charges $0.75 for each 411 information call, so you must be covered, right? WRONG!

After the LEC 411operator center (all automated with very few live operators) gives the requested number to the guest dialing 411, a recording is played by the LEC that says something like: “If you wish, we can connect you to that number. Please touch one on your touchtone keypad.”

Wonderful, now your property is charged for a “connect” fee of $0.33 to $0.50 to just CONNECT that information call.  And guess what?  That guest can speak for as long as they want ON YOUR LINES and at YOUR EXPENSE for as long as they like.

Here’s some math to contemplate, right to your bottom line: The initial LOCAL 411 charge to the property to call 411 costs between $0.50 – $0.75. Then add the $0.33 – $0.50 cents for the “connect” fee and your true cost is between $0.88 – $1.25. So you just lost $0.50 for that 411 call. But wait a minute, the guest touched that number “1” key on their guestroom phone and now the guest is talking for free! YOU are now paying a per minute charge for that guest and your call accounting system can’t pick it up, and you can’t suppress the phone equipment from dialing that 4th digit, that ominous number “1” to authorize direct connection to the “411” number requested.

IS THAT ALL THAT I AM LOSING? 

No folks, we wish it were.  But it gets much worse. As previously stated your telephone company (LEC) now has decided to supply its customers with long distance directory service by dialing “411”.  O.K., Your guest requests a number in another state or outside of your local area. Now the initial information charge is between $1.75 to $2.25. Your guest hits that magic “1” button on their guest room phone and zap, you are hit with another $0.33 – $0.50 for that long distance connection.

So your initial cost is about $2.25 without the guest even saying one word to the other party. Now figure in what you would be charging for LD rates. $1.00 a minute, $1.50 a minute if you had captured the call revenue beyond the “411” connection fee?   A five minute conversation translates into lost revenue of over $7.50 per call, while you collect just $0.75 for that “411” call. The “average” hotel has 10 guests making 411 or XXX-555-1212 calls a day. 10 times $7.50 = $75.00 a day times 365 days a year equal $27,375 a year per property. That $27,375 is not lost revenue, it is an actual EXPENSE.

O.K., NOW I UNDERSTAND.  BUT HOW DO I FIX IT?

Now that is where the tricky stuff comes in. But before we give you the answers, here are some of the things that you can’t do, and things to watch out for. Your phone company will not help you. The PBX provider cannot block that 4th digit from being dialed.  Your CAS can’t accurately bill the call, as the system doesn’t know if you just dialed 411 + 1, or if you asked for long distance information. If you PBX is programmed for XXX-555-1212,  the CAS also will not pick up the information that the guest dialed “1”.

Now for the answers. The solution is not expensive, is painless, and no dialing plan changes are required. Plus the calls are handled by live operators who will not connect the call or make a “reverse directory” look up. (Ah, I see another article coming). AND, the actual 411 (whether local or long distance) call averages $0.39 versus the current $0.45 to $1.25 that you pay.

So now we have your attention, huh? 

The only answer as of this writing is to utilize third party providers. Period. They are perfectly legal and meet all local and FCC regulations. A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION …..Deal directly with the vendor, NOT with an agent!  Some “consultants” are really agents for vendors. Check with the Society of Telecommunications Consultants in order to find a legitimate consultant who will not take a fee from you and the vendor. Legitimate consultants will only charge the client a fee, not both.

Perhaps you want to do it by yourself, that’s fine too. The following are but a few vendors. This list is far from complete. PLEASE NOTE: Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. does not endorse nor recommend ANY specific vendor.  Therefore please do not construe these vendors as our choices or recommendations. ComTrust , DirectoryNet ,Experian , 411Saver , National Directory Information Services

Les Spielman and Dave Berkus may be reached through Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. at 818-763-4449.

Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. was founded in 1985 by Les Spielman in North Hollywood, California, and quickly spread to work with clients’ worldwide. Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. provides comprehensive and specialized consulting services to developers, architects, corporations, management companies, and general business offices where voice, and data applications are essential. Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. serves both in the traditional consultant’s mode and as long-range automation and telecommunications strategic planners.

