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Hospitality safety: risks, rising pressure and technology solutions

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Staff safety has always been essential in the world of hospitality, but providing it today is both more necessary and more challenging than ever. At the same time, the pandemic has changed operating models at hospitality organizations in fundamental ways—some of which may raise risks to staff.

Regulatory constraints are also growing. And in the wake of COVID-19, many hospitality companies must do more with less: operate more efficiently while enhancing staff well-being and the guest experience.

It’s possible to balance all these priorities with the help of technology. But hospitality companies will need a thoughtful approach. The best solution will not require a heavy upfront investment. It will, however, offer a platform that can also support other applications to cut costs or increase revenue.

Indoor Geolocation Platform

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PwC’s Indoor Geolocation Platform (IGP) uses leading-edge technology to locate crucial business assets—including employees—within a building in real time.

The pandemic has exacerbated risks and challenges

In the course of their everyday work, hospitality staff have always faced a variety of risks. They might have to deal with unruly patrons, or face a sudden health concern and require immediate medical attention.

Other common risks could include slippery floors or a closet door that slams shut and opens only from the outside. These risks aren’t new, but with COVID-19 sending demand for hotel rooms to historically low levels, resorts are forced to operate with skeleton crews, meaning that the gravity of these risks, and the challenges of addressing them, have changed.

These changes may be here to stay. While PwC analysis forecasts gradually improving occupancy levels, it’s unlikely that staffing levels will return to pre-pandemic levels, even when occupancy does eventually normalize. Hospitality organizations will have learned to operate more efficiently, with a lighter staff footprint, due in part to an increased and improved use of technology.

As facilities operate with lower occupancy and staffing levels, increased instances of employee isolation will likely become the new normal. That may both expose staff to risks more frequently, and make it harder for them to summon help if they need it. If, for example, they were to be confronted by a guest, there would be no guarantee of another employee or patron nearby who could intervene.

At the same time, regulatory pressure is rising for hospitality operating companies to enhance staff safety. Regulators or legislators in states that include New Jersey, Washington and Illinois are now requiring all employees to carry a rapid-response button or a similar mechanism, so staff can more easily call for help. Unions are also demanding the use of these devices. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has made rapid-response buttons part of its pledge to improve safety and security throughout the industry.

Many hospitality stakeholders, including owners, now acknowledge that they need to provide staff with a rapid-response button. Yet many such buttons have constraints that have made companies understandably hesitant to deploy them.

The limitations of rapid-response buttons

  • Most geolocation technologies rely on in-room beacons, which cost time and money to install and maintain. Beacons can also reduce overall reliability. 
  • Nearly all button-and-beacon systems rely on WiFi connectivity to communicate to the response team, and a device that moves up and down hallways and floors often loses its connection to the network. 
  • These systems are point solutions only, used exclusively for a housekeeper button application. They don’t enable any additional value for the facility. 

In light of these constraints, many hospitality companies are considering more accurate, reliable, scalable options.

IoT to the rescue

PwC Connected Solutions’ Indoor Geolocation Platform (IGP)—which includes rapid-response buttons—was designed in collaboration with leading hospitality brands to avoid the constraints described above. 

Using innovative Internet of Things (IoT) technology, IGP doesn’t need beacons or in-room infrastructure to provide accurate, reliable location services. And instead of using hotel WiFi for connectivity, IGP deploys its own IoT network, with one small antenna for every three or four floors. No pairing to the network is required and the coverage area is controlled to ensure the network meets reliability requirements.

These innovations have made IGP one of the most reliable solutions on the market, trusted and approved for deployment by the majority of leading hospitality and gaming brands. The power of the platform approach is helping hotels and casinos do more with less, while better adapting to a pandemic-altered reality. 

Of the dozens of IoT applications being deployed in hospitality, the following four technologies are recording the biggest impact:

Asset trackers

The same technology that tracks rapid response buttons can also track other assets. The next time a guest calls for a cot, a housekeeping manager can locate the nearest one through an asset-tracking dashboard instead of scouring the facility to find one.

Meter reader

Overburdened engineering teams will no longer need to manually check multiple utility meter readings and type the data into a tracking system. Instead, a team member can access a utility monitoring dashboard to see all current readings at once.

Door sensors

Security teams will not need to walk around the outside of a building to secure back-of-house entry points. With an IoT platform, they can pull up a door-monitoring dashboard, check if each door is open or shut, then confirm that no unwelcome entrants have triggered alerts.

Temperature gauges

Food and beverage managers currently spend valuable time checking and manually recording freezer temperatures throughout the day. With an IoT platform they can get real-time notifications of changes above or below customized thresholds, through sensors that communicate on the IoT network.

Looking ahead

Hospitality has experienced a raft of pandemic-induced challenges, including the safety of its staff. As the industry moves to address these challenges, the best solutions also offer an opportunity—to use the investment in these technologies as a foundation for doing more with less. PwC’s IGP is more than a reliable technology for rapid-response buttons, and its platform approach can also deliver a range of operational benefits.

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Contact us

Scott Berman

US Hospitality & Leisure Practice Leader, PwC US

Alec Massey

Partner, Connected Solutions, PwC US

Darin Yug

US Hospitality & Gaming Advisory Lead, PwC US