The Cosmopolitan Bets on Uncommon Common Spaces

By Abigail A. Lorden, Editor-in-Chief | April 05, 2012

In a land where sprawling, behemoth resorts and over-the-top spectacle is the norm, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com) aims to offer something decidedly different: intimacy. That’s not to say that this new kid on The Strip doesn’t put forth its own brand of big Vegas; it just goes up, instead of out. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which opened in December 2010, stacks up 2,995 guest rooms, 7 ball rooms, 36,000 square feet of retail therapy, a bounty of restaurants and nightclubs, and a 100,000 square foot casino into a vertical design that takes up just 8.7 acres of land. The unique vertical design helps to create an intimate, boutique hotel atmosphere throughout public spaces plush with swanky décor.

The wow-factor is amplified by the property’s use of guest-facing technology through- out these public spaces. Sure, guestrooms offer their fare share of “cool” with automated controls for lighting, drapery, and climate, and sophisticated entertainment capabilities that integrate in-room televisions and telephones with the property’s network. But it’s the public spaces that, according to CIO Kris Singleton, are delivering unique experiences, ranging from tablets at the check-in desk, to personalized offers presented on slot machines, to robust, property-wide HSIA connectivity.

A core objective for The Cosmopolitan is connectivity for guests — connectivity that steps well outside of the guestroom and spans the entire property. “Guests want to have access to their own personal devices, and our focus is on enabling that access,” explains Singleton, who came to The Cosmopolitan from Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, where she served as CIO, and prior to that held senior IT roles at MGM Mirage. “Whether sitting at couches in bar areas, or out on the pool deck, it’s important that we have a rock solid application to provide guests secure access to the Internet,” she explains.

Current connectivity is 100 gigabits and guestrooms are given 5 megabits. “It’s pretty big,” says Singleton, noting that it’s more pipe than what many other properties are able to deliver. To achieve this bandwidth, the team did a deep dive analysis of its networking needs. They worked with Juniper Networks (www.juniper.net) on wired and wireless connectivity, and Superclick Networks (www.superclick.com) to manage connectivity to guests. The priority was on ensuring a high-availability environment, so the team chose to use two separate cable providers to achieve redundancy. Cox (www.cox.com) is coming in the front end, and Time Warner (www.timewarnercable.com) comes in the back end. “We can make sure that if a backhoe disables our front line, for example, the back door still works.”

Next steps for the network will be to do more with bandwidth shaping, which Singleton explains will allow them to dynamically manage their network, while fully utilizing all that bandwidth. “As we have full occupancy, plus we’re fully loaded with convention guests, for example, we can dynamically manage the size that we have to WiFi, versus the data that’s needed for operations, versus video, versus the phone. In this new converged network philosophy, management tools are becoming more sophisticated so that we can more effectively manage the traffic across that single wire. We want to be able to manage it effectively without negatively impacting any of the pieces or parts across that network.”

iWelcome

When a guest arrives at the property, an iPad is a part of their first touch point. At the registration desk, the tablet is framed and mounted in a manner that lets the employee, or “co-star,” showcase aspects of the room and/or property. The iPad gives a visual aid in providing upgrade options, pinpoints locations of property features such as the pool or spa, and finally, captures the guest’s signature electronically.

The mobile tablets are also being used to bring hotel registration desk capabilities directly to VIP guests that check-in at the valet. “We’re still fine — tuning when to use them at concierge and valet. We can also use them for line busting when the front desk is jam packed,” says Singleton. The devices integrate into Agilysys Lodging Management System, LMS, (www.agilysys.com), which also provides property management, reservations, credit card processing, accounting, and housekeeping functionality to the hotel.

Thus far, guest response to iPad-enabled check-in has been very positive. “They really appreciate that we’re using this technology. It’s something new and different for The Strip,” she explains. The novelty of their use is cropping up in guest comments on review sites like Tripadvisor and RateVegas.com. One reviewer called the check-in process excellent, noting that a “cool dude with an iPad” expedited the process. Another reviewer mentioned their line busting experience, saying, “While I was in the queue, one of the staff came along with his iPad and checked me in right there. Super nice
and helpful.”

Singleton admits that there’s a fine line in using the devices wisely, versus adding lengthy, perhaps overly interactive, elements to check-in. This is all in the management of the check-in procedure and empowering the front desk agent to be personable, but to also keep the process moving. “We want to give that personal touch, but we need to manage it. Our co-stars are polished, but also not so scripted that they keep to a script no matter what.” Thus far, the iPads have helped to reduce waits at check-in, not contribute to them. “It’s been really good to manage,”
says Singleton.

The devices are also used during the check-out process, allowing guests to review their charges on the screen, rather than on a printout, before settling their bill. This has the added benefit of reducing paper use, since only the final copy is printed.

Smart signs and suggestive slots

Once guests are mingling about the property, an interactive digital signage network with more than 300 displays offers way finding, promotions, progressive slot displays, restaurant menus, event information, and more. “They’re a helpful tool for guests, members of our Identity [loyalty] program, and even people who are just walking through,” says Singleton. The network was built with digital signage technology provider Four Winds Interactive (www.fourwindsinteractive.com), whose GameFinder application is used to help guests pinpoint the exact location of a game on the casino floor.

It’s when the guest hits the slots that some of The Cosmopolitan’s most innovative technology steps in. The property uses an enterprise data warehouse from Teradata (www.teradata.com) to collect information from across the enterprise — for example, hotel systems, transactional information, where they’ve eaten before, and what games they’ve played. Then, when a guest puts their Identity card in a slot machine, the machine presents a personalized message for dining reservations, in real time, using a rule-based system.

“When you’re a slot player, its important that it’s real time because it could be minutes that you’re there and then you move on to another slot machine. We can say ‘welcome,’ and then put up on the service window the option of making a reservation at Blue Ribbon, and show what times are available for making a reservation — it’s easy and intuitive,” says Singleton. The application has real-time integration into the reservation database so that the guest is looking at available booking times, and an enterprise service bus is used to manage the integration of those messages. “The initiative has been very successful so far. There are no specifics right now, but…we do want to expand that messaging capability to things beyond restaurant reservations to include, for example, the spa or special events,” she explains.

Despite an atmosphere that’s, well, cosmopolitan, and to borrow a phrase from a guest, the cool dudes with iPads, the technology philosophy at the hotel is very balanced. Only proven solutions are deployed. All core systems are off-the-shelf, and many of those technologies leverage HTNG (www.htng.org) standards for integration. Singleton explains: “We look for innovative ways to bring our experiences to life through cutting-edge technology, but if they’re not ready for prime time, and ready to deliver on the 80/20 rule, we can wait until it can. Ultimately, we want to ensure that our guests have stories worth telling.”


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