Let’s take a look at some of the different technologies used by hospitality panic buttons and pros and cons associated with each.
Panic button systems generally use one of these three transmission technologies and each have strengths and weakness that you should consider when selecting a product appropriate for your property.
The three most common panic button data transmission technologies are:
The most important technology asset of a modern hotel is it’s Wi-Fi network. The main advantage of using Wi-Fi is that it leverages the property’s investment in deploying a robust wireless data network. If your Wi-Fi works great, chances are a Wi-Fi-based panic button will work well too.
Wi-Fi isn’t without drawbacks. It is designed to carry high bandwidth data over relatively short distances. Wi-Fi will generally only work 150 meters indoors and 300 meters unobstructed outdoors.
It also is prone to interference from everything from metal to concrete and even microwave ovens. Hopefully, your Wi-Fi system was design and tested to ensure that there are no dead zones created by these impediments and the buttons will work across the property without any issues.
Many hospitality Wi-Fi access points are being engineered to act as IoT gateways and incorporate Wi-Fi, LoRa, Bluetooth and Zigbee in the same device. If your Wi-Fi access points utilize these technologies, you may be able to save some money by using these services on your existing devices instead of having to purchase new ones.
For instance, some manufacturers can use the Bluetooth feature on the Wi-Fi access point to determine the exact location of the person who needs help eliminating the need to purchase Bluetooth location beacons.
LoRa is short for “long range”. As it’s name suggests it is a protocol that was designed for low bandwidth transmission over long distances making it ideal for IoT devices like panic buttons.
Its low-frequency signal will allow it to go as far as several miles outdoors under the right circumstances.
Without a doubt, it is best technology to deal with obstructions like steel and concrete making it an excellent choice for structures like hotel and hospitals.
The extended range also reduces the number of onsite gateways when compared to Wi-Fi and can even cover the property grounds without additional equipment.
Some organizations choose not to place the panic button system on an already congested Wi-Fi network, so moving the system to a separate LoRa network can be perceived to be an advantage as well.
The trade-off with LoRa is that the long range come at the expense of the data rate. LoRa is ideal for low bandwidth usage like asset tracking or panic buttons, but less suited for things like high-definition security cameras.
LTE-M is a low-power cellular data technology built for low bandwidth IoT devices.
Unlike Wi-Fi and LoRa technologies, LTE-M devices can send data directly to the cloud like a mobile phone without the use of an onsite gateway. This is important because the devices will work at the hotel and will continue to update the user’s location if they flee or are taken off property.
Because they can work anywhere mobile data service is available, many IoT devices such as vehicle monitors, smart watches, app-based scooter and bike services all use LTE-M.
It works on or off property! Great! Why wouldn’t everyone use them? There’s just one problem.
Though LTE-M claims to have better penetration than traditional LTE mobile data service, it really struggles in dense building materials and places like basements and elevator shafts. If you have dead zones on your property with regular cellular coverage, you’ll more than likely have problems with LTE-M.
Mitigating coverage problems are more difficult than Wi-Fi or LoRa based systems that can simply add another access point or gateway to fill in a gap.
I do know of several older properties with thick stone and concrete exteriors that replaced these types of systems because of coverage problems. If the device fails to send an alert, a person could be placed in great harm and could create legal liability for the property.
Finally, LTE-M devices have one more advantage. They are low-energy devices that can “sleep” when they are not deployed extending battery life between charges.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Some manufactures will offer either Wi-Fi or LoRa as a primary data transmission technology and LTE-M as a back-up offering ubiquitous coverage on property and be able to send alerts off property or where primary coverage is unavailable.
GPS vs Bluetooth
GPS building is simply insufficient to locate someone in a multi-story building because it can’t pinpoint the user’s vertical position. Obviously, a position of a map won’t identify which floor a person is on, so all panic buttons use an overlaying technology such as Bluetooth to pinpoint a user’s exact location.
Bluetooth range is short enough that it can extend a signal to cover a particular area such as a guestroom without bleeding over into other guestrooms or adjacent floors.
Some manufacturers will simply listen for the nearest beacon and send that in the alert.
Other manufacturers will triangulate the user’s location based on the strength of multiple Bluetooth signals. This method is so accurate that one manufacturer offers asset trackers that can identify if a room service tray is inside a room or left in the hallway.
Most manufacturers still offer GPS in case the user is an area without a Bluetooth beacon like near the pool some location information included in the alert.
LTE-M capable buttons can send GPS location information even off-property.
LET US HELP YOU!
There’s a lot to consider when making a decision about a hospitality panic button system. Click the “Get Quote” link on the website and one of our professionals will walk you through all of the considerations to make the best selection for your property!
Be sure to check out our other blogs about panic button mandates and other IoT products that are available on panic button platforms!