New Help for Old Buildings

Older properties can have charm, history and ambience. But one thing they often lack is a cable- and Wi-Fi-friendly infrastructure.

As one exasperated general manager says, “We have some rooms that never get a good Wi-Fi signal, no matter what we do. We've had technicians over and over to tinker with it, but they still can't get it to work in certain places in the building. We consistently have to apologize and move Internet-dependent guests out of some guestrooms. And on nights we have no additional rooms with good access, we end up compensating those guests. I don't know that we'll ever solve the problem.”

In many older properties, these woes are not confined to guestrooms. Public spaces, too, can have “dead zones” where Wi-Fi signals are difficult or impossible to transmit and aesthetic considerations prevent installation of an Ethernet jack. Imagine a client showing up for a banquet function with a notebook computer ready to do on-line check-in for the group's event, only to discover the event booked in a banquet room lacking Internet access — either by patch cord or Wi-Fi.

Take heart. There are options for solving those issues and bringing reliable Internet access to those difficult areas.

Wireless Wall Outlets

If Ethernet cables are already in place to those areas — or if they are accessible with a new Ethernet cable — an in-room wireless access point can provide a Wi-Fi solution. However, be sure that you choose wireless devices consistent with devices already operating your wireless network.

For example, if you already have an Aruba wireless network (www.arubanetworks.com), wall-mount Wi-Jack Duo wireless wall outlets by Ortronics/Legrand (www.ortronics.com) are the smallest and least obtrusive such access points on the market. They come in molded enclosures that mount discreetly in a standard single-gang wall outlet in both guestroom and public area. It connects to a building's existing structured cabling infrastructure with a standard 110 termination and is available in two versions: one with just a wireless access point and the other with an embedded 10/100 Ethernet port for network devices such as printers, security cameras and laptop computers.

The wireless wall outlets use Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology, so the network will require PoE injectors in the telecommunications room to function. According to Ortronics, “The Wi-Jack Duo is a cost-effective option for any new or retrofit wireless LAN deployment.” Any general manager will agree that that cost pales compared to that of refunded guestrooms and disgruntled guests.

Under-Carpet Cable

If you have a dead zone where you cannot install a standard Ethernet cable, consider under-carpet cable. For example, Hitachi Cable Manchester (www.hcm.hitachi.com) makes a thin Cat 5e similar in size to a flexible plastic ruler (1/8” x 1-3/8”) and designed to function effectively but unnoticed under carpet squares or rolled carpet in commercial or residential applications. The “wings” of the cable can be peeled off if it needs to pass through conduit or fish down a hollow wall for part of its run. Similarly, Video Products Inc. (www.vpi.us) makes a super flat cable (1/16” x 1/3”), available on spools or in pre-molded patch cords. These Cat 5e cables are ideal for hiding under carpets, running along cramped front desks, or installing in guest- or food-service areas where unsightly exposed cables or patch cords won't do.

FlatWire

Finally, another potential lifesaver for a network-unfriendly building is the Cat 5e cable from FlatWire Technologies (www.flatwireready.com). When installed properly, FlatWire Ready s wire products are almost impossible to detect by sight or touch, allowing cables to be invisibly mounted onto wall surfaces to previously unreachable locations.

The FlatWire cable is 8/1000 of an inch — thinner than a business card. Once attached to the wall, it is covered with a mesh tape and then a concealing compound; when that dries and is sanded, it can be painted or wallpapered to become virtually invisible.

The current product line includes a two-pair Cat 5e Ethernet (10/100Mbps) cabling kit that includes custom termination devices for each end of the FlatWire data cable. However, be aware that this may be a better option for providing an Ethernet network jack than a wireless wall outlet; FlatWire reports that it has not yet tested the cable for PoE (but plans are in the works); currently, cross-connection to a wireless access point may be difficult, even impossible. But FlatWire may still be an excellent way to provide an Ethernet outlet in a previously unreachable location in an older hotel.

FlatWire Ready products can even be installed over textured surfaces. For example, if installing FlatWire Ready products on a textured ceiling, the first step is to clear a path through the textured surface. Next, attach the wire along the path. Finally, use a store-bought textured ceiling repair kit and apply to cover the wire's path. When complete, the installation is unnoticeable.

