Seniors are happier and healthier when they are connected…

grandpa-and-familyIt’s a fact CCRC providers know and know well.  Studies show that Seniors who have more time with loved ones are simply healthier and happier than Seniors who are lonely.  A huge part of the emotional battle for both Seniors and their loved ones in regards to moving into a CCRC, and changes like moving from Independent to Assisted Living, is the fear of being alone, or being forgotten and of losing touch with love ones.  Offering property-wide Internet access, technology classes and device time for Seniors can help them to stay connected to family and friends, view more family photos, engage on social media and access more activities that will aid in emotional and physical well-being.

Technology has become a major contributor toward improving the quality of life of seniors living in CCRCs.  In 2015 a provider who offers technology to residents in the form of property-wide WiFi, device usage or classes on social media/ how to use technology, is going to have a huge advantage over a community that either does not offer technology or leaves it up to the resident to set up their own technology.  Families will be happy to know that their loved one’s new home will allow them to be connected online, have a way to access family pictures on Facebook, family blogs and email threads .  Senior’s loved ones will also be happy to know that when going to visit their loved ones, children and grandchildren will have access to the technology they need to stay connected to work and family while visiting.

As for devices, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets have truly simplified the process of using the Internet for all walks of life. The “app” model makes it easy for Seniors to access things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Games, etc. by simply touching an icon.  Another big benefit of seniors using WiFi and social media to stay connected is that the connection is real-time.  While pictures are wonderful, they can also create a sense of melancholy as they are in the past, but social media is real-time and allows seniors to feel as though they are living in the moment with their loved ones.

 

Is your hotel losing by charging for WiFi?

monitoringFor years WiFi has consistently been named as the most requested hotel amenity by travelers and a huge determinant in where guests book and how they rate their stay at a hotel.  But what about the cost of charging for WiFi? Hotelier.com’s recent article: The High Cost of Charging for WiFi, concludes that hotels simply cannot afford to charge for WiFi or offer tiered service where free means “slow and unreliable”.

In 2015, as the article points out, today’s travelers rely on WiFi as a basic service that allows them to keep in touch with work, family and friends and this service is no longer an amenity but “as basic as bathrobes and body wash”.  In fact may hotels would probably benefit from forgoing soaps and shampoos and investing in some high quality WiFi.  A recent IHG poll of 10,000 business travelers had 60% of the respondents calling out FREE WiFi as the single most important feature of the room.

So what does all these mean for hotel owners?  Clearly  hotel owners struggle with the costs associated with providing free, high quality WiFi to guests.  This is a struggle that hotel owners can sympathize with, but as Kristine Rose,  VP of brands for Hyatt pointed out, “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity.  It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation.  Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it”.  Hyatt was the first non-luxury major brand to offer free WiFi to it’s guests and the brand sees the decision as an absolutely necessary one.

While one major traveler concern is that the WiFi be free – the other major concern is that the WiFi be fast and reliable.  For hotels that advertise free WiFi but provide a slow, unreliable service, the negative impact on guests can be just as great as not offering it at all.  In fact, many guests simply will not return to a hotel after a bad WiFi experience.  High quality, managed WiFi is a must and hotel owners need to look to proven WiFi brands, like Spot On Networks, to ensure that 1) the guest experience is a positive one and 2) that network issues that do occur are handled quickly and do not interfere with hotel operations.

Sprint enables WiFi calling on iPhone

Last fall saw a flood of major news on the WiFi calling front.  First came the T-Mobile/ Apple announcement that T-Mobile would be the first major carrier to support WiFi Calling with the release of iOS 8, then the subsequent announcements by both AT&T and (a reluctant) Verizon that they would support WiFi calling in mid to late 2015.  WiFi calling has been a huge boon for T-Mobile with their “UnCarrier” marketing pitch holding mass appeal to millennials.  Now, six months later, Sprint has announced support for WiFi calling on the iPhone.  Sprint had previously supported WiFi calling on Android devices, but the WiFi calling support (which requires an iOS 8.3 update) on the iPhone is big news.  Announced yesterday was that Sprint will be making carrier settings over the next couple of days to support the new update.