Why a Good Consultant is Necessary

The Necessity Of Technology Consultants In The Hospitality Industry

O.K. But I have an IT and Telecom department. Do you really? We observe that more and more of our consulting business is coming from the large multinational hotel chains as well as the small owned/managed groups. They tell us that they have found it much more cost effective to eliminate their expensive IT and Telecom departments and outsource all of their systems acquisitions and implementation to us. By doing this they are savings hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and giving their properties better service at a less expensive cost per property. A case in point: A large well known major hospitality chain with about 200 properties was able to replace their entire IT and PBX department and save approximately $750k per year in salaries. After we finished a thorough property analysis we discovered approximately $5 million a year in wasteful and outdated services. Further work realized a repayment of an additional $2,300,000 from other vendors for overcharges. The net result was a total ROI in less than one month. Needless to say, this chain continues to employ our consulting service on a regular basis. Therefore, having a knowledgeable technology hospitality consultant does not cost you money, it SAVES you a lot of time and money.

What? Ask a hotel or group to spend more money? No. There are ways of using a few bucks to prime a very large pump. From experience, I believe that an independent technology consultant with years of experience can actually save you much more money than their entire fee. A true independent consultant, one with a minimum of at least 500 hospitality consulting projects successfully completed, has much more experience in dealing with vendors and choosing the correct equipment for a hospitality client’s needs. In fact, the experience and expertise of a first rate hospitality consultant should guarantee that you will receive a minimum savings of at least 200% of their gross fees. If this is not part of the consultant package offer, be wary as the consultant may not have the necessary experience for your needs. Worse yet, they may have another agenda in mind. Further, we should all agree that a good consultant will be able to save you countless weeks and months of investigating the various solutions for your property(s). In addition, your need to perform vendor reference checks, deliver excellent work per the contract on time, and attend endless vendor biased demonstrations are greatly reduced. These functions alone will result in substantial savings.

More, you say? Yes, much more. Since the right consultant for your property(s) has been doing this work for years, they should be able to secure quantity discounts for you that you only thought large chains could command. Further, since their knowledge of the industry overall greatly improves their ability to not only negotiate better pricing for you, you will also get a much better contract than you could have negotiated by yourself. In addition to pure dollar savings, the hospitality technology consultant will be able to immediately recognize whether the equipment you are considering will integrate properly with your existing systems, and whether the vendor has an upgrade migration policy that will protect you in the future. Therefore, the consultant will be saving you even more hard dollars and aggravation today, and in the future, preventing you from purchasing a system that does work properly with your existing systems. Further, the consultant will know whether the new systems under consideration are reaching the end of their life cycle and will be knowledgeable about all of their shortcomings and weaknesses. And they will know what new improvements or new product releases are due out shortly. A true hospitality technology consultant will negotiate the proper contract that will protect you from buying a system, or systems that are soon to be antiquated thereby saving you additional upgrade and installation fees and valuable time.

Not All Internet Services Are The Same

By Les Spielman

A Little Background

Many hoteliers have been installing telephones in their guest rooms with a little device called a “data port”. This feature allows the guest to use his or her laptop computers for access to the internet or other computers. Traditionally the guest’s computer either dialed a local telephone number or an 800 number to connect. There was very little revenue generated for the hotel.

However, the properties soon realized that these computer “connect” times were very long and were tying up the hotel’s telecommunications facilities. The connect times were long for numerous reasons, the most significant factor being the rate at which the laptop computer’s modem could handle the throughput speeds. Even if the guest’s laptop was using a 56k (bps or Bits Per Second) modem, the hotel’s PBX only allowed the information to travel at a maximum speed of 28.8k (bps). The properties had no other choice but to add additional equipment or to totally upgrade their equipment and telecommunications services at considerable additional expense, with very little return on their investment.

A Little Math

Here comes the boring part, but hopefully it will assist you in making the correct decisions for your property.

