Smart Data for Dumb Buildings

Lower Utility Expenses and Higher Efficiency Without New Hardware

By Shannon Sentman Chief Executive Officer & Founder, SOL VISTA | May 21, 2017

One-time efforts typically start with a building assessment and sometimes move forward to actual implementation of high return on investment measures. Often, they just end with a thick building assessment sitting on a desk somewhere for further consideration at a “later date.”

Although such an initial step is worthwhile for any hotel with the resources and intent to follow through, implementing an effective strategy to better manage a hotel’s utility expenses on an ongoing basis will lead to continuous cost reductions with little upfront or ongoing investment. Implementing such a strategy works by leveraging a building’s historic data to glean insights into its current performance. These insights are the foundation for flagging issues as they arise, determining their cause, and directing actions to resolve them. Many low-cost software platforms offered today provide both the required data aggregation and analytics to successfully implement such a strategy.

Tapping into Available Data

  • Energy and Water - Effective management of utility expenses typically does not require the level of visibility afforded by retrofitting an existing hotel with hardware to provide ready access to real-time meter data. Although real-time data can prove beneficial – especially when a knowledgeable, experienced engineering team is in place to proactively address issues as they arise – good old-fashioned data sources coupled with advanced analytics will provide a much better return on investment.

    Adequate visibility into utility consumption is achievable from two existing sources: a hotel’s utility bills and its meters and submeters. Although data are available to almost all hotels from these sources, implementing a strategy to leverage the sources may require additional staff time. Available software tools can significantly mitigate ( or even eliminate ) these additional time requirements in several ways, including providing interfaces to simplify logging meter reads into a centralized data hub and automating the aggregation of utility bill data. Although a strategy that incorporates either of these data sources could be effective, combining the two offers the biggest benefit.

    Examining ongoing utility bill data expands visibility beyond just consumption, enabling consideration of the actual utility costs. This cost consideration is an important missing piece from any strategy that relies solely on real-time metering hardware. With adequate expertise, the inclusion of ongoing cost data bolsters a strategy with more than simply cutting utility consumption, focusing instead on cutting utility costs. This may include understanding time-of-use rates for various utilities and scheduling loads accordingly. Such a strategy may not actually reduce utility consumption at all, while decreasing costs significantly.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.