David Owens, SVP of Product Development for Sprint spoke about the obvious benefits the carrier will see as a result of adding WiFi hotspots to their arsenal of voice coverage:

WiFi Calling is like a major expansion of our network, allowing Sprint customers to get coverage anywhere they have WiFi connectivity… Traditional wireless technology has some limitations in places like basements and high-rise office buildings.  WiFi expands our customer’s connectivity in a big way.  The addition of WiFi calling for iPhone customers is just one more example of how Sprint is getting better every day.”

Next on the horizon should be some major announcements coming from AT&T and Verizon regarding their support for WiFi calling.  Both carriers have been somewhat smug when speaking about WiFi calling as an offering on their networks and pointing to holes in T-Mobile/ Sprint coverage as being the primary motivators for supporting the WiFi calling feature.  That being said, you simply can’t argue with market demand and the market is demanding WiFi calling… the adoption of support of the feature on the iPhone is proof enough of that.

 

 

7 Million Customers Using T-Mobile WiFi Calling

cellboost-woman (2)A recent article in FierceWireless points to a “strong adoption” of the T-Mobile WiFi Calling feature.  T-Mobile now boasts 7 million WiFi calling users and growth is expected to “accelerate quickly”.  T-Mobile users are realizing the convenience of WiFi calling as a real solution to poor indoor cellular coverage.  T-Mobile’s partnering with Apple for the launch of the iOS  8 and the iPhone 6, which both support WiFi calling, was huge for T-Mobile, in addition T-Mobile allowed customers to upgrade to a WiFi calling capable device last year if they did not already have one.

AT&T and Verizon have promised the feature for mid-2015 and it’s rumored that certain customers are now Beta testing the feature for the two major carriers with success.  WiFi technology companies, like Ruckus, have pointed to WiFi Calling as the next big disruptive technology, set to turn the cellular model on it’s head.

We are already beginning to see new business models formed around WiFi calling that show many cellular customers are embracing the disruptive technology and even forgoing cellular all together.  Similar to what is happening in the cable TV market with pay-for Internet TV, we are seeing customers, especially millennials embracing services that put them in control of their spending.  The options range from WiFi only phones to seamless WiFi calling/ cellular offerings from major carriers to MNVO networks that offer inexpensive cellular backup plans but rely primarily on WiFi.

With the amount of WiFi networks expected to double, globally, by 2020, WiFi calling is more than just a “what if”.  We are seeing WiFi Calling being taken very seriously by property owners and building developers as a real alternative to costly solutions like DAS.  The major benefit of WiFi calling to building owners, of course, is that it offers multiple benefits.  Unlike DAS, which effectively creates a new cell tower in a building, WiFi offers high speed unlimited data usage… not to mention it is significantly less expensive than a DAS.  A carrier-grade, managed WiFi network can be put into a building for as low as $0.40/ per square foot, compare to a DAS which runs $2 – 2.50/sq ft.

 

CCRC Residents Seeking Property-Wide WiFi Connectivity

seniors_ipad2The term “amenity” in reference to Senior Living is changing and is expected to change drastically in the next 5-10 years.  Who would have thought five years ago that WiFi would be a necessary amenity for an industry catering to seniors?  After all, five years ago, younger generations were just beginning to figure out and become dependent on their smartphones.  However, the need for property-wide internet connectivity in Senior Living is a reality.  According to a Pew Research study 68% of seniors aged 70+ are on the internet – with CCRCs looking to appeal to even younger residents, property-wide WiFi starts to play a real role as a differentiator between facilities.

Boomers are clearly technology dependent and fall into one of two categories due to the massive date range of the generation:  a) putting their parents into Senior Living or b) potential senior living resident.  That being said, the entire generation is tech dependent and deserves real attention when considering whether or not to implement property-wide WiFi networks.  The potential resident will certainly want the WiFi amenity and the younger-Boomer, who is married to their Smartphone/ Tablet/ etc, will not want their parents in a facility with seemingly limited connectivity.

