How Hilton uses video intelligence to protect guests, improve operations
HOUSTON—While guest and employee safety are the primary security concern for hotels, John Alan Moore, director of security and life safety at Hilton Americas-Houston has found that security can have some major business benefits. In the last five years, Moore said the hotel has invested more than $300,000 in upgrading its security system, including adding more than 200 cameras as well as migrating from traditional DVRs to 3VRs. The new capabilities of the system has improved security at the hotel, he said, but has largely improved its operational efficiency, as well.
“The main thing is time savings and I can’t tell you how fast the system is for locating the information that you need,” he said. “Some of our longest investigations took a full week between me and my assistants and now we can knock it out in a day or day and a half at the most.”
For example, the hotel recently used the system’s capability to search objects in the video by color. “We had a guest who lost a green suitcase and we were able to pull it up by color and track it down, locate it immediately and recover it—to her that was worth thousands of dollars,” Moore said.
While the system is largely a security tool, the hotel’s other departments continue to find ways to use the analytic capabilities. The human resource department, for example, can verify hours an employee worked. “Managers from different departments want to see when an employee came in or out and when they failed to punch out. With over 900 employees, someone always forgets to punch out,” he said. “We have the facial-recognition camera at the employee entrance and we took the time to input information about the employee and their department in there and build a database. That way the good thing is every time they come in we can click on their picture and it’s easy once they’re in there.”
Moore said they have some hesitation to implement certain strategies. For example, using facial recognition to tag VIPs or other important guests to notify administrators of their presence could improve staff awareness and guest satisfaction, but potentially could jeopardize guest privacy, which is something Moore said he is very concerned about.
The system also provides the hotel with a significant amount of liability protection. With the license plate readers installed in its parking area the hotel can review incidents or claims regarding guest vehicles as well as prevent false claims against the hotel. The ability to monitor traffic entering its parking areas also improves the hotel’s operations. “We can count vehicles coming in and out and know the space count available in the garage instead of having to send someone physically up,” he said.
The hotel also uses the system to address any guest complaints. “We may have a guest arrive at the hotel and complain that they were in the valet for 10 or 15 minutes and we turn and call up the information and see if there was a traffic backup or if they were able to pull right in and that helps us take care of guest satisfaction,” he said.
The analytic component also allows the hotel to track guests entering the Hilton. “Having over 1203 rooms, we stay very busy and have a lot of interaction with our guests coming in from the convention center and at times when there’s an issue over someone loitering or a vagrant we’re able to get that on camera and tag and set up alerts that information will come over my BlackBerry and laptop,” he said. Moore said the hotel is mostly interested in using the directional capability of the system to track and count guests entering the hotel and are less concerned about guests leaving.
In addition to counting and monitoring guests, Moore said the system also makes it easy to track incidents. Following an incident, the software allows the hotel to tag the image and attach a case number and details of the incident in the system, which has proven to be a powerful tool. “It’s nice to have case building capability and to clip it and send it to the case and not have to burn it to a disk and send it around that way,” he said. “The time savings is unreal and now we can spend more time doing other things.”
The use of this type of technology to improve operations is something 3VR is seeing more and more. “It’s exciting for us to use technology for traditional security operations but also address loss and customer service in businesses and it sets a higher expectation about what people are able to do with recording technology,” said Whitney Glockner, director of corporate marketing and communications at 3VR.
Overall, hotel safety and security has become increasingly important to guests, said Moore. “The system has definitely been a selling point and we can’t go a week without receiving a security survey from a potential client and we have VIPs for whom security is a main concern,” he said. “They’ll ask basic questions and one selling point we have is the intelligence system.”