"Understanding user needs — that is the key."
—Iftekhar Khan, IT director, Eaton Chelsea Hotel
AV Technology Editors: How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?
Iftekhar Khan: In our environment, we have yet to achieve this, and are behind in our infrastructure. My goal in joining the Eaton Chelsea Hotel as the new IT director is to bring this to par.
What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?
Iftekhar Khan: The more plug-and-play a room is, the less likely we are to get a call, to have to send a tech to each room to set up for meetings, or staff up the help desk to field calls.
To maximize ROI, our AV is completely outsourced to Freeman AV Canada for all our meeting spaces. We look for AV/IT solutions that are intuitive and flexible. That’s the goal.
With regards to guest rooms, it is very straightforward. It’s either Cable or WiFi, and our team here is very capable of assisting our guests. Alternatively, we have Data Valet for all Internet-related issues to assist our guests further. We have not installed any media hubs.
What types of new tech or products do you want to learn more about?
Iftekhar Khan: Applications integrating with each other seamlessly in real time. More personalized to the property and loyal customers, whether on Android or IOS.
What AV/IT gear do you hope to buy in the near future?
Iftekhar Khan: Guest expectations are changing the travel and hospitality industry. Today’s travelers count on customized services long before they board the plane or arrive at the hotel.
For example, your smart device is already registered with the hotel or hotel chain. You walk into the front door of the hotel and there are sensors by the entrance/exit.
You press the hotel’s “app” that is on your mobile device: You have now checked into the hotel, without going to the front desk. The hotel’s system sends your smart device an arrival confirmation along your new room number.
When you reach your room, the app opens the door using NFC. “Look ma, no keys needed!”
The door security device registers your arrival time along with the device’s ID info. In the meantime, the HVAC system now sets the temperature of your assigned room to the temperature from your profile.
Housekeeping and the concierge are notified. Your profile’s requests for beverages and fruit are in the process of being delivered. The special bedding and bathrobe arrives. The HDTV set has been turned on to your favorite channel and all of the TV channels have been changed to the lineup of your specifications.
You touch a low voltage switch and the shower/bath is set to run the water at your pre-requested temperature. But you change your mind because the hotel’s spa has sent a message to your HDTV, or the room’s IP phone, or your smart device that they are running a special on a massage of your choice. Your same smartphone/device accepts the invitation of a one-hour massage at the spa.
Where are tech manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?
Iftekhar Khan: There is a lot going on, and, with respect to privacy laws, there is always a restriction how far one can go. Some companies have a vision but don’t deliver on time, as doing so is complex.
What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration? What are your collaboration strategies?
Iftekhar Khan: Communication is big. Deliverables is second. Understanding user needs — that is the key.
I try to be as transparent I can in my requirements to my vendors, have regular communication regarding new with them and how can we be a part of their evolution; try and be the leader rather than follower, and always keep current with what’s happening with technology in hospitality.