“Energy efficiency” is a term that has been bandied about
since the early 1980s. Since its inception in literature and common parlance, it has meant different things in different contexts.
Today, to the man in the street it denotes the way electrical items, gadgets and commercial and household appliances receive and use electricity – emotively coined “energy”. The nitty-gritty is using what we want to fulfil our modern technological appetite – ranging from our insatiable use of computers, washing machines and refrigerators – without having to pay large energy bills for the privilege!
Whilst the focus may always have been on cost saving, in today’s political, economic and social atmosphere, the focus has shifted slightly with the intention of not only saving money but also to be environmentally aware of the impact our use of electricity has on the environment.
Both providers and consumers of electrical energy are driven by conscience, by society and by media to be “green” and thus “environmentally friendly”..
Costs and solutions
There has been a lot of discussion in the industry surrounding the need for accommodation facilities to begin their own individual profile to be seen as being green. This is in addition to the financial need to curb escalating costs on ever-increasing electricity prices and the impact the GFC has had on tourism and travel.
For a number of new developments, the requirement to comply with vigorous green building standards is becoming a must. This is in addition to the conscious decisions owners and developers are making in looking for alternatives to the high-energy-consuming equipment hotels have traditionally relied on.
While, as mentioned, this is partially motivated by the demands of government and building groups, it is increasingly done as a conscious focus by the owners, who are keen on maintaining systems that are not only inexpensive to purchase but also inexpensive to maintain and operate. Thus a number of properties are planning for in-room intelligent control systems whereby electrical consumption can be controlled by the actual needs and usage of the guest in situ, but also from a central point within the accommodation. For the properties that cannot consider the initial installation cost of this kind of system in the short term, there are less expensive measures to achieve energy reductions in the industry. Replacing white goods in rooms with Energy Star energy-efficient minibars is one such measure.
Go green with electronic locks
The preferred hotel/motel style electronic locks are stand-alone battery-operated items despite the misnomer suggesting that they contribute to the electricity account. Modern electronic locks not only operate on fewer batteries than traditional locks, but also give hotelier the option to forgo keycards altogether. Regardless, environmentally responsible bio-degradable keycards manufactured from corn are now available to the accommodation provider for staff and guest-room doors, and are used exclusively by Melbourne’s carbon-neutral hotel, Alto on Bourke.
Electronic locks have traditionally relied on information that is encoded on magnetic stripe. The introduction of contactless smart chips allowing retention of data within the card has given hotel staff greater ease and flexibility of information management.
A further step towards technological sophistication has been made with the introduction of RFID (radio frequency identification) contactless proximity locks and cards in the last few years. The benefits of this advanced technology far surpass those of traditional magnetic strip..
RFID proximity cards are capable of retaining the audit trail within the cards themselves, not just within the lock as was the case in the past. This allows accommodation management to effectively track the movements of the card user and not only the activity of a single lock. For property owners and engineers the cost-effective benefit of RFID is that there is no mechanical movement and interaction between the card and the lock reader other than the mere presentation (and not physical insertion) of card to reader. Because of this, the manufacturers can completely seal the reader heads, thus ensuring complete integrity and protection from harsh elements such as excessive dirt and dust, salt-water environments, and moisture that would otherwise build up between air-conditioned rooms and high humidity environments outside.
The biggest advantage of the RFID proximity card is that it is designed to carry information that can be used on multiple applications.
It’s used in Australia
In 2007 Saflok was the first to release a stand-alone electronic locking system operating on a wireless online platform known as the Messenger System. This system is an extremely powerful tool that has the capability to communicate directly with each and every door lock delivering real time and date information back to a central server through a network of wireless communication using radio frequency. Few companies in Australia are licensed to deliver this innovative up-to-the minute technology and large and busy sites such as backpacker accommodation facilities are currently enjoying the benefits of having real-time reporting on aspects of security such as door jar alerts, egress monitoring and convenience of logistics such as remote room changes.
What does the future hold?
As electronic locks are also considered to be an essential item for modern student facilities, the next foreseeable step is NFC – near field communication. This is a short- range high-frequency wireless communication technology.
NFC is primarily aimed at usage in mobile phones and facilitates accommodation providers sending personal encrypted data that will enable the guest’s NFC- capable mobile phone to gain access to their own guest-room door lock for a pre-allocated period. To do so, the guest merely presents their phone to the reader of the appropriate lock and entrance is gained with full security as if it were a proximity keycard, pendant or some other traditional credential.
It is thought that it will be a few more years before mobile phone manufacturers will release capable models to the Australian or New Zealand markets. However, with the forward planning that it is renowned for, Kaba electronic locks are already designed to be NFC capable. For the hotelier this means that with these locks there will be no need for replacement locks should NFC be the system of choice in the future.