Let’s first consider the drawback with locally connected systems, like traditional DALI and KNX: Devices have an interface to which commands can be sent along the bus—they either provide information or do as they are commanded. The bus itself does not, however, facilitate monitoring or remotely configuring the system from afar: an installer has to be present in the room to do this.
There’s an IP gateway for these systems with a DALI / KNX / BACnet interface at one end and an IP interface at the other. Those IP interfaces live inside the building network. Every switch, sensor, and luminaire driver needs to be connected to a control unit in the electrical box. That means you can’t send commands to these networks from just anywhere—you have to be inside the network. While it is possible to expose these IP interfaces to the internet or access them via a VPN, setting these up demands its own set-up project and creates another complex, custom-made maintenance and support item.
With cloud-connected systems, such as Mount Kelvin’s guest room management systems (GRMS), you can control hotel rooms from anywhere in the world. While there are interfaces inside the building, the actual control point is in the cloud. Being able to identify and resolve problem situations remotely is a huge advantage. A modern cloud-connected system offers good interfaces for machines and humans alike: an easy-to-use, browser-based user interface for human operators and an application programming interface (API) for machines.
Unlike in the case of conventional IP adapters for KNX and DALI, where static IPs, protected subnets, and a VPN are required for safe remote operation, the networking requirements for joining the cloud network are pretty much the same as what connecting a laptop to a wifi network would require.
Compared to only locally connected building automation systems, cloud-connected systems make for ridiculously simpler design and implementation. It’s easier and faster to work in the cloud, and you can enhance hotel operations by getting useful data and saving energy.
Through sensor kits in the rooms, you’re alerted to water leaks and noise issues right away. By taking fast action, you can avoid water damage and weeks of drying, or the nightmare of renovations, which would result in unusable rooms for a long time.
Instead of the old-school “Do Not Disturb” signs, a cloud-connected room allows guests to set the status of their room with a simple switch, either as DND (do not disturb) or MUR (make up room), which hotel operators and cleaners can see through the hotel management system.
Let’s say you want to slightly adjust the lighting of your hotel restaurant. Traditionally, a specialist would have to visit the restaurant in-person to change the configurations, which can take weeks to arrange and costs a lot. With a cloud-connected system, however, your hotel staff can change the restaurant lighting themselves in about 30 seconds. Here at Mount Kelvin, you can even call our specialist who makes the adjustments over-the-air from anywhere in the world, during the same phone call.
With traditional systems where APIs live inside the hotel building, managing security risks is a big challenge. Why?
Fundamentally a local, network level security solution is always a custom-made, one-off implementation. As threats and needs evolve, it needs to be continuously adjusted and updated to reflect the changing environment—something that is rarely done in practice. A network level security solution is also intrinsically linked with the physical security of the site, which is hard to ensure when guests have access to the rooms and the local network.
The concept of security in a cloud-connected system is different, however: The operating environment and network are assumed to be unsafe from the get-go and the product is engineered to be able to survive. The connectedness of the system entails that as the threat landscape evolves, the system can also be updated to protect itself without intervention or even knowledge of the hotel operator. In a well-engineered cloud-connected system, the network does not have to accept any incoming traffic, making an attack that much harder to perform.
A physical security analogy for the difference might be whether to try to build a safe room in your own home to store a big pile of cash or to take it to a bank where a purposely built structure and personnel are responsible for security.
With a cloud-connected system, you can create customer-specific applications so that guests could gain access to their room and control their room’s lighting, cooling, and heating all from their mobile device. This way, they could skip the physical check-in and adjust the room’s temperature while lying in bed. If they know their preferred temperature, then the air conditioning can automatically set based on their last visit.
Guests could also communicate with reception through chat, which is important as live chat currently has the highest satisfaction levels. For example, they could order room service, ask for more towels, or ask about the cost to visit the spa, all from their own mobile device.
If you think about the guest experience in terms of noise, you’d have to be pretty annoyed by the noise if you grab the phone and call the front desk. It makes a big difference for the guest if you notice disturbances right away through your sensor kits before any customer complaints start pouring in.
The best part? Once guests see how convenient the services are at your hotel, they’ll want to continue revisiting hotels in the same chain.
To get all of these benefits through a traditional, locally connected, room control system, you’d have to develop and build the cloud infrastructure yourself, configure the network to get the traffic inside, and build all the integrations into the cloud system. Or alternatively, you’d have to open up the network to the public, which is a major security complication. In any case, it would require a big and pricey system project.
A cloud-native system, on the other hand, makes it easy to create a common, integrated customer service path. The result is a smooth experience both from the customer service point-of-view and from the guest’s point-of-view.
By setting up a cloud-connected system, you open the door for all future projects to be done better and easier.
Services, tickets, payment transactions, and information on customer behavior can all be connected to the same cloud-connected system. This allows you to run your hotel in a more data-driven way—you can experiment with different things and get better insight into what to develop further.
After all, the future of hospitality is in digital fluency, radically streamlined operations, and connection to the local community. Hotel guests’ preferences have changed and the customer journey is becoming much more digital.
With a guest room management system like Mount Kelvin, where our analytics functions will continue to improve over time, you’ll be sure to reap long-term benefits.
Want to learn more about the future of hospitality and changing hotel guests’ preferences? Check out this article: