What Makes a Smart Building Smart?

Every hotel guest has certain expectations when they book their stay. They expect top tier customer service, affordable prices and ample amenities – and chief among them is fast, reliable Internet. Guests are more likely to complain about shoddy Wi-Fi than delayed room service or a late check-in.  Technology in the hospitality space is rapidly evolving, and hospitality companies need to reimagine what the hotel of the future looks like to keep up with visitors' expectations.

Envisioning the hotel of the future

I have had the opportunity to represent Corning as part of the Hotel of Tomorrow® Project, a global think tank bringing together hoteliers, consultants and suppliers to envision what the future of the hospitality sector looks like. We work with leaders worldwide to determine the changing expectations guests have and how hotels can accommodate them to stay competitive. Regardless of hotel size or location, one common topic discussed is the role technology plays in hospitality. Leaders are aware of the need to incorporate better, more sophisticated tech in their hotels and ready to rise to the challenge.

Connectivity is critical for everyone walking into a hotel, whether that’s a family of four on vacation or a convention of 4,000 – and those different groups make differing demands on the hotel network. But one thing is constant: the ability to plug in – from your suite, conference room or the hotel lobby – is the norm, not the exception.

A hotel’s number one goal is clear: keep guests satisfied and coming back for future stays. When it comes to connectivity, this means having a network flexible enough to meet the demands of all kinds of visitors and functions.

Adapting to new tech demands

The first technology challenge hotels must overcome is the sheer demand for bandwidth. People are plugging into the network more now than ever. Media streaming, teleconferencing, gaming – these all require high levels of bandwidth that collectively put a strain on a hotel’s network. Not only are guests pulling data into the hotel, but they are also pushing it out and creating a balancing act that demands sophisticated tech to handle data flow.

Of course, guests aren’t the only thing taxing hotel networks. New technology is helping hotels become more efficient across the board, especially as the hospitality space is facing a worker shortage, with many struggling to hire bellhops, cleaning staff and other positions. Smarter technology can not only make up for these shortages, but also make overall operations more efficient than before. Things like sensing when a room needs cleaning and having automated robots deliver fresh towels or room service meals to guests can replace employees and keep guests content. Apps that give guests control of their stay – from check-in, to room service – provide the user integration that people have grown accustomed to in the age of smartphones.

The hospitality industry is also not exempt from the push to become more sustainable, and technology plays a role there as well. Automatic lights and air conditioning systems that sense when a room is vacant can cut down on energy costs. This is especially important as the cost of power continues to surge. Yet all these new technologies put additional strain on bandwidth.

How we are building the hotels of tomorrow

Corning is helping the hospitality industry embrace the future, through both our collaboration with the Hotel of Tomorrow® Project and working work with individual hoteliers, consultants and ecosystem organizations across the country.

The watchword for the hospitality space is stay adaptable. Companies must develop network architectures that can grow over time to accommodate an ever-increasing demand for faster speeds and more bandwidth without having to rip out walls and affect guest capacity.

One simple solution for this is replacing traditional copper wiring with specialty fiber – something Corning has been leading the industry in for decades. These specialty fibers not only prevent the need to replace network system solutions over time, but also provide an opportunity to introduce new technologies more seamlessly.

Another question hospitality leaders tend to ask is whether to invest in stronger Wi-Fi solutions or more reliable cellular service, but the reality is that guests will demand both.  Some guests may want to plug into the hotel’s public network while others will rely on their own cellular data. By reinforcing both, hotels can meet the needs of all guests and keep people connected.

A critical moment for connectivity in hospitality

COVID has drastically changed the hospitality landscape and underscored the dramatic need to improve connectivity as remote work and video conferencing becomes ever more commonplace. For hotel companies, they face the critical task of keeping guests satisfied while also building out for the future. Even as business travel returns and in-person conferences resume, remote options will stay with us. COVID expedited the digital transformation in hospitality, moving up the timetable and forcing industry leaders to act now or be left behind.

Innovation will be key for hotels moving forward. It is not just a matter of introducing new technology, but smarter technology that makes the guest experience better. These tech solutions also show that hotels are listening to their guests and finding ways to improve the experience with each visit – and Corning’s connectivity solutions can support it all.

Jessica Janis is the Business Development Director of Sports & Entertainment at Corning Optical Communications.  Jessica focuses on expanding the adoption of future-ready infrastructure in Hospitality, Sports, Entertainment and other large public venue environments.  After spending 15 years in various telecommunications and technology consulting and sales positions, her passion for connecting people and their devices led her to Corning, where she accelerated next-generation connectivity efforts in the Western U.S.  Her current role is a vertically focused, national role in Market Development working with hotels, stadiums, arenas, convention centers and large multi-use developments.  In addition to sitting on the Vendor Advisory Council for HTNG / AHLA, she also sits on the Advisory Board for The Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission (LASEC), a non-profit organization officially designated by Los Angeles Tourism to attract, secure and support high-profile sports and entertainment events in Los Angeles.

Jessica holds a BA in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University.