Technology Jargon Buster

31 August 2005
Technology Jargon Buster

Our technology-related glossary for the hospitality sector will help you come to grips with key IT-related terms.

The technology standard underlying local wireless networks (see WiFi).

Amadeus is a global distribution system enabling travel agencies and airline offices to book airline seats, hotel rooms and hire cars worldwide.

An acronym for business to business, describing transactions taking place between companies. If a corporate customer books a block of rooms with a hotel, that would be classed as a business to business transaction because consumers were not involved.

B2C (business to consumer) is the alternative to B2B. In this scenario, the consumer purchases something online from a business. An example might be an individual booking a hotel room directly online.

Back office Back-office systems handle the day-to-day administration of a company. Examples of back-office functions include accounting, human resources and keeping the telephone system running.

Backup involves making a copy of your data to keep it protected in the event of a system failure or physical damage. This is either done by copying it to a CD or diskette, or using a managed service to copy it off-site to a remote computer.

Batch processing Batch processing involves taking a series of transactions accumulated over a period of time and processing them all at once. E-commerce companies and credit card operators might use batch processing to collect all the transactions made during a given day, and process them overnight when the load on the system has reduced.

Booking engine
The booking engine is the computer system that provides the back-end transactions for an Internet-based reservation system.

A broadband connection enables companies to be connected to the Internet all the time without having to use a traditional telephone-based dial-up connection to log on to an Internet service provider. Broadband connections also provide faster data communications than their dial-up equivalents.

A browser is a computer program used to view a website. The most popular ones are Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Others include Opera and Safari.

Bulk data transfer
Bulk data transfer involves moving large amounts of data from one computer to another, often for the purpose of batch processing. Bulk data transfer will generally be conducted across high bandwidth connections, usually at a time when the network is less susceptible to congestion.

Cable modem
A cable modem is used to access broadband services provided by a cable television company. The cable modem is installed at the customer's premises, and enables the customer's PCs to connect to the cable operator's Internet service provider equipment.

Call Detail Record
A call detail record is critical when running a software system that charges for phone calls. It provides information about each phone call that is made, such as who made it, where they called, and how long the call lasted.

Cat 5
Category five is a cabling specification that defines the quality of cable used for carrying voice and data. Most networks these days that use cables operate to the category five standard.

Central Reservation Office
Hotel companies will use a central reservation office to process all reservations, including those made via a website and via toll-free telephone numbers.

Central Reservation System (CRS)
The CRS is the computer system used within a chain of hotels to process reservations across all sites. It will often be used in conjunction with the central reservation office.

Chip and PIN
Chip and PIN is a system introduced by credit card vendors in 2003 to help prevent credit card fraud. The system uses electronic chips placed directly onto cards. Compatible EPoS systems ask for a personal identification number (PIN) to verify the ownership of the card which can be checked against the information held in the chip.

This is a type of computer system in which software is distributed across two sets of machines: the back-end computer, which does much of the central data processing, and the client computers (generally PCs), which processes some data locally.

An arrangement between a customer and another company, generally an Internet service provider, in which the customer is allowed to house their own computer and software at a location with very fast Internet connections. The customer generally manages their own computer, but benefits from other infrastructure and services at the site.

The cookie is a small piece of code that a website places into the client browser software, enabling it to remember that browser when it is used to view the site again, and to keep track of activities conducted on the site.

Comma Separated Variable (CVS)
A simple file format used to exchange data between different software applications.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)
A system in which computers and telephones are designed to work together, providing additional functions to users. These could include automatic call routing or retrieval of information about the person calling, based on caller line identification information that presents their phone number before the call is answered.

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE)
This term is used to describe computing or telephony equipment that is left at a customer's site by a company providing a service. A good example is the cable modem, or in some cases a router, used by Internet service providers to connect the customer to their equipment.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A class of software application design to help a company collect and use information about its customers more effectively. A CRM system may enable you to identify trends in customer purchasing patterns, for example, and design a marketing campaign around them.

A database is a collection of information that is stored in a structured way to be indexable and searchable. Generally, a database is used for business applications such as keeping track of customer data. Hotel room bookings and in some cases restaurant reservations would be held in a database. The database is managed by a database management system (see Relational Database Management System).

