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In the wake of the tragic terrorist events in Mumbai this past week, leaders of the hospitality industry are starting to ask themselves some uncomfortable questions about security.


The simple truth of that matter is that, short of locking down their entire facilities, there is very little that can be done to prevent terrorists from walking into a hotel with the intention of doing as much bodily harm as possible.


But what also became clear was the armed forces that were called on to respond to the attacks did not have access to all the critical information they needed to combat the threat. Specifically, the information they had about the layout of the hotels under siege was out of date and there was limited access to any kind of digital surveillance equipment.


Any hospitality industry executive watching those events could not help but wonder what the authorities really would need to know should any of their properties fall victim to the same types of attacks.


Besides the fact that most hotels would need to upgrade their network infrastructure to support digital surveillance, most hotel IT organizations would need mapping software that could be upgraded in real time as hotel staff change the configurations of large ballrooms.


Needless to say, this may require some expense. But at the same time, Cisco and
were also able to recently show how they melded video cameras with IBM’s MashUp Center software to create a video surveillance application in under eight hours. And the price of the networking equipments required to create these applications has dropped considerably.


None of these tools would stop any kind of attack in its tracks. But it could make a considerable difference when it comes to limiting the extent of the damage. As any fire fighter will tell when, when they come to put out the fire in your house, they are not there to save your house. They are there to save your neighbor’s house. Your house is already on fire.


Nevertheless, we still require people to have fire alarms in order to get firefighters to the scene of the fire as quickly as possible. Similarly, we are going to need to require building owners to install digital surveillance systems to facilitate the work of first responders to any type of emergency. Some day, that data might actually be fed back to a host of backend systems in real time that can they provide additional critical information to support those operations.


Ultimately, this level of technological support for first responders to any type of emergency may require a federal mandate to get installed these systems installed every they are needed. In the meantime, solution providers would do well to start having these conversations with executives in the hospitality industry. Many of the leading companies in the higher end of the hospitality industry have already made some investments in digital surveillance systems. But the fact is that the majority of them have not and for the first time the reasons they need to make these investments are unfortunately now obvious to all.