Technology amenities are something that providers are taking very seriously, according to a seniorhousingnews.com article, especially when they look to the future generations, primarily the Millennials:

“The next generation of decider and chief is the millennial,” said Susan Rivers, head of Global Wealth Management Corporate Communications at BNY Mellon.  It is important that Senior Living properties look to future-proofing their buildings as best they can for the next 10-20 years.  “We need to be giving a lot of thought to what comes after – and that’s something that’s going to ripple throughout this economy,” said Harold Gross, partner at Market Research Answers during the 2014 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago.

Clearly, a large part of the focus when looking towards the future of Senior Living will be in the area of wireless technologies.  Properties need to begin offering technology now as it makes, “it easier for [the adult child] to stay connected to Mom and Dad – and if [the adult child] is visiting [he or she] can do work, or share photos of the visit on Facebook.”

CCRC providers marketing to Boomers with WiFi

CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) providers are looking to new marketing methods to reach the Boomer generation, which according to some is proving, “a challenging demographic to reach”.  Despite their later starts in life (getting married later, having children later, etc.), Boomers are planners and expected to be big-time planners when it comes to the later stages of their lives.  For CCRC providers, the hope is that they later stages of life planning will include realizing the benefit of a CCRC.

For CCRC providers looking to secure Boomers as residents, this aging generation offers a myriad of new marketing opportunities that allow providers to really differentiate themselves in ways they have not before.  One of the biggest differentiators for Senior and Assisted Living operators is going to be in how they offer technology to residents and families and how they incorporate technology into their amenities.

In the an article recently posted on SeniorHousingNews.com, Cathleen Toomey, VP of Marketing at RiverWoods, a New Hampshire-based CCRC, knows the importance of future-proofing properties:

“It is important to realize that we are not only appealing to our current residents, but also the residents of the future.  Tastes change and expectations change over time, and it is important to respond to that.”

Providers need to be flexible and adapt to market trends and changes in amenity expectations.  Technology is very high on the list of expected amenities and boomers and beyond fully relying on technology in their everyday life, CCRCs need to respond.  According to Toomey, “technology is at the forefront of renovations,” and regardless of what providers foresaw as amenities years ago, those amenities are changing: “We are installing WiFi in our flagship campus – something no one imagined we would need 20 years ago”, she says.

In addition to using technology like property-wide WiFi access at their properties, CCRCs have a host of wireless technology amenities they can use to differentiate themselves to make resident/ family life more comfortable, to provide safety and security and improve internal operations.

Cord Cutting Making Big Headlines As Giants Like Apple Get TV Serious

We recently wrote an article about Dish TV’s new offering, Sling TV, which is the first really attractive internet TV package.  Attractive because Sling includes both ESPN and Disney Channel, two titan channels previously unavailable in internet TV packages due to the cost to the provider of including them.

Now cord cutting is making quite a bit of major news headlines.  Just this week, two big articles came out in The Wall Street Journal with the lastest on pay-for internet TV and what the future holds.  In “Unbundling Pay-Tv Brings New Questions“, the WSJ states:

“The media industry is racing toward an Internet-TV future at a breathtaking pace.  But the swift changes, highlighted by efforts from Apple Inc, Dish Network Corp. and others, are giving consumers an array of confusing options and forcing entertainment giants to confront some sobering realities.”

For a day and an age, the cable companies have held a tight court over TV viewing, even navigating their rein through the streaming giants: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.  The bottom line was: if you want live sports, if you want to watch live shows, if you want access to movie channels, you have one option: a $90.00+ / month cable subscription.  This is changing… and changing fast due to serious commitments to internet TV from the likes of Apple, Inc., Sony Corp. and Dish Corp.

The whole pay-for internet TV model is based on the premise that YOU control what you pay-for and get what you want.  This, of course, gives the media giants the argument presented by Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, in WSJ:

“If you buy retail and you have six or seven of these things [referring to pay-for Internet channels], that might cost you as much as a bundle that gives you 400 different networks.”

