Whether it is security or building automation, hotel and casino building owners are applying new technology that makes facilities more secure, energy-efficient and competitive. For electrical and low-voltage contractors, the challenge is informing these hospitality-market customers about their options and staying with them until the finished systems operate as they were intended.

The hospitality industry faces a host of challenges. For example, a major shift from analog to digital security cameras is underway in casinos; new hardware must be installed, but the facility also must continue to meet surveillance regulations. Downtime is not an option. The same is happening in hotels. Hoteliers and casino owners also are seeking building automation systems that can be installed seamlessly to work with the existing infrastructure and to power the building’s functions with software set to reduce energy consumption. Finally, for new construction, which has lagged with the ailing economy but is expected to increase in the coming year, decisions about security and automation need to be part of the planning process.

To address all these challenges, a contractor must be able to speak with experience about what a customer may want to adopt, when and what it would be better off without. When it comes to casinos, myriad software options are accelerating the transition from analog to digital, enabling security professionals to recognize illegal behavior faster. Casinos are acquiring more intelligent software in an effort to find a way for technology to meet human behavior and limitations,” said Jeff Voyles, professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Harrah Hotel College. Voyles, once a table games floor supervisor and pit manager, now owns Globalysis, which works with surveillance officers to ensure security of casinos.

Facial recognition software, as well as other biometric software, has become more precise, effective and affordable since the first versions were offered. Therefore, casino operators are becoming more comfortable with implementing these types of software. However, without support from the integrators, the systems are unlikely to be used properly.

“I’ve seen some of the best systems in the world installed, where someone just plugged it in, installed the system and walked away. There’s a learning curve—a six month period where the contractor needs to stay with the customer,” Voyles said, adding that this ensures the system is working as it is intended.

Integration, for example, can be critical. Voyles cited a perpetrator at a major Las Vegas hotel and casino where he once worked, who was stealing women’s purses at the hotel pool, dropping them in wastebaskets in corridors, and then going to the gaming tables to play blackjack. The hotel was able to capture him because it had integrated its surveillance system to cover this very wide area.

“We’re at a tipping point of justifying the cost of these systems,” Voyles said.

The systems are providing a return on investment in just a few years, but properly informing the user of this is vital.

When it comes to automation at these same businesses, many companies are installing wireless systems to accomplish tasks, such as adjusting the hotel room thermostat when the guest checks in and out. In this case, users depend on contractors to explain the system options, said Antonio DiMilia, vice president of hospitality at Control4.

“The perception is that they don’t offer a compelling return on investment today, and the message the contractor can help provide is that that’s no longer the case,” DiMilia said.

The core of Control4’s offering is an energy management system to, for example, use a hotel’s existing building management system to control functions such as lighting.

“Hoteliers want to see they have a way of managing the system easily, often with remote access,” DiMilia said.

In September, Schneider Electric released the CASSIA energy management system, which enables occupancy sensors in each room to control thermostats. These sensors determine whether someone is in the room and then adjusts the thermostat accordingly. The system offers a two-year return on investment, said Kelly Edison, Schneider Electric senior product specialist. For trained personnel, the installation takes about 20 minutes per room and is largely plug-and-play, requiring little training to use.

For contractors, the task is getting an education on the security and automation technology available, and keeping that education current.

“Technology is changing, the costs are coming down, they’re getting easier to install in existing properties, [and] there are lots of compelling reasons to install automation control,” DiMilia said. “Every contractor should get themselves educated.”


SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.