Bits and bytes… That’s where this all starts. “Bit” is short for BInary Digit – the smallest unit of binary measure, usually either a 0 or a 1. A “byte” consists of eight of these bits. “Data-transfer rate” is the speed at which data can be transmitted from one device to another. Among the best-known data transfer rates is the one for conventional analog modems, whose top speed is currently “56K” (actually limited by the phone companies to 53.3K, or 53,300 bits per second. Now stay with me here… There are 1,000 bits in a “kilobit.” And since a “Kilobyte” is eight times the size of a kilobit, data transfer rate measurements are seven times smaller when you convert them from “bits per second” to “bytes per second”. Still with me?

To add unneeded complexity, both Microsoft and Netscape adopted the non-standard “Kilobyte per second” measurement (KB/sec). A Kilobyte is 1,024 bytes and it is most often used to measure data storage, not network data-transfer rates. Now you have enough information to make this leap: 28.8-kbps equals about 3.5 KB/sec. while 53.3-kbps is roughly 6.5 KB/sec.

When downloading files, we now have enough information to measure line speed. Here is an actual example: I recently downloaded a 4.6 MB file from the Internet. The site informed me that it would take one hour and 11 minutes to download the file using a 56K modem. However, my actual time was under four minutes. That’s because we have a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) provided through our local exchange carrier (LEC). They are able to take an ordinary telephone line and split it into a data line and a voice line. So while a guest is talking on a regular telephone line, his laptop computer could be connected to the Internet at the same time. In many instances this can be accomplished without any additional wiring to that room. One of the great features of DSL is that it is “always on”, there are no per minute charges.

Why Am I Reading This Boring Stuff?

Very simple …. All of this new technology gives the hospitality industry a fantastic new avenue for increasing revenue through these new services while also significantly increasing your occupancy rate. So read on and keep thinking about your ADR!

So Is This All I Need To Know?

Unfortunately this answer is no. There are several other technologies available that you should know about. As a token of good will we will ask and answer the questions about these technologies!

What is the difference between DSL and cable modems? DSL provides a dedicated service over a single telephone line; cable modems offer service over a shared media. While cable modems have greater downstream bandwidth capabilities (up to 30 Mbps), that bandwidth is shared among all users on a line and will therefore vary, perhaps dramatically, as more users in a neighborhood get online at the same time. Cable modem upstream traffic will, in many cases be slower than DSL, either because the particular cable modem is inherently slower or because of speed rate reductions caused by contention for upstream bandwidth slots.

What is the difference between DSL and ISDN? ISDN and regular modems are technologies that offer the ability for customers to dial many different locations for Internet access or other online services. With DSL services, the connection is a permanent connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISDN and analog modem customers who only need to connect to the Internet from one location will want to switch to DSL in order to take advantage of the benefits of higher speeds and an “always on” connection. The greatest advantage that DSL has over ISDN is that DSL has no usage fees. DSL is billed on a flat rate basis like your local telephone service.

The direct relationship between bandwidth and cost (as bandwidth increases, so does cost) is not likely to change in the near future. Most carriers and ISP’s that lease bandwidth do so by contracting for the smallest bundle necessary to cover traffic and quality of service.

Besides having your LEC supply your property with DSL service there are various other ways of supplying your guests with high-speed internet access.

Here are just a few:

Wireless Internet has arrived! Wireless internet providers are rapidly deploying their services throughout the country. This means that you DO NOT have to order additional wired services from your LEC. The service comes directly to your property from an antenna placed on your rooftop. The service is just as fast as hard wired DSL services. However, the wireless transmission speeds are equal in both directions. Both IP providers will charge monthly fees, but the wireless fees are usually substantially lower. The wireless providers can easily and efficiently increase the “bandwidth” on demand instantly, while with LEC provided services, as the demand increases, additional copper telephone lines must be ordered and installed. The effective range of wireless DSL is 25 miles from the service providers transmission point. However, the effective throughput speeds can decrease by 5 to 10% when heavy rain or hail is present. Further, the distances are hampered by mountainous terrain and in some instances by trees.

Let’s Go Fishing

Access to the Internet is also measured by two unique terms: “upstream” and “downstream”. Upstream is the term applied for the TRANSMISSION of data FROM the user’s computer to the ISP’s equipment. Conversely, “downstream” is the speed at which data is transmitted from the ISP’s equipment TO the users computer.