These are four products that need to be in your arsenal as you try to coax computer network functionality out of your charming — and occasionally infuriating — older facility.


Russ Munyan is a freelance business and technology writer in Olathe, KS. Reach him at www.russwrites.com.

ADVERTISERS ARE PRINTED IN RED

For company listings, see directory on pages 60-68

TELE-COMMUNICATIONS
Wiring and cabling Automatic wakeup Answer detection Call accounting Fax server Paging Telephony server interface Voice mail Wireless intercom Two-way radios Telephones Cordless telephones Cellular telephones Guestroom Internet services Prepaid telephone cards Time/temperature/weather Voice recognition Voice-over IP-ready Unified messaging Telephone switch/equipment DID server VOIP phones
Amerisafe Industries — Circle 131
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BluFi Wireless — Circle 135
Cisco Systems — Circle 139
Colubris Networks — Circle 140
EthoStream — Circle 144
Extenway Solutions — Circle 145
Fire2Wire — Circle 146
Hospitality Leasing — Circle 154
iBAHN — Circle 158
Inn-Client Server Systems — Circle 162
InnFlux — Circle 163
INNCOM International — Circle 164
Janus Digital Display — Circle 169
Keylink Solutions — Circle 171
LodgeNet Entertainment — Circle 175
Lorica Solutions — Circle 178
Metropolis Technologies — Circle 179
PhoneSuite — Circle 197
RedSky IT — Circle 203
RoomLinX — Circle 205
Safety NetAccess — Circle 207
Teledex — Circle 216
TeleMatrix — Circle 231
Telkonet — Circle 217
Toner Cable — Circle 221
Wayport — Circle 228

ADVERTISERS ARE PRINTED IN RED

For company listings, see directory on pages 60-68

WEB MANAGEMENT
Website design Website maintenance Website analysis Search engine optimization Distribution channel management Data mining Linkage management E-mail list services E-mail campaign management Booking engine development Pay-per-click campaign management
Agilysys — Circle 128
AltiusPAR — Circle 129
Amadeus — Circle 130
Aptech Computer Systems — Circle 133
Fire2Wire — Circle 146
IDT Group — Circle 159
infoUSA — Circle 161
InnFlux — Circle 63
innRoad — Circle 166
Keylink Solutions — Circle 171
Lodging Interactive — Circle 176
Multimap — Circle 185
Multi-Systems Inc. — Circle 186
Newmaket International — Circle 187
Northwind Maestro — Circle 188
Passkey — Circle 193
Pegasus Solutions — Circle 195
ProfitSword — Circle 200
RedSky IT — Circle 203
Safety NetAccess — Circle 207
Sceptre Hospitality Resources — Circle 209
SoftBrands — Circle 212
SynXis — Circle 215
Thinix — Circle 218
Topaz Hotel Services — Circle 222
TravelCLICK — Circle 223

ADVERTISERS ARE PRINTED IN RED

For company listings, see directory on pages 60-68

INTERNET TECHNOLOGY
High-speed Internet access via CAT5 High-speed Internet access via xDSL, HPNA or similar High-speed Internet access via wireless Integrated voice/data lines Proprietary ISP PMS interface High-speed Internet via CAT3 Participation in a wireless roaming network Bandwidth shaping tools Intrusion detection services
AltiusPAR — Circle 129
Centrada Solutions — Circle 138
Colubris Networks — Circle 140
EthoStream — Circle 144
Extenway Solutions — Circle 145
Fire2Wire — Circle 146
GoConcierge — Circle 148
Hospitality Leasing — Circle 154
iBAHN — Circle 158
InnFlux — Circle 163
Keylink Solutions — Circle 171
LodgeNet Entertainment — Circle 175
Lorica Solutions — Circle 178
Mintek Mobile Data — Circle 182
Multi-Systems Inc. — Circle 186
NxTV — Circle 190
Pegasus Solutions — Circle 195
RedSky IT — Circle 203
RoomLinX — Circle 205
Safety NetAccess — Circle 207
Swisscom Hospitality Services — Circle 214
Teledex — Circle 216
Telkonet — Circle 217
Thinix — Circle 218
Wayport — Circle 228

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