Making Hotels More Secure
While earlier security solutions meant installing a simple CCTV and fire detection systems, requirements of the hospitality sector has changed markedly. Presently there is a growing demand for baggage scanners, crash-rated bollards, under vehicle scanners, high definition IP CCTV cameras and biometrics systems. Hotels also have set up command centres to monitor security.
THE SECURITY solutions market for the hospitality sector has seen changes over the years. While hotels earlier opted for Integrated Building Management Systems (IBMS), they are now installing Integrated Security Solutions (ISS) packages in view of the growing and changing security concerns. The ISS software platform allows faster intelligence gathering, analysis, triggering of alarms in case of emergencies and quicker responses.
While earlier security solutions meant installing a simple CCTV and fire detection systems, requirements of the hospitality sector has changed markedly. Presently there is a growing demand for baggage scanners, crash-rated bollards, under vehicle scanners, high definition IP CCTV cameras and biometrics systems. Hotels also have set up command centres to monitor security. There are major changes taking place in the security infrastructure in hotels, for eg: ITC, Taj and Marriott chain of hotels have been at the forefront of this after 26/11 attack in which the Taj Hotel was attacked.
To cater to the heightened needs of the hospitality sector, there are many products and solutions being developed such as:
- Under vehicle scanning systems with licence plate recognition systems and capturing of drivers’ images
- Crash rated bollards and boom barriers
- Scanning and screening solutions such as baggage scanners, body scanners, doorframe metal detectors and handheld metal detectors
- Internet Protocol (IP) CCTV systems with advanced analytics that include facial detection systems.
- Fire detection and public address systems
- Attendance and access control systems
In the last two decades there has been a rise in terrorist activities/attacks, not only in our country but globally as well. Some of these have been in or around the hospitality industry. Therefore there is an urgent need to upgrade our security measures and solutions. When such attacks occur, causalities are high in number along with losses to properties. However, security solutions catering to the requirements of different points of access are available in the market and these have been adopted by reputed hotel chains such as the Marriott, the ITC and the Taj group.
In order to combat the increasing threat, there are security solutions available in the market. The security solutions offerings begin with pedestrian access and entrance control access. Strategically placed high definition IP CCTV cameras provide real time data about pedestrians around the hotel entrance. Vehicles are also screened at the entrance using under vehicle scanners. The crash-rated bollards then retract and the boom barrier goes up, which allows the vehicle entry.
Once the guests reach the hotel lobby, they have to get their luggage screened by baggage scanners. They also have to enter through door frame metal detectors. IP CCTV systems and analytics within the hotel can help keep a tab on baggage which have been forgotten or abandoned.
The current offline verification system during the check-in process can be subverted through the use of fake documents. Hotels can plug the loopholes by installing Aadhar-based biometric systems for online verification of guests. The Indian government has already proposed similar systems at the country’s airports. Access control systems usually include smart cards which are integrated with the elevators and the guests’ rooms, and allow guests access only to the floor on which their room is situated. The fire detection and public address systems in the rooms and passages are integrated these days to cater to any kind of emergency.
Key challenges for installing security systems
Hotels have their priorities and need to balance them accordingly. Budget allocation many times determines the security requirements and specifications. When we have discussions with the hotels’ security officers, they express interest for equipment that is necessary for optimal security of the establishment. However, at the approval stage, the specifications tend to get diluted or the staff is made to do with bare minimum equipment. For example, hotels opt for regular bollards if they have budget constraints instead of crash-rated bollards which are costlier.
Another area where hotels often try to cut corners concerns the storage of footage from CCTV cameras. While the law enforcement agencies generally ask for it to be retained for 60 or 90 days, storing the footage for that period entails costs. So some hotels retain footage only for 15 days which is a low cost proposition. Another option for hotels is to procure equipment in phases or opt for upgrades afterwards.
Strategies, guidelines and policy framework
Unlike in the developed countries, periodic security audits are a rarity in India. To ensure optimal security, audits by third-party agencies every two years should be made mandatory and the results should be linked to the hotel’s star rating. To ensure hotels invest and maintain adequate security, a security no-objection certificate (NOC) from the police should also be made mandatory like that from the fire brigade. Inspections are regularly carried out at hotels abroad as they are linked to their insurance cover. However, this is not a very prevalent practice in India. The Taj, the ITC, and the Marriott group of hotels have implemented integrated security systems and also keep periodically upgrading their systems.
Suggestions for implementing hotel security projects
Hotels should consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the security solution during procurement. Some hotels look at the initial capital cost and opt for the bare minimum of equipment required or source those that do not cost much. However, low cost equipments usually have short life cycles and often require lot of maintenance, which eventually works out to be a costlier proposition.
Hotels generally do not opt for upfront annual maintenance contracts, which could result in the equipment failing to work or malfunctioning when it is actually required. Hotels should also have proper qualification criteria for vendor evaluation and selection.
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