IT’s capex challenge — and its consequences

All major hotel groups are experimenting with smart rooms, more and better services for the guest, new apps for in-house communication and more. IoT (Internet of Things) is about to enter the hospitality business.

Robots take over room service, check in and check out guests, and will be doing much more in the future. Mattresses give notice when they require replacement. The room temperature and lighting scenes are set to your preferred setting before you enter your room because the system recognizes you as a regular guest and “remembers” your preferences. These are only a few examples of guest-related items. For back of the house, there are many more applications already existing or in development.

Fully automated reception at the Henn-na hotel in Japan
Fully automated reception at the Henn-na hotel in Japan

These are only a few examples. Today I do not want to write about what can be done or what services will be provided in the future. Whether robots are the true future of the hospitality business or if guests still will prefer to communicate with human beings or not are topics for numerous other blogs.

The concepts and services mentioned above require that existing, but separate, IT systems such as BMS and PMS are connected to each other using cloud technology. Security and data protection are extremely important, but they also are not the topic of this blog.

What all these developments have in common are increasing requirements for the IT infrastructure. The data volume, which has to be handled today already, brings older systems to their limits. The data flow to and from rooms to central units is handled today by P2P CAT cabling. IT experts tell us that these networks will be the bottleneck in future systems. GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) will be able to serve these requirements.

The consequences are huge investments in upgrading and replacing existing networks. Experts estimate that investments in networks in 2021 will be three times the amount spent in 2017. When we talk about replacing networks, we have to think not only about exchanging cables but also related building work caused by the opening and closing of ceilings and shafts. Owners and operators will face huge costs and have to work out who is paying for it and how the spent money is returned. As it will be only slightly possible to increase revenues by these developments – as a matter of fact, the market will require them – the savings can and will only be achieved by reducing human labor force.