When the upscale Le Parker Meridien hotel in Manhattan wanted to upgrade its Wi-Fi network, it turned to Samsung Wireless Enterprise Partner Sophos Technologies. Xenofon Gryllakis, managing director, recently discussed the trends he’s seeing in the hospitality market.
Give us an overview of your firm.
Sophos is a technology consulting company and provider of hardware, software and integration systems. We’re based in Watertown, SD, with offices in Illinois, and we serve all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Our network business has been in place for 30-plus years. Sophos was created three years ago as part of our global initiative to focus in the hospitality industry. Our success has been our agility to shift resources as necessary to find solutions for our clients’ needs.
Sophos’ focus on hospitality markets includes hotels, resorts, cruise lines and restaurants. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Global and Sonesta Hotels are among our many hotel clients. Our intent is to incorporate institutional, education and other commercial markets.
What kinds of partners do you work with?
We have more than 100 partners with diverse expertise that we can deploy as needed, from very complex to very simple projects. We have a global network of highly qualified technology professionals, from Ph.D.s and researchers to technical “geeks” who we can deploy on a per-need basis to address any issues, domestically and globally. For example, we can deploy a Ph.D researcher to work on video compression over Wi-Fi networks or an installer to work on an AP installation at a hotel.
We sell Samsung hardware and services annually in the millions of dollars, mostly in the hospitality TV space. When you look at the available systems, Samsung’s Wireless Enterprise solution stands out. It was engineered by network experts who also have deep insight into all the devices.
For example, Samsung offers Wi-Fi-enabled hospitality TVs, cell phones, tablets and laptops, as well as the security and CCTV systems that need to connect to the Wi-Fi network. There is no other manufacturer that has this complete line of products, so they know better than anyone else how to ensure that all those components work seamlessly with one another.
And Samsung are radio network specialists, which means they’ve created a Wi-Fi network that works a lot more like the cellular network. This is important as we are starting to see increasing Voice over IP applications, especially in hotels frequented by business travelers.
What’s prompting hotel owners to upgrade their Wi-Fi?
There are several trends and factors:
- Bandwidth usage continues to climb as more and more devices and systems need to connect to the Internet than ever before. Yesterday’s Wi-Fi network was not designed for today’s bandwidth requirements. The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi networks are specifically engineered to meet today’s capacity and density requirements.
- Most four-star hotels are already doing advanced applications like automatic check in. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to bring even more technology into the hotel. Building and energy management is the first thing that comes to mind. Examples include Wi-Fi-enabled IoT for efficient hotel operation, and customer experience enhancers such as guest rooms with Wi-Fi door locks.
- Wi-Fi has become a competitive issue for today’s four-star hotel. Guests won’t come again if they don’t have a good experience with the Wi-Fi.
- Conference organizers require Wi-Fi tests/certification guaranteeing certain throughput and speeds. Today’s four-star hotel cannot fail at this.
- Guests who participate in the hotel loyalty program expect free Wi-Fi, and they expect it to work well, all over the hotel—no excuses. The occasional guest also often makes decisions on where to stay based on the hotel Wi-Fi.
What are some tips for designing and deploying a hospitality-grade Wi-Fi network?
Have a site survey done by a professional who, given their work in the industry, can help identify requirements you might not have thought of. Most deployments these days are not new builds, which means there are often construction challenges to be addressed. One example is Le Parker Meridien. Even if their backbone wireline network were good quality, there were still problems with the routers/switches, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) between APs.
Have a network engineer design the network. Then buy equipment that meets those design requirements. You might spend a little bit more money up front, but you will save a lot of money later, and you will have satisfied clients.
Use right number of APs. Too few means poor coverage. But too many means EMI, which will decrease data flow instead of increasing it. Also, use proper channel allocation to minimize interference among channels.
Require the installer to provide a post-installation checklist of the delivered performance and coverage. This is your starting base line.
For more information about how Sophos and Samsung transformed Le Parker Meridien’s guest experience with a next-gen Wi-Fi network and more, visit https://secureus.samsung.com/us/system/b2b/resource/2016/11/28/CaseStudy_LeParkerMeridien_20161026.pdf
A video case study is also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAgN5klI5Gg&t=5s/