The process of "cutting out the middleman", inspired largely by the advent of the World Wide Web. Disintermediation is a phenomenon that had a particularly devastating effect on the travel agency sector throughout the 1990s as people began booking their own travel directly with airlines and hotels via the Internet.

A form of Internet connection facilitated by a conventional telephone line. The user dials a telephone number provided by the Internet service provider, and a modem connected to the PC converts the telephone signal into data. Dial-up connections have two disadvantages. Firstly they are not "always on", and secondly they are relatively slow compared with broadband connections.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
DSL is a form of broadband Internet connection that uses the conventional telephone line, but which employs advanced equipment at either end of the connection to push more data along the link. There are various flavours of DSL, some of which are faster than others. Traditionally, DSL competes with cable modem-based broadband connections.

Disk drive
A disk drive is used to store data in a PC when it is not being used. Unlike the RAM used in a PC, which is only accessible when the PC is turned on, a disk drive can hold data when the PC is turned off, and generally has a higher capacity than RAM.

Diskettes are small magnetic disks used to store data from a PC. They had the advantage of being separate from the PC, meaning that they could be stored remotely, which was useful for backup purposes. Diskettes are traditionally low in data capacity, although some newer versions such as the zip disk offered much larger storage opportunities.

Dumb terminal
A dumb terminal, often referred to as a green-screen terminal, is a computer which has very little in the way of processing power. Instead, it is designed to connect to a central server which then does all the work. A dumb terminal is really little more than an input/output device, enabling users to enter data into the central server and to display information from the server once it has been processed.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI was traditionally a way of moving data between computers operated by different companies. It was useful because it defined a set of standards that enabled companies to communicate meaningful information even though they may have been using different types of computer system. To some extent, EDI has been replaced by XML (see XML).

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
A way of transferring money electronically between one party and another using a device such as a point-of-sale terminal or automated teller machine.

Encryption enables plain data to be encoded so that when sent along an insecure link or stored on a hard drive, it cannot immediately be understood if it is intercepted. Encryption is normally used when dealing with sensitive information such as customer details or financial data.

E-mail is a way of sending written communications from one party to another across a computer network. Generally, participants will need their own account on an e-mail server, which they can access using an e-mail program like Microsoft's Outlook Express. Alternatively, web sites such as Hotmail and Google's GMail also provide e-mail facilities.

Ethernet is a commonly accepted protocol for passing computer data between one computer and another on a local area network (see Local Area Network). Ethernet offers data transfer rates of 10 megabits per second (see Megabits per second).

An extranet is a system created by opening up a company's intranet to external parties such as business partners or customers. It is differentiated from a conventional Internet site because it only offers access to approved parties using passwords, and offers information and services pertaining to a company's business that would not be appropriate or useful for a general public audience.

Fast Ethernet
Introduced in the early 90s, fast ethernet used more advanced equipment at either end of an ethernet link to modify the data transfer rate by 10, achieving a throughput of 100 megabits per second.

Fat client
The fat client is another description for a conventional PC, which contains a rich set of local resources. These will include memory, a hard drive, and adequate computing power to process data locally, independently of a central server.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
FTP is the most commonly used method of uploading web pages to a web server. It is used by web designers who have built web pages on a local computer, and who now want them to be made publicly available. Generally, FTP requires FTP client software to connect to an FTP site and manage the upload, although Internet Explorer has built-in FTP functions.

A firewall is a piece of software that runs on a general-purpose PC, or on a dedicated computer, and which is designed to stop malicious parties on the Internet from penetrating your computer network. Think of it as a gatekeeper for your LAN (see Local Area Network). A firewall is a crucial piece of security equipment for any company connecting its computers to the Internet.

Flat panel display
The flat panel display is a computer monitor built using a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel. It carries several advantages over traditional cathode ray tube-based computer monitors (which looked more like conventional televisions). Advantages include a lower power consumption, reduced heat generation, a more stable picture, and a smaller desktop footprint.

Food, Beverage and Retail Management Systems (FBRMS)
A class of computer software designed to handle the administrative tasks associated with selling food and drink. These include stock control and, in some cases, recipe management.

Galileo is a global distribution system originating from the Apollo service that was created by United Airlines in 1971. Operated by Cendant, Galileo now offers a variety of different products including booking engines and desktop-based software designed to connect into the system.

