New York City hotel worker safety regulations: once a cost, but with beacons a value-add?

Amanda Darcey /

In the New York City hotel industry, worker safety is not just a business priority, it’s enforced by the labor unions. Bluetooth beacons offer a cost-effective solution for pinpointing worker location, improving response rates and providing a value-add infrastructure.

In 2012, the New York Hotel Trade Council negotiated a contract that requires all city hotels to provide hotel workers a safety and emergency response mechanism. Though not expressly stated, the agreement is widely regarded as a response to a couple high-profile hotel-maid scandals. It stipulates that hotels equip certain employees with “devices to be carried on their persons at work that they can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon prompt assistance to their location.” [Link]

It is a good policy. It protects hotel workers from any number of dangers, and strengthens the emergency response infrastructure. But implementing the changes is easier said than done. Signaling location in a multi-story (often skyscraper) hotel requires a connected infrastructure. And while WiFi is generally available throughout a hotel, there are data security and power integrity concerns that make it an inadequate solution for emergency situations.

Almost 3 years after the legislation was signed, hotels are still struggling with how to cost-effectively implement the system. Expensive software solutions have surfaced – most using custom-built repeaters on a floor, sensors (and sometimes video capability) and trilateration to pinpoint a worker’s location and broadcast an emergency signal.

But, with the growing prevalence of iBeacons and, most recently, Google’s release of Eddystone, there is an opportunity to implement a safety system that is both cost effective and value-add.

Here’s how it works:

Beacons are installed throughout the hotel. Hotel workers carry mobile devices or are equipped with simple Bluetooth-enabled wearables. As they move around the hotel, their location is tracked in real-time. If there is an emergency incident, there is an immediate view of all staff at any given time. Further, if a worker finds himself or herself in a dangerous situation, a simple click triggers a ‘panic button’ and signals a notification for help.

How’s it different from other, existing systems?

  1. Power: Bluetooth beacons operate off battery power and they can use cellular networks to upload data so power and WiFi is not required.
  2. Cost: Beacons are $10 – $30 per unit and highly flexible. Repeater or router systems are often custom and can require expensive infrastructure.
  3. Value-add: Hotel chains, like Starwood, Hilton and Marriott, are already starting to use beacons in the hotel for things like automated check-in, guest experience and room keys. And beacon systems can be repurposed for driving operational efficiency and service quality (see a case study here).

For New York City hotels, and other progressive hotel chains concerned about staff safety, beacon systems provide a solution that need not be just a cost-line on the balance sheet. To learn more, contact us. ****

Amanda Darcey

I deeply believe that really great experiences come from simple, intuitive products and great teams delivering them. That is why I am so excited to drive the growth of the product in US.