Part of Marriott Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, W Seattle is a high-rise retreat in downtown Seattle’s culture core. The hotel features 415 guest rooms, nine luxury designer suites, and two grand ballrooms, featuring several on-site food options from casual to fine dining. The W Seattle is a beacon in the heart of the city – close to art and music centers, financial and retail hubs, and the Pike Place Market.
Using two-way radios with technology dating back to the 1940s clashed with their modern image. The heavy devices were also a nuisance to carry and expensive to replace. After an extensive search for updated communications, the hotel’s engineering team discovered ZelloWork, from Zello, a new push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkie app.
Zello offers critical features that the hotel needs for their day-to-day operations. The app works on any carrier’s data network or Wi-Fi. ZelloWork also provides an affordable gateway solution to stay connected with existing two-way radios.
The engineering team then started planning for a Wi-Fi enabled deployment of ZelloWork, upgrading their infrastructure by adding access points and repeaters – eliminating any dead zones. Within a few months, the hotel began installing Zello on approximately 50 Apple iPod Touches that would eventually replace all of their two-way radios. Since Zello runs cross-platform on most smart devices, management and key staff members could use their own smartphones to stay connected, even when away from the hotel.
Because ZelloWork for Windows PC includes a radio gateway feature, it was easy to attach a PC-Radio hardware interface to the PC for a few hundred dollars and keep all two-way radios connected to the network. At only $30 a month, the gateway was a very cost-effective way for the hotel to continue using their two-way radios until the infrastructure upgrade was completed.
A few installation issues were quickly resolved with Zello’s 24/7 tech support. To speed adoption, the engineering team pre-installed Zello@Work, along with other hotel apps, onto the iPods. To help make Zello less intrusive around guests, staff used Bluetooth® headsets for a compatible hands-free-option.
With the Web-based Zello Management Console, managing the PTT network was simple and fast. All users and group channels could automatically be updated remotely. In addition, users could quickly be added or deleted at any time, using the console with a credit card.
While eliminating two-way radios was the ultimate goal, the hotel initially kept them connected for emergency backup and for use by staff members who preferred a two-way radio. For over a year, the app continued to perform well without any major problems. The majority of the staff preferred the convenience of using Zello with other apps on one device, eliminating the need to carry a two-way radio.
A year after the rollout, only one employee was still using a two-way radio on the gateway. Since ZelloWork was so reliable and fast, engineering decided to shut down the gateway, allowing the hotel to add five new users in its place. The network currently supports 68 users, and all two-way radios have since been retired.
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