Gigabit Ethernet
Gigabit Ethernet took the 100 megabit per second data throughput offered by Fast Ethernet and once again multiplied by 10, creating a communications speed of 1000 megabits per second.

Global Distribution System
Global Distribution Systems, also known as computer reservation systems, are computing services traditionally operated by airlines but now extended to travel agents. They provide information about many travel related services such as hotels, rental cars, and airlines. Typical global distribution systems include Amadeus, Galileo, and Worldspan (see separate entries in this glossary).

Graphical User Interface (GUI)
The graphical user interface replaced the traditional green screen systems of the 1980s with more intuitive visual interfaces. Microsoft's Windows interface is the most popular example, having replaced the company's DOS system in 1985.

Guest Name Record (GNR)
In the hotel industry, a guest name record is a piece of data within a hotel's central reservation system that contains the details of an individual reservation.

An individual or collection of individuals who make it their business to try and break the security of computer systems. Some hackers do this purely out of curiosity, while others have malicious motives in attempting to break into computer systems.

A computerised device designed to be carried around in the hand for mobile use. Also sometimes known as a PDA (see personal digital assistant), handheld devices are often designed purely for use with in particular industries. Some restaurants use handheld devices to help keep track of customer orders.

High Definition Television (HDTV)
HDTV is a digitally transmitted television signal designed to replace traditional formats such as NTSC in North America and PAL in Europe. HDTV offers a higher resolution and a crisper, more realistic image.

Hosted application
A software application designed to be run on a third-party computer rather than on your own system, removing the headache of managing a computer. Hosted applications are often paid for on a subscription basis.

Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG)
A consortium of companies founded to help create new technologies for hotels and their guests which can interoperate over standard networks and protocols. Examples of the HTNG's work include in-room technologies in areas such as flat-screen TVs, digital content, and gaming.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
The programming language used to build a conventional web page, describing what it will look like.

Independent Software Vendor (ISV)
A company that takes a larger vendor's complete application and builds something on top of it, often for a specific vertical market. An example would be a company that takes generic accounting software and builds extra software on top of it that makes it particularly useful for running a restaurant or hotel.

Interactive Voice Response
Telephone systems using interactive voice response offer an automated "receptionist" — a computer system that offers the caller voice prompts to navigate their way through a series of menus.

The Internet is a vast matrix of computer networks connecting together computers around the globe. It was first developed in the late 1960s, and became commercially widespread during the late 1980s.

Internet Protocol
The Internet Protocol (IP) is the common protocol used by computers connected to the Internet to speak to each other. IP has become the prevalent networking protocol for many computer systems around the world.

Internet telephony (IP telephony)
Internet telephony marries conventional phone calls with the Internet protocol. Instead of running a phone call along a traditional circuit, a computer system will digitise the call, chop it up into tiny packet of data, and send them out across a network. They are reassembled at their destination, and converted back into sound.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)
An ISP provides an individual or business with access to the Internet. Telecommunications companies and cable TV operators often function as ISPs.

An intranet is a series of web pages created by a company and only made available to people working within the company. Think of it as a private website. Intranets can be used to house everything from internal company directories to groupware applications that let employees collaborate with each other.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) Unlike conventional telephone lines, which work using analogue signals, ISDN is a digital telecommunications link. It offers higher data throughput than conventional dial-up networks, and can also be used to run multiple telephone conversations over a single line.

Last mile
The last mile is the colloquial name for the section of cable between a local telephone exchange and the customer's premises. The last mile is the part of the telecommunications connection covered by either a dial-up or a broadband link.

Local Area Network (LAN) A local area network is a system of either cabled or wireless connections and equipment that enables computers to be connected together over short distances. A LAN generally operates within a single building but can sometimes extend between multiple buildings within close range of each other.

Megabits per second
A megabit is one million bits of information (a bit is a one or a zero). The megabits per second measurement is used to describe how many megabits can be transferred across a computer network each second. A megabit equates to roughly 125,000 characters per second.

Micros-Fidelio is a popular provider of property management systems. Its PMS interface has become a common one within the hotel industry and is used by many as a de facto standard. Consequently, many software vendors will emulate this interface because it makes it more likely that their software will be able to connect to other vendors' applications.

Operating system
An operating system is a program that enables the user of a computer to interact with the machine. It also can be used to run software applications handling tasks such as accounting, restaurant booking, and stock control. Microsoft's Windows is the most popular operating system for the PC platform.

Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
A handheld computer acting as a personal organiser. PDAs can be differentiated from handheld devices targeting particular industry applications such as warehouse stock control, for example. Although PDAs are often used in such applications, they can also be used for scheduling, collecting e-mail, and other generic tasks.

Pegasus is a distribution or ‘switch' company which also acts as an interface between individual hotels and the large GDS services.

Point of Sale (PoS)
A point-of-sale terminal is a cash register system designed to record transactions. It is typically used within a retail or hospitality environment at the point where cash changes hands.
Property Management System (PMS)

Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX)
A piece of equipment that serves as the central routing point for incoming and outgoing phone calls.

Property management system (PMS)
A property management system is the single-site version of the central reservation system used by large hotel chains. In a single-site hotel, it will be used to handle reservations and to monitor the status of rooms. The PMS will often connect to other software applications such as accounting, telephone management or restaurant management.

A pre-agreed data format that enables one computer or piece of software to speak to another.

Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)
A relational database management system is the software that enables a user to control a database file holding records pertaining to the business.

A router is a piece of hardware designed to forward information from one computer to another across an IP-based computer network. Routers are often used in branch offices to help exchange information with other offices in the company across the public Internet.

Sabre is a global distribution system covering more than 400 airlines, 64,000 hotels, 32 car rental companies and 35 railways. Founded in 1960, it has 53,000 travel agency customers. Its parent company, Sabre Holdings, also owns the Travelocity online travel service.

Search engine
A web-based site that indexes the public Internet, enabling web users to search for resources including text and images through a single web form. Popular search engines include Google and AskJeeves.

Server A server is a central computer designed to be used by multiple users at once. It can either run software (such as a database or accounting application) designed to serve a particular business need, or it can simply be used to store files or access e-mail.

Streaming is the process of delivering audio or video across a computer network in real time or near-real time, so that the user does not have to wait very long to see or hear the content.

Thin client
A thin client is the modern equivalent of a dumb terminal. A thin client has very little processing power or storage space, instead relying on the central server to do the processing. However, a thin client will generally include a graphical user interface, unlike traditional dumb terminals, which relied purely on text-based interfaces.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
A URL is designed to locate a particular web page online.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)
The universal serial bus is a fast interface designed to transfer information quickly between a PC and a peripheral, such as a printer.

USB key
A USB key is a small memory chip with a built-in USB interface. The key plugs into the USB socket of the PC and serves as the modern equivalent of a diskette, transferring information quickly and then storing it off line until it is needed again.

Video on demand (VoD)
Video on demand systems enable TV viewers to access the programs that they want to see, when they want to see them. True video on demand systems usually store the programs or films on a server located on or near the premises. Near-video on demand systems work slightly differently, playing the same programs on a regular basis and enabling viewers to access them the next time they air.

A computer virus is a self-replicating program that installs itself on a computer before making copies of itself and sending them to other computers to reinfect them. Some viruses also carry a malicious payload, damaging or erasing a local computer's data when certain conditions are met. Anti-virus applications can help to prevent this nuisance software.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) VoIP is another name for IP telephony.

WiFi is the colloquial name for the 802.11b data protocol used to transmit data wirelessly over short distances. WiFi networks have become extremely popular, revolutionising the networking scene over the past five years. Many hotels now offer WiFi access for traveling businesspeople.

Wireless LAN (WLAN)
A wireless LAN is the local area network created by a series of WiFi links.

Worldspan is a global distribution system founded in 1990 and connecting travel suppliers with travel agencies, e-commerce sites and corporations worldwide.

XML (eXtensible Markup Language)
XML is a programming language designed for the creation of other languages that are used to exchange specific information. XML-based languages have been created for everything from sending invoices to saving word processor documents. Think of XML as a toolkit for the creation of software protocols.

Yield management
The process of manipulating the supply and price of a product or service to maximise revenue. Yield management is used in everything from the airline industry (for maximising revenue from available seats) through to the hotel industry, for controlling the supply of rooms.

by Danny Bradbury

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