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Ruckus Wireless IoT Strategy Draws on Its Hotel Experience

In hotels, the networking company adopts an IoT strategy that seeks to simplify connectivity for everything from door locks to panic buttons.  

It’s nothing new that companies in the IoT market have stressed the importance of providing solutions. But too often, the solution in question requires other technologies to make it work. For instance, a hotel wanting to upgrade its locks may find an IoT-based door-lock “solution” but then need to install a new network — perhaps Zigbee or BLE — to support it. That might require buying new networking gear including switches, new cabling and IoT hubs. The same general challenge extends across many sectors as some vendors focus more on individual IoT SKUs than they do on an overarching IoT strategy that looks to streamline whenever possible.

The networking firm Ruckus Networks’ approach to deal with this challenge is to limit the focus of its IoT strategy to a handful of vertical markets “partnering with companies where their use cases already resonate,” said Greg Beach, vice president of wireless products at Ruckus Networks. “People have been talking about IoT for about 10 years now — calling it different things like the  ‘Internet of Everything’ for example,” Beach said. “We’re taking a fairly narrow view of it. We’re keeping it business oriented.” And when it comes to deploying its technology for IoT applications, it seeks to simplify whenever possible. That orientation is evident in, Ruckus IoT Suite, an IoT access network technology that integrates multiple, physical-layer networks.

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One example of Ruckus’s partners in the IoT space is lock giant Assa Abloy. Ruckus offers technologies to support the company’s wireless smart locks for hospitality applications. Examples include Assa Abloy’s Visionline product line. The Visionline products, which rely on Zigbee for communication, support remote guest card and master card cancellation. Ruckus offers networking infrastructure that unifies Zigbee and Wi-Fi networking, avoiding the need for a separate Zigbee hub and network.

At present, Ruckus states that 70 percent of the hospitality market uses its Wi-Fi technology for guest access.

Ruckus executives say they’re optimistic the IoT market in the hospitality sector could get a further boost from prominent hotels deciding to give their workers panic buttons, enabling housekeepers, for instance, to signal for help when attacked while in a guest room. Earlier this year, executives from Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, Wyndham and the American Hotel & Lodging Association announced their intent to rollout a total of 18,000 panic buttons by 2020. The pressure for hotels to deploy such panic buttons has been building in recent years, thanks in part to a string of headlines involving hotel housekeepers who were sexually assaulted or attacked while in guests’ rooms. And in 2016, a hotel employee died after getting locked into a walk-in freezer.  

Although time will tell whether the hotels hit that goal within two years, the prospect of prominent hotel chains redefining their network to include panic buttons could spark a “land rush” of panic-button technologies from vendors, according to Mark Grodzinsky, senior director and general manager, IoT at Ruckus Networks. “I think BLE is probably best positioned,” he said.

The prospect of hotels rethinking their networks to accommodate panic buttons could create a foundation for hotels to deploy new IoT-related technology related to building monitoring and other applications. “From the perspective of IoT in hotels, the mandate for panic buttons has a ton of potential,” Beach said.

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