How Security Integrators Can Break Into the Hospitality Vertical

Thinking about a long-term stay in the hospitality vertical? We welcome integration guests to the budgetary concerns, technology opportunities, cabling challenges and other requests to meet being this market’s technology concierge.

Hotels are one of the most challenging vertical markets to secure and safeguard, but also one of the most lucrative. Establishing a relationship with a national or international chain could potentially anchor a security integrator’s business for years to come.

Here we check in on the demands and requirements of this sector, and glean some advice from both the integrator and manufacturer sides regarding what’s needed to meet them.

A sidebar takes a look at a particularly demanding sub-set of the hospitality industry, the casino market, and what’s required to score some potentially big paydays.

Property Size, Aesthetics Play Role

Surveillance Systems Inc. (SSI), a specialist in the design and installation of networked video, has been serving the hotel/hospitality sector since the firm’s inception in 2002.

Todd Flowers, president of the Rocklin, Calif.-based company, has amassed a client roster that boasts some of the world’s most renowned names in hospitality – from the Hilton Grand to the Four Seasons, the Wynn to the Hyatt Regency, Polar Towers to Caesar’s Palace.

And while it’s proven a most lucrative line of business for SSI, Flowers notes that the technology solutions and applications that are most requested are almost always also driven by budgets.

“Often it depends on the size and how nice of a property it is,” he says. Smaller hotels, in particular, usually want the most bang for their security budget bucks. Some of the grander-scale properties SSI works with, however, like Four Seasons and Polar Towers, are also a timeshare/ hotel combo or an owner/hotel combo, so they present different opportunities and requests for higher end technologies.

“They’re always looking for high res IP video in the lobby and valet areas,” Flowers notes. “There are often very nice cars coming through, so they want a solid check of the vehicles. However, for aesthetic reasons, they also don’t want to have too many cameras around.”

Video analytics is a hot commodity in hotel security these days, Flowers notes, explaining that providing analytics for people counting in the lobby and LPR (license plate recognition) in the valet area is becoming more desired.

The areas of a hotel property that he believes are most vulnerable to security issues are anywhere there’s an entrance or exit.

“A lot of times these properties will have multiple access points,” he says, “so they will always have a camera in the lobby and, for nicer properties, in the valet, the elevators and the elevator waiting areas on every floor. And, depending on the budget, they’ll cover the hallways, too.”

Getting into the hospitality vertical

Overcoming Obstacles of Wire Work

While everyone would love to do business with clients like Hilton or Four Seasons, Flowers says it’s very competitive and the budgets are usually very tight. He reiterates that they want to stretch them as much as possible, and finds that some of the issues on the installation side are not as straightforward as working in an office complex, for instance.

“In an office, you have an open ceiling, so it’s easy to pull wire,” he explains. “But, it’s hard in a hotel because it’s multistory. There’s limited space between the ceiling and floor above you and it’s typically not accessible.”

Oftentimes, this means having to cut into the sheetrock and run cable in a 12-inch area. This requires painting and patchwork and can get expensive.

“When we’re lucky enough to be working on an original construction where everything is open, it’s easy to run cable. And, many times they want to add cameras in an older property, so an integrator needs to understand how to use the existing cable,” Flowers says. “It’s old cable vs. coax cable and if there’s a lot of it there, will you be able to use that coax and still run IP video over it? Sometimes you can, but you run into issues with where your access points are.”

A crucial component to keeping a job like this profitable, Flowers cautions, is making sure you have a very experienced person estimating and quoting the project. Otherwise, lost time like this can be a real risk to the integrator.

Importance of Being True Integration Partner

Sometimes keeping the complex simple is the smartest way to go. Matthew Mrowczynski, V.P. Global Hospitality for Salto Systems, has been working with access control and electronic locking systems within the hospitality industry since 1993.

He joined Salto, an access control system provider that maintains a Salto Hospitality division among its portfolio, in 2010 and notes that hospitality market end users are realizing there are now a lot of system integration supplier partners and interoperability needs to meet.

“Hotel guests now want to be able to communicate and use their keys for their charges, and their check-in, and energy management systems, and they want to have it all tied into a network communication,” Mrowczynski says. “So for full-service hotels, it’s now all about the integration with other products. It makes things a lot more efficient and productive to have a seamless integration.

READ: Why Multi-Tenant Structures Are Gold Mines for Integrators

“We’re at a point where if you don’t have a product that integrators with other systems on the property can work with, you’re missing the boat. Technology is so important, and now that the IT directors and CIOs have become very involved as players in this, it’s no longer a simple lock. It’s a system. If a hotel door lock isn’t an access control system, you’re going to miss out.”

Flowers adds that since the cost of video and storage have come down so much, it’s likely someone won’t be watching the video at a hotel all the time. Incidents are typically reviewed post-event, so megapixel quality is definitely preferred. It’s also typical, he says, that customers’ security directors are not experts when it comes to video surveillance, so the system needs to be simple to operate.

“We always offer something with an easy interface they can use to watch the video,” Flowers says. “It has to be easy to use, review, and offload for law enforcement. Using a digital zoom, a simple interface and high res video does the trick no problem.”

Read on to find out how to get started and for tips on getting into the casino game…

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