The eyes have it

17 December 2003 by
The eyes have it

After a year of getting to grips with chips and PINs, property management systems, marketing your restaurant and other technologies, it's time for a change. So here are five technologies you might not have heard about, from iris-recognition systems to 360° photographs.

Iris-recognition technology has long been a part of science fiction films, most recently featured in the Tom Cruise film Minority Report. Iris recognition works by comparing the pattern between your iris and the white of your eye with a "picture" of this pattern taken by a piece of equipment similar to a video camera. The process is quick (two minutes to capture the initial pattern), painless and doesn't damage the eye.

Because our iris patterns are as unique as fingerprints, this technology can be used in various situations. David Johnston, vice-president of marketing at LG Electronics' iris technology division, gives one example. "This technology could be used to authenticate and enrol guests so they could find and pick up cars at hotel garages on their own," he says. "Nothing is more infuriating than to have to wait 20-30 minutes to get a car because there is a queue of others who want cars and not enough people to collect and deliver them."

Another area in which iris recognition could be used is in personnel. Johnston says: "Time and attendance is another area where iris recognition is valuable. It not only provides precise data about when and how long an employee was on the property, it also ensures that employees are who they say they are. There is no way for them to ‘buddy punch' - that is, have someone else signing in as them."

The main product from LG Electronics is the IrisAccess 3000 system. This includes enrolment optical units (for recording iris patterns), identification control units and an image "frame-grabbing" unit.


Closed-circuit TV systems are common as a security measure for hotels, but "intelligent" ones are more unusual. Loronix Video Solutions has taken the idea of CCTV monitoring one step further with its BehaviourTrack system. Though it sounds like something from George Orwell's 1984, it's a sophisticated way of protecting your property.

Sales manager David Watts explains: "BehaviourTrack detects certain objects and their movements within a particular CCTV camera view, and matches types of behaviour against predefined rules and logic."

The types of behaviour or activity that the system can monitor are: an "object" (such as a person) loitering around a specific area, such as an important access door, when you would expect there to be only the normal comings and goings of people going about their jobs; objects going past at extraordinary speed; more objects being in one place than would be expected; luggage being left in one place for too long; and objects coming from an unexpected direction.

In each case, an alarm would alert your security staff so that they could react to the situation accordingly, and maybe even prevent an unfortunate incident.

Once installed, the system works with your existing CCTV cameras, a special recorder (purchased from Loronix) and the BehaviourTrack software. The cost depends on several variables including the number of cameras you have, how many actions you want the system to check, and so on.

Exterity iSocket

Looking like a wall socket but functioning like a set-top box, Scottish manufacturer Exterity's iSocket brings entertainment into the guest's room. Connected to other equipment in the room, such as the television, iSocket allows you to offer entertainment services and broadband internet access to your guests.

Colin Farquhar, Exterity's chief executive officer, says: "This technology can replace the multiple set-top boxes used at the moment to receive television channels in your hotel. These are streamed on to the hotel's Category 5 cabling network, to allow them to be accessible from the iSocket in each guest room."

Category 5 (Cat-5) cables carry information between computers and other technologies, and you will need to have a Cat-5 network already installed to use iSocket. The cost of a Cat-5 network depends on how much work would be involved in installing it and how many rooms are to have an access point.

The iSocket itself costs £347 for each guest room. Other services such as broadband must be bought from a service provider.


MyMAPof is a new idea for travel websites. Rather than have static photographs of the resort, the hotel and its interior, a visitor to the MyMAPof website can look around the hotel using 360¼ panoramic "rotographs".

The rotographs are in addition to availability and booking information and a map of the surrounding area that allows you to "zoom" down to certain places. How many rotographs you can have on your hotel's page depends on its star rating. For example, if you run a three-star hotel, then you get three rotographs.

Marsha Clarke, managing director of MyMAPof, says: "By offering potential guests a detailed look at the destination and each hotel's facilities, we've gone a long way to removing the uncertainty and lessened the risks, and cost, to both guest and hotelier of a bad or misinformed choice."

To date, Harrogate is the only UK destination that has both a zoomable map of the area and rotographs. The city of Manchester and the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands, which will be home to Hotelympia next February, should be ready by Christmas.

Hotels pay a one-time £100 administration fee and a standard commission, starting at 15%, on each transaction.

Automated check-in and checkout

Starwood Hotels is trialling new automated check-in and checkout technology in two of its hotels in the USA. The hotels involved - the 1,215-bedroom Sheraton Boston and the 509-bedroom W New York in Times Square - now each have an airline-style kiosk for checking in and out.

The group claims that guests can get through the check-in process in less than 45 seconds, on average. The guests swipe their credit card, confirm their reservation from the information on a screen, and the necessary keys are then dispensed to them, along with a receipt showing their room number and room rate.

To check out, the guest swipes their credit card again. This brings up a view of the guest's bill, which they read and confirm. The kiosk can then print this out, and also offers the option of e-mailing a copy of the bill to, for example, the guest's corporate headquarters.

The check-in/checkout software was developed by Galaxy Hotel Systems, a Starwood subsidiary. Room availability is powered by Galaxy's LightSpeed property management system. The kiosks are of the Touchport variety and are supplied by Kinetics, a dedicated kiosk supplier.

Though the kiosks are proving popular with guests, Starwood will not be putting them in all its hotels. But they will go into hotels near airports and convention centres.


Exterity 01383 427621,

Galaxy Hotel Systems 00 1 714 258 5800,

LG Electronics, Iris Technology Division 00 1 609 860 8456,

Loronix Video Solutions 01932 839500,

MyMAPof 01422 322300,

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking