In a 2016 survey of Chicago hotel workers, 58 percent said they’d been sexually harassed by guests. A year later, the city enacted an ordinance requiring hotels to provide employees who work alone with a portable panic button they can hit when they feel threatened or in danger.
Similar ordinances are proposed or in effect for cities such as Las Vegas, Rancho Palos Verdes and Seattle. Meanwhile, New York City is an example of how unions also are successfully negotiating for wearable panic buttons.
The bottom line: Whether the motivation is laws, union contracts or attracting and retaining quality employees, hotels are increasingly investing in lone-worker security solutions. So are businesses in many other verticals, such as retail, transportation and healthcare. These real-time location technologies provide another great example of how digital transformation technologies are improving business operations in ways that have a real impact.
Instant Alerts and Seamless Coverage
To understand how these real-time location solutions work, take the example of Piper Networks’ SecureStaff, which consists of three components:
- A rechargeable, credit-card-size device that employees tuck into their pocket. When they’re in danger or injured, they press the button on the card.
- Beacons installed in guest rooms and/or hallways detect the alert and relay it to a gateway. The beacons use batteries, which last about five years, thus eliminating the expense of pulling electric to each one. This design also enables more installation flexibility, such as putting beacons in stairwells to ensure seamless coverage throughout a property.
- The gateways use cellular, Wi-Fi or Power over Ethernet (PoE) to connect to a dashboard-style interface, where hotel security staff see the employee’s location on a floorplan. The hotel also has the option of configuring the gateways so they trigger audible and/or visual alarms on that floor at the same time the alert is sent to security.
SecureStaff uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and ultrawideband (UWB) to connect the employee devices, beacons and gateways. Those technologies have several benefits, including very low power consumption to maximize battery life, and inherent location capabilities that can pinpoint an employee to an area as small as 5 cm.
Why not piggyback on the hotel’s wireless LAN or have employees use their mobile phone to get help? WLANs typically are loaded with traffic, which could delay an alert. Cellular and WLANs also have poor or no coverage in many areas, such as basements and stairwells. But with BLE and UWB, and the battery-powered beacons, the hotel effectively gets a dedicated security network that can be customized to blanket every square foot.
Track High-Value Assets, Too
SecureStaff also is an example of how worker-safety solutions can be extended to additional applications. Suppose a hospital or senior living facility installs the system to ensure that nurses, patients and residents can always get help when they need it. The beacons also could connect to electronic tags affixed to high-value assets such as patient monitors. If an asset is detected on a floor where it shouldn’t be, the system could alert staff that someone might be trying to steal it.
Knowing exactly where each asset is at any given time also makes it easy for staff to find what they need when they need it. In addition, this location data can then be fed into a database to help the facility understand whether it needs more of a particular asset or whether they just need to be better allocated. Either way, it’s one more example of how real-time location solutions can safeguard both employees and the bottom line.