Navigating the next frontier of hospitality with smart video

As focus on traveller safety and enhanced customer experience comes to the fore, hotels can turn to video analytics for insights to guide their decisions, says Benjamin Low, vice president, Asia Pacific, Milestone Systems

Like me, most Singaporeans will be looking forward to the reopening of borders. As a tourist or traveller, the question on most of our minds would be, “am I going to be safe from Covid-19 while traveling?”

On the business end, will the ability to juggle absolute safety and maintain a seamless customer experience mean big investments for the already suffering hospitality sector?

An unlikely hero that can support the industry’s transformation is video and video technologies. An open platform Video Management System (VMS) is the software for video, that enables users to capture, record, view and analyse video from their network of cameras as well as integrate a range of various smart software capabilities on a single unified platform. This intelligent software is cost-effective and not only improves safety and security standards, but also enhances service quality for guests.

Major players like Marriott and Hyatt hotel groups have already incorporated the VMS into operations, enabling increased visibility across the premises, reassuring guests of a higher standard of security.

What many do not realise is that the VMS provides a flexible infrastructure for these businesses to do more in their decision making, beyond just security applications. Video analytics enables hotels to gather insights based on key demographics or preferences to enhance their personalised services, resulting in improved client satisfaction and eventually, loyalty.

Assuring security as part of the customer experience
Security has outgrown legacy closed-circuit television (CCTV) technologies. Smart video capabilities such as facial recognition and video analytics, provide hoteliers with active assets to prepare for the safe reopening of the industry.

With the pandemic still ongoing, many hotels in Singapore have been requisitioned as government quarantine facilities to combat the spread of Covid-19. These facilities must abide by strict infection prevention and security protocols to ensure the safety and security of quarantined individuals.

To aid with increasing security requirements, video assets can be enhanced with motion detection and video analytics capabilities. The system enables security teams to monitor crowd capacity in common areas, and ensure guests under quarantine do not risk their safety, and the safety of others, by leaving designated quarantine zones.

Solutions to safeguard privacy
There are of course no-go areas for cameras, such as guestrooms, but for common areas, there are innovative solutions that safeguard guests’ privacy on camera. Privacy masking software replaces moving objects captured on live or recorded videos with silhouettes ensuring privacy-sensitive monitoring and absolute personal data protection. Privacy masking is applied to the video and can be integrated with other analytics so that viewers only see a blurred silhouette.

The system extracts only metadata from video footage that is critical for necessities, such as crowd control. However, this can also be adjusted for high-risk zones (i.e., quarantine zones or restricted areas).

Adding value to customer service
While video technology’s most direct use is to ensure the safety and security of guests, staff and critical assets, there is tremendous potential for video in customer service.

Guests would expect to be greeted by friendly staff at the lobby and guided to their rooms. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made it impossible to return to the same standards of service in pre-Covid times. These days, guests are more likely to encounter a crowded lobby filled with masked strangers, while hotel staff would struggle to manage and provide quality service.

Swissotel the Stamford and Grand Park City Hall have both successfully implemented self-check-in kiosks. Placed at their lobbies and equipped with facial recognition software, guest’s waiting time was reduced by up to 70 per cent, allowing guests more time to enjoy their stay. This implementation also safeguards hotel staff by reducing physical contact at the reception desk.

Facial recognition software is also able to identify guests with their masks on and can attach the assigned room number to each guest, providing a quick and hassle-free experience for everyone involved. It can also be combined with access capabilities to provide a more personalised experience allowing guests to gain access to their rooms by simply standing by the door instead using a key card.

This technology is also adapted for License Plate Recognition (LPR) – guests or VIPs can gain access to parking facilities without lifting a finger. This also ensures suspicious vehicles are not given access and parking spaces are optimised for authorised vehicles.

What’s next for video?
There are many benefits and possibilities that the VMS can provide, with the integration of data analytics, AI, and IoT devices. Decision makers now have the freedom to leverage emerging technologies beyond security.

The hospitality industry needs to accelerate digital transformation for long-term recovery, or risk customer abandonment and falling further behind. As a first step, the VMS empowers these businesses by combining infrastructure and digital applications across the enterprise into a single, customised touchpoint.

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