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Saving the World, One Hotel at a Time

Want your company to go green? Start by not printing anything. That's WiSuite CTO and Chief Software Architect Rick Bojahra's top tip for small businesses who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

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“It seems like a stupid thing, but honestly, companies just go through boxes and boxes and boxes of paper,” he explains. “We really don’t need to print. If we can take advantage of shared folders and Google Drives and PDF documents and email, we can reduce our printing needs to almost zero.”

Rick is a veritable fountain of knowledge when it comes to environmentally friendly tips for business. It’s not surprising and, in fact, is pretty much part of his job description. After all, WiSuite is in the business of helping hotels go green.

Going Green

Although green hotels are still far from ubiquitous, the current environmentally-conscious state of the hospitality industry is a far cry from how it was when WiSuite was founded.

“We did a little exploratory research back in around 2008 and we found that the hotel industry was definitely a market that wasn’t that green at that point,” says Rick. “The industry wasn’t really focusing on green initiatives back then and there weren’t that many players in the market at the time.”

The lack of competition was enticing, but the relative lack of demand for energy-saving technologies at the time must have been a little daunting. The WiSuite team, however, was determined to educate the hotel industry about their product.

“We were interested in saving energy and also very interested in leveraging some experience we had with wireless technology,” Rick says.

The team’s interest in saving energy isn’t just lip service. Even before Before starting WiSuite, the team was quite active in developing the low-cost, low-power network standard ZigBee. In fact, Rick was part of the working group that designed the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile currently being used worldwide.

The WiSuite team’s desire to conserve energy hasn’t changed. Even now, they talk the talk and walk the walk. One of WiSuite’s recent big initiatives at their Canada office, for example, was moving it to within a 3-kilometer distance of their homes. Now, Rick and his staff can walk or bike to work instead of driving 45 minutes and wasting gas.

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A Wireless, SaaS-based Approach

The team’s wireless technology background helped distinguish them from their competitors and bring them to the attention of hotel managers and owners, as did their SaaS approach to energy management.

“We were the first wireless technology to do ZigBee Wireless energy management in hotels; we started doing that back in ’08,” Rick explains. “Compared to our competitors, our installation costs were much lower as a result of the fact that we didn’t need to run wires.

“We also started our business as an online SaaS application and so we were providing a database-driven application from day one,” he continues. “Making a change to the settings in an individual thermostat in a guest room can be done from a web interface from anywhere — from a tablet, a phone, or a PC.”

Hotel staff don’t need to change the settings on individual thermostats, so it cuts out a lot of the legwork involved in a more traditional approach to temperature control.

WiSuite’s wireless approach also means that customers aren’t adversely affected by the hotel’s energy saving initiatives.

“During a 24 hour period a hotel room is empty 50-65% of the time, so we try to save energy in the hotel rooms when people are out of the room,” Rick says. “We don’t use timers or anything that might affect them. It’s all based on taking advantage of vacant times in the building to optimize energy consumption.”

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Integrating WORK[etc]

As a SaaS-based company itself, WiSuite has fully embraced and integrated other SaaS applications into its day-to-day operations. Google Drive plays a large part in sharing important documents, and so does WORK[etc] CRM software, which plays a primary role in WiSuite’s customer support side.

“We use WORK[etc] as a tool to maintain all of the customer contacts as well as all of the back and forth email transactions,” says Rick. “We also keep documents on there with IT configurations for buildings.”

Documents created and kept in Google Drive are easily attached to tickets, projects, and even Knowledge Base articles, keeping WiSuite’s installation and support teams armed with the correct information. WiSuite has also found an interesting use for WORK[etc]’s Knowledge Base by integrating it with their own proprietary web app.

“Our WiSuite web app actually links back to the WORK[etc] Knowledge Base,” he explains. “We use those documents directly for online help in the WiSuite app.

“As we add more documents to WORK[etc], those become available as online help, so as our customer support people are dealing with an issue they’ve never dealt with before, they create new documents and we publish those as part of our online help.

“There is a real integration between the WORK[etc] system and the WiSuite web environment, which is quite nice. We document once and make it available to everyone.”

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Making a Positive Change

With more and more of the industry integrating green initiatives into their businesses, Rick has noticed a definite uptick in competition in the green space. He, however, is far from bothered.

It’s not just because WiSuite already counts world-renown brands like the Marriott International, Hilton Hotels, Westin Hotels, and the Palazzo in Las Vegas among their clients. In fact, Rick sees it as a very positive development not only for the green hotel industry but for the world as a whole.

“When we started there were very few players,” he says. “People were more concerned about the dollar savings for green initiatives at that time than they were with just the fact that they’re doing a good thing for the environment.

“I think today people are a lot more concerned about the fact that they’re making a positive global change when they’re doing green initiatives. We see companies that are making green changes in their buildings just because it’s a good thing to do, because it’s the right thing to do. And that, I think, is the biggest change that I’m seeing in the industry. People are becoming more aware of the environment and the impact that greening these large buildings is having.

“There’s now a global awareness and we’re seeing it on a day to day basis. It’s not just about saving money anymore. It’s about making a positive change, and I think that’s why we’re here — developing and installing systems that significantly decease the carbon footprint of hotels. That’s why WiSuite’s been here the whole time.”

Rick’s Top Green Tip for Small Businesses

“You need to look at your big hits like utilities especially electricity and water. Determine where improvements like WiSuite can help reduce your costs and truly green your buildings. Doing simple things like putting motion sensors in boardrooms, putting in LED lights where possible, and plain old recycling make for a good start. And, of course, don’t print!”

— Rick Bojahra, CTO and Chief Software Architect, WiSuite

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