Dauman’s take on things is simply outdated at this point and not some Millennials seem likely to fall for anymore.  The obvious counter-argument being, 400 channels of what?  Typically a lot of junk no one wants to watch… and the Millennials are not an easily duped generation.   Millennials are used to much more control over their destiny and their consumption.  This is a generation that wants what they want, how they want it.  This is a generation that wants to scale down and live in a customized “small space”, a generation that has obtained flex hours and work-from-home options- shunning the old-school corporate culture, a generation brought up with Napster and most of all a generation that is completely addicted to their devices and the capabilities that their devices offer.

Roger Lynch, chief executive of Dish’s Sling TV, makes mention of the shunning of pay-for cable TV service, simply: “there’s a growing number of consumers for whom that doesn’t work anymore” and pay-for Internet TV will be, “better for many consumers”.

Clearly, we will be living in a much different media consumption work come this time next year…

 

74% of Senior Living CFOs reported investments in Internet connectivity

boomers-love-technologyWhat industry is reporting huge growth in wireless internet investment?  If you guessed Senior Living, you are right on the money!  The demand for adequate Internet connectivity and WiFi access is projected to increase exponentially as baby boomers who rely completely on wireless technology age and move into senior housing.  According to SeniorAdvisor.com, a whooping 74% of Senior Living CFOs reported investments in internet connectivity.

Many of the Senior Living properties and management companies that we are speaking with are telling us that they are getting pressure from residents and families to have WiFi available throughout their communities for a few reasons:

  • Seniors are finding that WiFi enabled devices, like tablets, are much simpler to use than a standard computer and they need WiFi access to use them online.
  • Seniors are using social media!  That’s right, according to Pew Research, 46% of seniors are now using social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Seniors want their families to have connectivity during visits so they can stay longer.  We have had multiple properties come to us and say that Senior’s children have to leave because they cannot remain connected to work or email and that grandkids are demanding WiFi access so they can stay on social media, do homework and more while visiting their grandparents.
  • Skype! Facetime! Video chat via our smartphones and tablets have given us the ability to stay in touch with the ones we love.  Seniors are using these simple tools to have face-to-face time with their loved ones!

Being a relatively new industry to adopt WiFi technology, Senior Living building owners and managers are coming to us looking for advice and where to begin.  There are a lot of WiFi companies out there and they are NOT equal.  Security is a very big issue when it comes to WiFi, especially for seniors who may not know how to protect themselves from hacking and identity theft.  There are also important government regulations, like CALEA, which building owners need to be aware of when choosing a WiFi solution.

We have found that the best first step for an Assisted Living building owner to take is to sit in on a webinar discussing the WiFi solutions available to their property.  If your property is looking for a WiFi solution, contact us first, click here to request a webinar.  We will host a webinar for you which review the wireless solutions available to your property and discusses our patent-pending network design and UserSafe security solution.

 

Will WiFi Calling Replace Traditional Voice For Enterprise?

Will WiFi Calling replace traditional voice for enterprise?  David Callisch, VP of Corporate Marketing at Ruckus Wireless seems to think so:

“As Wi-Fi calling services come to market from carriers, business are able to effectively remove traditional wired phones, and all the costly and cumbersome cabling that goes along with them.  While this won’t happen overnight, it will happen,” Callisch was quoted as saying.

The key here is “carrier-grade” WiFi as a replacement.  WiFi not optimized for voice traffic will not be an acceptable replacement for wired phone/ cellular service and can result in “jitter”, “fade” and “shaky voice” service.  The way to eliminate the voice issues that can occur over WiFi is by prioritizing voice packets over data packets.  To simplify: if you have two WiFi users and one is streaming video and then one goes to make a call, the voice user’s traffic will get caught up in the bandwidth hogging caused by the video user.  Voice packets are much smaller than data packets, but they need to be passed at a high priority or they risk being at the mercy of data usage.  A standard router does not have this ability.  Bandwidth monitoring and voice packet prioritization are necessary features of a WiFi calling network that will give a clear and reliable voice experience.