The typical speeds at which hard wired DSL connections travel at are:

Up to l.544Mbps downstream with 128Kbps upstream
Up to 6Mbps downstream with 384Kbps upstream
With wireless DSL providers the upstream and downstream speeds are equal with speeds up to 10Mbps.

All Of This Is Very Confusing. How Would It Work In My Property?

The following is a typical hotel’s wiring diagram utilizing TUT SYSTEMS hospitality product. Notice that the system utilizes the hotel’s existing telephone wiring scheme. There is no need to add any additional wire, break any walls, or add any additional telephone closets. It does not matter which method is used to deliver the DSL signal to the property. The property can choose to wire all of the rooms or just a floor or even have a checkerboard setup. There is no need for your IT personnel to configure the guest’s computer! Most guests already have the laptop’s connection device with them. Billing the guest is automatic.

Please note: there are other systems available, we are not recommending just one solution!

Why, you ask, should I even care about this? The reason: Most business travelers today are accustomed to very fast T-1 access lines in their offices which are always on and operate up to 50 times faster than a typical dialup modem. While a second phone jack does enable simultaneous use of the phone and the Internet it is not nearly sufficient, as the maximum speeds that the guest can connect at is 28.8 Kbps. An executive traveling to deliver a presentation will have limited patience for a slow dial-up connection when it becomes necessary to download a few updated slides from the home office at the last minute. Such bandwidth-intensive tasks can easily overwhelm even the fastest dial-up link. Even reading his email can be a very long tedious experience. Broadband connections enable users to access corporate databases, download large multimedia presentations, participate in real-time video conferencing and access the Web at a fraction of the time it would take using a modem.

Any hotel that intends to successfully compete in the hospitality market must offer broadband access to it’s guests. Whether you do or don’t offer broadband access, rest assured that your competitors down the street WILL be offering it very, very shortly, if not already! The use of high speed Internet access in your property WILL increase your ADR as well as your occupancy rate… And that’s the truth!

Labor and Technology Costs

By Les Spielman

Is There An Equation Between Technology And Labor Costs?

Having been deeply involved in the technology side of the lodging & hospitality industry for more than 27 years, plus having the opportunity to visit practically every country and continent in the world, some very startling revalations about our industry recently became clear. They were strongly reinforced during my latest trips throughout the Pacific. I have visited this area of the world at least 75 times over the past 25 years. These realizations were the large dichotomy of technology usage throughout the Pacific.

In Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand most medium to large properties are automated to the same extent as their counterparts in North America. All major chain properties, whether regional to the Pacific or with North American ties are as fully automated as their North American based cousins. However, when you start going to the outskirts of the major cities you will find that the small, medium and sometimes very large properties are not at all automated. The major hotels tend to stick to the very large cities. However, as my travels took me through smaller cities and “Third world countries” like China, Malaysia, Indochina, Indonesia, India, and most of the Philippines, I noticed that the use of technology was almost nil. My impressions for many years was that the cost of technology was too expensive for these regions. But, they were too expensive for not the reasons that you and I would consider. It was the cost of LOCAL labor! As an example, a front office clerk in China earns approximately US$37.50 a MONTH plus lunch (usually a bowl of rice with a little vegetable, NO meat). As the clerk progresses and gets some seniority, his or her wage usually rises to approximately US$43.75 per MONTH. At this stage some arrangement may be made for a small cot in dormitory type housing. Finally, as the clerk reaches the stage of supervisor or shift manager, his or her salary rises to US$50.00 a month!

With this type of labor rates, there is no cost justification for ANY type of automation. The ROI would be many, many years, no matter how inexpensive the technology/automation cost. In addition, many of these countries have so much unemployment that their governments have actually passed laws that state that the property must hire three people for each room, or three people for each guest! In addition to the automation and technology that we have become accustomed to, such very basic services as telephones and televisions don’t even exist. The reason . . . poor communications infrastructure. It is most important to realize that MOST of the above does NOT apply to the large regional and international chains. However, even though you pay the equivalent of US250.00 to US$300.00 per night at one of the chains, it is quite usual that you pay around US$00 .75¢ for a local call, and the equivalent of US$1.25 for ANY 800 type of “toll free” telephone call, even to their own reservations center.

