Mobility adds innovation to hospitality

Atlantis The Palm, looks to secure and efficient management of mobile devices to drive customer service

Tags: AirWatch ( HotelBring Your Own Device (BYOD)EMWHospitalityMobile Device Management (MDM)
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Mobility adds innovation to hospitality Joe Tesfai, senior vice president, Information Technology, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  July 15, 2014

The rise of mobile devices and applications has had an impact in many business sectors, but one area where the consumerisation of IT and demand for mobile services are having the greatest impact is in hospitality. With guests now expecting hotels and resorts to offer the same always on connectivity that they get at home or the office, the hospitality sector is facing a dramatic increase in demand on its networks. At the same time, the possibilities of freeing up functions like check-in from fixed locations, and the ability to push services direct to a guest’s mobile device are offering interesting opportunities for the sector.

For the Atlantis The Palm, Dubai resort, mobility has become a major, game changing focus for the IT function. Joe Tesfai, senior vice president, Information Technology for the resort, explained: “What we have seen really changing over the past few years is the advent of tablets and smartphones. We have had to reinvent the way we provide services, whether it is in food and beverage, during the check in process or even when the guest goes online to make the registration.”

The resort, one of the major attractions in Dubai, opened in 2008, and in the six years of operations since, the company has seen an increasing number of guest devices, predominantly iOS devices, connecting to the guest network. Catering for guest WiFi has become a major task for IT departments in the hospitality industry, and Atlantis is no different.

“Obviously WiFi is crucial, we are revamping our WiFi infrastructure now, because of the sheer number of devices that we see on a daily basis on the network. The resort was opened six years ago, so it is time we revamped and jump onto the newer technologies,” he said.

It is not just the guest side that is seeing an influx of mobile devices however, as the resort is increasingly looking to mobility applications to empower staff. One such application is being used to speed up the processes of managing the cleaning for the resorts 1500-plus guest rooms.

The daily duty of room cleaning was previously managed on paper, a common process across the industry, but one that is not particularly efficient. Each member of the housekeeping staff would be given a printed sheet of the rooms they had to clean. However, when guests were checking out late or did not want to be disturbed, staff would then have to find the next room to be cleaned — usually resorting to supervisors making telephone calls back and forth to rearrange their schedules.

“The scale of our operations, combined with the sheer volume of occupancy during the weekends and the peak season, meant that these delays accounted for a considerable amount of wasted man-hours,” said Tesfai.

Replacing the out-dated printed sheets, the new application is integrated with front of house systems, so that cleaning staff can be alerted as soon as a room is available for cleaning. For the mobile platform to host the application, Atlantis selected Apple’s iPod touch device, because the application was available on iOS, and the devices are small enough to be easily portable and manageable, while still having enough screen real estate to show information like check lists clearly, Tesfai explained.

Although the application would bring a great improvement in efficiency, the challenge was how to deploy to a large volume of devices in a secure and efficient manner. The resort needed some 150 iPods for the housekeeping application, and with plans for other mobility applications in future, it was clear that the hotel would require a mobile device management (MDM) solution.

“With a lot more iPods on the network, we had to control them. How do we control them, how do we manage them? The same applies in all other areas where we are going to deploy more tablets.” Tesfai said.

After an assessment of the options on offer, Tesfai selected a solution from AirWatch, now owned by VMware, which would be deployed by local partner and system integrator EMW, who also had an existing relationship with the resort.

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