Ruckus, one of our equipment technology partners, has also implemented “Smart WiFi” technology which directs users to a less congested access point if the access point they are connecting to is getting congested.  Technologies like Smart WiFi are going to be the defining characteristic between an optimized WiFi network that delivers the best data performance, but also clear and reliable voice.  With the amount of money a business can save and the cleanliness of a wireless voice solution, it is no doubt that business will be quick to adopt WiFi calling.

Where we see one of the biggest industry impacts from WiFi calling is in the multitenant/ multifamily space.  Long riddled with indoor voice coverage issues, this industry has to employ expensive indoor cellular solutions, like DAS or the less expensive, CellBoost, just to provide basic voice coverage in buildings.  Because the WiFi amenity is already the top amenity for this industry, WiFi calling has the potential to save MDU/ MTUs millions of dollars while making their customers very happy.

 

Senior Living building owners realizing the necessity for commercial-grade WiFi

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boomers-love-technology

One of the last residential industries to catch on to the installation of commercial-grade WiFi has been the Assisted and Senior Living industries, and understandably so.  With a considerably higher age demographic than the typical MDU/ MTU, which caters primarily to millennials, managers of Senior and Assisted Living properties are starting to see a real demand from both residents and their families for commercial-grade WiFi as both an amenity.  As more technologies that improve Senior Living operations become available, building owners have the ability to offset the cost of deploying WiFi by lowering operational cost and saving on energy usage.

According to an article from titled: “WiFi in Senior Living Becoming Necessary Investment” in Senior Housing News:

“Yet due to security concerns, a rising demand among residents, and an ongoing shift toward a host of web-based services designed to make senior living and care more efficient, providers are finding in some cases they can’t afford not to make the investment.”

  • Some properties do attempt to self-install routers to simply offer WiFi access in property amenity areas so that they can provide Internet to families and residents, but this approach can be wrought with serious issues, lack adequate device support and can cause properties headaches that distract from property management duties:
  • Security: WiFi security issues are very real and seniors are especially vulnerable to hacking and identity theft.  It is important to have a WiFi network backed by UserSafe technology to ensure that users on the network are guarded against hacking and identity theft.  Technologies, like UserSafe™, isolate each individual user on the network so that no other user can access their device or information.  This means that shopping, banking, email and surfing are all safe guarded.  This is not the case with a self-install WiFi router, even when password protected with encryption, users are still vulnerable and exposed.
  • Support: Building owners that have attempted to self-install their own WiFi networks can attest to what a mess it can quickly become.  WiFi is a technology that needs constant support, monitoring and maintenance to ensure a positive user experience.  Spot On Networks has an in-house NOC (network operations center) that monitors the WiFi network 24/7 so that we are made aware of and can address a problem typically before the user even notices.   This support is essential to property managers so they can focus on running their facility, not on WiFi problems.
  • Wireless Operations Add-Ons: New wireless technologies are being geared towards improving operations at Senior Living facilities.  Vitals, bed sensors, security systems, medication dispensers, patient tracking devices and energy management can now allow for wireless monitoring which allows for large operational savings and better operating efficiency.  A commercial-grade network is essential to these technologies due to the need for continuous network monitoring.
  • Resident and Family Demands:  The senior population is getting more tech savvy by the minute and is showing the same rate of increase as the rest of the population.  59% of seniors 65+ are online and 71% of those are online every single day.  In addition we are noticing more properties whose resident population wants WiFi access, not only for themselves, but for their visiting families.  Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren expect to have WiFi access everywhere – including when visiting relatives.
  • WiFi Calling: New smartphones are being built with the ability to make calls over WiFi the same way that you would over the cellular networks.  This is a huge plus for building owners who tend to have indoor cellular coverage issues inside their buildings.  This technology is predicted to be the next game changer in the wireless industry and will allow for very inexpensive voice coverage to be delivered throughout a building.  For residents and their families, having adequate indoor voice coverage is a necessity.  Quality WiFi calling can only be obtained with a commercial-grade WiFi network with QOS and voice packet prioritization.
  • Seniors and internet adoption

    Image source: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

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