What is Answer Supervision

By Les Spielman

When Telephone Call Accounting systems first hit the Lodging industry in the early 80’s, everyone knew they had to have one. AT&T was taking away your commissions for long distance calls. Part of Judge Green’s deregulation decision allowed hoteliers to make a “profit” on the hotel’s phones. The manual adding in the surcharges and posting these charges to the guest’s folio was inefficient. Further, many hotels were giving away local calls, because there was no efficient way to record them. In the “early days” of deregulation, most of the Local Exchange Carriers did not charge for these calls. Most Local Exchange Carriers now charge for these calls. So the RIGHT decision was the Call Accounting System.

Most of these systems worked well for the properties, each one worked slightly, and in some cases, vastly different from each other. The poor systems very quickly disappeared. However, until the last few months, every system had the same problem, they could not detect when the called party answered their phone. All of the Call Accounting Systems had the same problem. The solution was the same for all the vendors, “Timing Parameters”. What this meant was how soon would the CAS start billing the guest. Too long of a timing parameter meant lost revenue to the hotel via completed calls that were not charged to the guest, but charged to the hotel by the Long Distance Carrier, and not charging for enough talk time because of the timing delay. Too short of a timing parameter resulted in guest complaints about uncompleted calls. Right or wrong, your clerks took the charge off of the guest’s folio.

The problem was severe enough that the telecommunications industry had to do something about this. The answer is called “ANSWER DETECTION”.

There are long Distance carriers that have “ANSWER SUPERVISION” However, this signal DOES NOT pass through any existing PBX systems to your CAS. Since answer DETECTION is approximately 90% accurate, you have hard evidence of completed calls.

Enough of this back ground and on to how answer supervision operates. A pair of wires is connected to each trunk, these wires in turn are connected to a “line card” in groups of 8 or 16 trunks. These line cards then send their information to the systems processing unit. This unit in turn sends the completed call information to your CAS. You DO NOT HAVE TO BUY A NEW CAS, however, some vendors are selling an integrated system, which contains the answer detection and the CAS. These systems will usually operate just as well as having the answer detection module interfaced into your existing CAS. In other words, if you are satisfied with your current CAS, just add the answer detection.

The following questions should be asked of the answer detection vendor.

  1. Does the product ONLY perform answer detection, or can it perform other functions?
  2. Will the proposed system back up your existing CAS?
  3. Does the system have a PMS/CAS interface monitor?
  4. Are these “built In” or add on’s?
  5. What future enhancements are coming? Will the system you are looking at have the ability to accept the new features?
  6. Can it work in an environment that has some trunks that already have answer supervision on them?
  7. Ease of customer self service. Do you need special tools and knowledge to swap out parts, or do they just slide in place?
  8. At what trunk size does the system max out? Will you have to buy another whole processing unit just for 4 or 5 trunks?
  9. If you have several units which are “daisey chained”, when one fails, will the failure cascade to the other modules?

The following are potential problem spots that should be looked at very carefully.

  1. Be careful when buying from a distributor, they may drop the product for a different one.
  2. Only purchase a system that will automatically allow your CAS to function, in the event that the answer detection fails.
  3. If the answer detection fails, do you have to adjust your own CAS thresholds? Be careful here as this could prove to be costly.
  4. How long has the manufacturer been in business? What does his financial future look like? Will they guarantee parts and service for the next five years?
  5. How do you pay for the system? Besides a straight sale, can you lease it, or better yet, is a rental program available? In some instances it is better to rent the system for a few months in order to “test drive” it.

Tomorrow’s Electronic Village

By Les Spielman

REVOLUTION: The world is poised for explosive changes in telecommunications. “It’s going to be kaboom,” one observer says.

A cloud as big as Montana coasts drowsily over the right-field bleachers as you watch a relief pitcher amble in from the bullpen. It seems like a good time to check in at the office. Balancing a laptop computer on your knees, you dial in on your cellular phone, log onto the computer network and check your E-mail messages. You read the latest news from the Associated Press, check some stock prices, get your phone messages and troll the Internet before you sign off. Just in time. The new pitcher has warmed up and the hitter steps in. Put down the laptop and pick up your score card.

