Why Personal Area Networks Are The Best Thing to Happen to Hotel Wi-Fi
Given its sensitive service as a literal “home away from home,” the hospitality industry has always made privacy a top priority for guests. Not only do we get the standard locks and peepholes on our hotel doors – the management even offers that iconic “do not disturb” tag to ensure you’ll be left in peace. But if we refuse to sacrifice our physical privacy when we travel, why would we compromise on our digital security? Unfortunately, this is what many guests unwittingly do when they connect to insecure hotel Wi-Fi networks, ones that leave user devices and data exposed to potential hackers.
Most hotel and resort properties offer some form of authentication in order to limit who can access their network. Few locations, however, offer the encryption required to fully protect your data from any malicious neighbors. To be fair, hotel operators don’t deserve much criticism for this, as adding this level of security typically brings a level of technical complexity that neither guests nor the property really desire. After all, no visitor wants to hassle with yet another set of steps to get online, and staff prefer to keep their systems as easy to manage as possible. But what if a hotel could offer a secure, dedicated Wi-Fi network for every room on the property, without the complications of encryption? This is the kind of intelligent solution made possible by Personal Area Networks, or PANs.
Let’s take an example: A family of four arrives for their stay at a hotel with a conventional authentication process, ready to start their vacation. With two parents and two kids, the group has over 10 different wireless devices between them. To connect to the local network, each device will need to individually access a captive portal and register – talk about a headache. And forget about using devices like gaming gadgets that come without a native browser. The lack of a browser prevents you from even accessing a captive portal in the first place, making a connection out of the question. Considering the limitations and inefficiency involved, it’s hardly what you would call an ideal situation.
Now, imagine that same family arriving at a resort with integrated PAN service. As they walk into their room for the first time, each of their devices automatically and securely connects to a dedicated Wi-Fi network intended just for them. Sounds like science fiction? More like science fact! These types of solutions have already hit the market, and the hospitality industry is the perfect venue to put them into action.
To achieve this kind of seamless connection process, hotels need to adopt what’s called a Bring Your Own Network (BYON) policy. The idea is that your personal SSID and security settings will always travel with you, explaining what occurred in the second example above. When the family entered the guest room, one individual logged into the properties portal and was offered the opportunity to define their own secure SSID. To accept this offer, they imputed the SSID and key they wanted to use, preferably one already configured in their devices’ profiles. 30 seconds later that SSID appears on the Wi-Fi access point (AP) installed in their room. Since the family has already configured their devices to search for that SSID automatically, everyone can immediately join the network, even while using gaming systems with no browser capabilities. Better yet, the property can retain this information and instantly create the same PAN the next time the guest checks in at that specific hotel, or even share the information with the hotel brand’s entire set of locations worldwide. When the guests check out, the SSID is automatically removed from the AP – simple as that.
Not only does the PAN concept deliver security to the guest room, it also offers other handy services that make it easier to utilize and enjoy your mobile devices while you travel. By definition, PANs place all linked devices in the same network, allowing them to connect directly through peer to peer communication. This can enable some pretty fun features, like competitive gaming between two different devices. The Peer to Peer service also enables another evolving capability, Bring Your Own Content (BYOC), which refers to the ability to stream content from one of your smaller devices directly to a TV in your hotel room.
The key value points of Personal Area Networks should be obvious to travelers and hotel management alike. These solutions deliver a number of compelling features that make hotel Wi-Fi safer and simpler for everyone:
- The ability to use secure, personal Wi-Fi in any guest room, without requiring a VPN.
- Easily configurable networks – no IT knowledge required.
- Automatic configuration for future visits.
- Peer to Peer communication among all connected devices.