The widening spread of wireless became clear last month when Wi-Fi hospitality solutions provider StayOnline held the first North American WiFi Symposium, drawing more than 70 lodging industry leaders for discussions about the future of wirelessly enabled applications and mobility computing in the travel industry.

Most speakers said hospitality is in one of the best positions of any industry to leverage wireless technology, according to a StayOnline news release.

“Airports, restaurants, hotels and resorts are becoming virtual mini-cities,“ said Jim Bailey, InterContinental Hotel Group's director of hotel technology and services. “Travelers…are driving the need for every segment of the hospitality industry to adopt and offer wireless capabilities so that seamless communications while they are on the road can be maintained with their home or office networks or the world at large.“

Among the technologies demonstrated and discussed: a voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system worn on a lanyard around the neck that enables communication over a hotel's wireless network and a GPS system using handheld devices that could facilitate golf at Sandestin, the Florida resort that hosted the conference.

Other Wi-Fi developments of the past few months include:

  • A pact between Wi-Fi provider Wayport and wireless carrier Cingular to give Cingular customers access to select Wayport hot spots in hundreds of hotels and airports.

  • A $4-million renovation of New York's Algonquin Hotel, including Wi-Fi in the lobby and etiquette rules such as muted laptop volume, cell phones on vibrate and discretion in web surfing.

  • A JiWire survey showing hotels and resorts now offer more Wi-Fi access via hot spots than other types of locations. The Wi-Fi content provider says more than 5,000 U.S. hotels and resorts offer Wi-Fi; worldwide, more than 16,000 such sites offer it. Just last August, only 9,000 did.

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