This isn’t the future–it happened in Baltimore. And a few years from now, two-handed juggling of a cellular phone hooked to a laptop computer will seem crude.

The world is poised at the brink of a telecommunications revolution, and change will come with the magnitude of the invention of the automobile, the electric light and the printing press. Or, as Pacific Telesis Chairman Phil Quigley says, “It’s going to be kaboom.” Millions of Americans will carry pocket-sized “personal communicators” that will combine the capabilities of computers and telephones in one mobile gadget. The communicators will become fax machines, calendars, address books and sketch pads with the insertion of function modules the size of a credit card.

A large percentage of people will have a personal telephone number that they can be called at wherever they travel in the world. At home, the wireless personal communicator will automatically connect with the wired communications system that effectively merges the telephone, television and computer into one instrument. Computers will speak and understand English, handling by voice many of the commands that today must be typed. Pocket phones may even include components called “personal digital assistants,” tiny computers that make calls, take and deliver messages and do many tasks that secretaries now do. They will perform wherever you are, even in a moving car.

Two-way video phones may be as common as speaker phones, or even cordless handsets, are now. Some people may prefer “wearable technology,” telephones as small as tie clips or earrings that are more convenient and less obtrusive than cellular phones. And it won’t be only the elite that can take advantage of all this technology–“yuppie toys,” as one phone company executive has dubbed them. In nine years, projects a study by the Personal Communications Industry association., more than 52 million Americans will have cellular phones and 31 million will have phones using a new digital wireless technology called personal communications services, or PCS. And 65 million people will have pagers or messaging services. The social implications are enormous.

“We may begin to see spatial organizations of human settlement quite unlike the classical city; threats to freedom of speech and of the press; erosion of the sovereign state, and a fracturing of society’s cohesion,” said the late Ithiel de Sola Pool, a telecommunications visionary. Others believe the revolution will empower people to take more control of their lives, be less passive and overcome for the first time in human history limits of mobility, sense perception and the difficulties of the human-machine interface. Which way will it go? Will the gulf between rich and poor be widened by a new divide between the knows and the know-nots? Or will it be bridged by more information in the hands of everyone? Will society become even more fragmented as people delve further into their specialized fields and social interaction changes from personal to electronic? Or will the global village become something more meaningful than watching televised images of famine in faraway lands?

Will conventional literacy shrivel, leaving those with traditional deductive skills behind those with a new kind of visual literacy? Or will we see a broader and brighter definition of intelligence? Will the technology be driven by a few monopolies? Or spawn a new era of competition and entrepreneurship? The questions–and these are only a few–are fundamental. Some shifts have already begun. Fifteen years ago, the fastest growing segment of the American economy was in low-level service jobs, such as fast-food workers, a phenomenon that raised concerns about the economy’s health. Today information-related jobs are setting the pace. We are spending more time and money communicating and sifting information. In 1984, the average American household spent $1,000 a year on telecommunications. Today, adjusted for inflation, that expenditure has doubled.

If the numbers seem surprising, consider this: Cellular phones were introduced as a luxury in 1983. By 1993, 13 million Americans used them. In a matter of months, moreover, there will be a major breakthrough in wireless phone technology when the federal government opens new frequencies in the wireless spectrum, tripling the amount of airwaves for wireless and ultimately driving the introduction of digital wireless technology. This PCS technology will handle five to 10 times more calls or channels than cellular and cost half as much. Within the last three years alone, as McCaw Cellular Chairman Craig McCaw put it recently, “Change is occurring at a rate faster than even the most extreme techie would have dreamed.”

Three forces are driving this revolution.

  1. Advances in microelectronics, the art of putting computing power into small spaces by adding transistors on chips made of sand. There are already more microprocessors (computers on a chip) than there are people on Earth. Now, the power of each chip is doubling every 18 months without increasing the price.
  2. Fiber optics, the science of shooting laser beams as small as grains of sand through glass fibers as thin as strands of hair. A year ago fiber-optic lasers could transmit about 3.4 billion bits of data per second, or 50,000 phone conversations on a pair of fibers. Soon, experts expect to send 1 trillion bits per second, or 70 million conversations. These digital phone lines are what will make the 1,000+ channel TV set or two-way video phones possible.
  3. Digital wireless phone technology, using satellites and new high-band frequencies in the air to move phone data. Wireless phones will be greatly improved at nearly the same cost as wired communications. Until now, computers had intelligence, but it was cumbersome to connect them. Phones had connectivity, but they were basically dumb. Wireless devices offered mobility but weak transmission quality. As the three technologies evolve, the virtues of each are merging. AT&T is already offering what it calls the “virtual office” package, in which workers can trade their commute and work space for a mobile phone, portable computer, printer and modem. More than 500 AT&T salespeople have operated this way, and the company is now selling the gear–weighing 6.5 pounds–to others.

Whether this becomes more than a fad will depend on human behavior. But coming technology will clearly make the limits of spatial geography less important. Cellular phones today offer people local and even national mobility. By 1997 or “98, low-orbit satellite systems will make wireless phone mobility global. Motorola’s Iridium project, which will cover even the remotest parts of the world through 66 low-orbit satellites, is scheduled to begin in 1998. Even more ambitious, Teledesic Corp., a joint venture of Bill Gates’ Microsoft and McCaw Cellular, plans a system involving 840 satellites by 2001.

The new PCS technology–digital wireless phone frequencies–will further reduce costs and allow people to move inside and outside buildings, says Ben Gavis, a professor of management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. In perhaps less than 10 years will come the wireless phone of the future, the personal communicator. It will be a computer, a phone, a fax machine and more–pocket-sized. It will carry one’s calendar and address book. If two people meet and want to exchange phone numbers, they may be able to simply aim their communicators and “squirt” (no sexual puns intended) the information to each other with an infrared signal, says Philip Evans, director of telecommunications planning at Perot Systems. This pocket phone computer will also involve a “personal digital assistant,” which will take voice commands and handle various daily activities. Just tell it what to do: “Call the office and tell them I am running late. Then get my messages and call my next appointment.” The wireless phone will probably work in several media, says Quigley, the new chairman of Pacific Telesis Group, the holding company of the Pacific Bell companies. It will look for a cellular link first, then switch to satellite or to PCS networks. And when someone arrives home, calls can be automatically switched to the wired system of the house.

The consequences of all of this are probably beyond the reach of most of us to imagine. Vanderbilt’s Gavis predicts, as many others do, that corporations and other institutions will fire many of their managers. With more sophisticated communications, a single manager can supervise many more employees. Corporations will become smaller and less hierarchical. But will the displaced managers become entrepreneurs or unemployable? Thinkers worry about solitude. “It’s going to be hard to disappear,” says John Fike, director of the Center for telecommunications at Texas A&M University. If people work in virtual offices, communicating by E-mail, what happens to human interaction? That has given rise to the concept of the “virtual water cooler”– using video phones to help people maintain office camaraderie and keep up with gossip.

But there’s an obverse view. Most people involved in the industry have a passionate faith that the technology will empower people. On a simple level, George Gilder believes people’s relationship to their phones will no longer be so passive. We get up in the middle of dinner and answer and let it invade our lives in all sorts of ways. “As time passes, the people receiving calls will abandon these old practices,” says Gilder, an influential technology writer. They may choose to monitor the calls without answering; or know whether it is a business, personal or other kind of call by the ring; or have a video readout that tells them who is calling. Or they may simply push a button that messages that they will call back.

Others ponder the division between knows and know-nots, and some say it is generational and will gradually disappear. Some also wonder about the impact on the way people think. Fike at Texas A&M says his students today have much more information than students a generation earlier. “But when it comes to their reading skills, their ability to read something for content, they have a hard time.” Gilder is not so worried. Text, he believes, will always be primary to civilization. The computer, not television, will be the center of this revolution. Learning, not entertainment, will be central.

Do you know what?………….They are all guessing!!