INTRODUCTION TO IP TELEPHONY

IP Telephony or Internet Protocol Telephony is a generic term used to describe technologies that use internet packets switched connections for exchanging voice, fax and other forms of information. The call propagates in the form of packets, over a local area network or internet avoiding PSTN Tolls.

The technology birthed in the late 1990s and drove the telecommunication industry to a change. Almost all communication carriers today are using an IP Infrastructure for a part or for all of its voice services.

The corporate environment benefits from IP Telephony in multiple ways, an important one being economic costing. IP Telephony trigged the development of unified communication solutions offering a holistic communication package as all in one, to be run on a single network & on one platform. This implies a business can make calls, manage video conferencing, collaborate, chat, etc. through a single service.

Now, coming to a very common misconception among people. Often, VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and IP Telephony are considered synonymous and the names are used interchangeably. The fact of the matter is, VOIP is a part of IP Telephony. Actually, IP Telephony deals with the digital side of telecommunications by means of an internet protocol known as voice over IP.

Another benefit of IP Telephony besides the cost is that of increased productivity. In fact, VOIP has been named the most successful technology of the last decade.

TRUE DEFINITION OF AN ACCESS POINT

Access Point is often a misunderstood member in the family of wireless internet-enabled devices. It’s sometimes confused with a wireless extender or assumed intimately analogous to a router. Access Point or AP is basically a device that creates Wireless Local Network or WLAN in an office or a large building.  It simply connects with a wired router or a switch or a hub via an Ethernet cable and directs a Wi-Fi Signal to the designated area. For instance, if your office reception is beyond the wired router range, an AP is a great way to make the Wi-Fi signal available there.

Speaking about ranger extenders, they are perfect for a Home Wi-Fi but are seldom efficient for a business. The reason being the support for a limited number of devices usually more than a few dozen. Also, the range extenders while enhancing the Wi-Fi signal isn’t able to amplify the bandwidth. And the breach in the number of devices supported can lead to the weighing down of your connection. Access Point, on the other hand, can handle 60 plus connections simultaneously. So the users can roam freely in an office from room to room without expecting an interruption in the connection.

Advantages Of Using Wireless Access Points

Access Points are preferred for the ease of scaling the connected devices in an instant. There are more convincing reasons for using them that can be described as under:

1. Business-grade Access Points can be incorporated anywhere an Ethernet cable can run to. The latest models are compatible with power over Ethernet Plus or POE+. So a separate powerline or an outlet need not be installed near the AP.

2. The features like the Captive Portal & Access Control List (ACL) enable the management of users and their accessibility without compromising network security.

3. Cluster feature allows IT, administrator, to treat Access Points as a single entity thus making changes and deployment really easy.

ATTENDANCE & ACCESS CONTROL

Attendance & Access Control has become an essential means of ensuring both security and tracking employees’ attendance in an organization. So, the main objective of an Access Control is to protect physical, IP & human assets. This avoids unauthorized people from visiting certain predefined areas. An ideal Access Control should effectively manage the security and employee attendance irrespective of the size of the organization.

ACCESS CONTROL ADVANTAGES

1. Access offered per user, time and area.

2. Collection of biometrical data for advanced security.

3. The option of additional protection for sensitive areas by means of Advance Security Options.

4. Reliability & Scalability through IP based architecture.

5. Control of multiple devices & locations via central monitoring.

6. Ability to integrate with firefighting & other technical security systems.

Employee Time management is necessary for ensuring the organization continues to maintain a high level of discipline and stays on the right course. Keeping the time – attendance in view, an organization should be careful while choosing a biometric. One should look for the following attributes:

1. Simultaneous control over multiple locations through a centralized system.

2. Management of working hours of Individual employees.

3. Tracking shift & overtime work.

4. Prompt notifications in case of any change say schedule.

5. Creating customized reports.

6. Easy integration with payroll management & human resources management.

EMERGENCE OF IPTV

IPTV as a term first came into light with the founding of Precept Software by Judith Estrin & Bill Carrico way back in 1995. It’s among the highly sought after products now! 

Internet Protocol Television simply delivers the content over the internet and offers to run the source media continuously, also known as streaming media. The IPTV application is not limited to television streaming. It’s also used to deliver media in corporate or private networks.

Another advantage of IPTV is that it makes sure the content, whether confidential information or broadcast channels, is not copied or distributed without any authorization. Using group or user authentication allows the content to be revealed only to people who have access to it. End to End AES encryption ensures the content can’t be copied or distributed guaranteeing content stays where it should within the organization.

As far as the Hospitality Industry goes, IPTV reinvents the way industry engages with its customers by delivering video content over computer networks to multiple devices. Hotel for an instance can promote its various amenities, local services or special offers to its guests thereby boosting the revenue. The option of accessing various apps combined with Open API makes it an ideal fit!

In fact, the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Market was valued at USD 40.85 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 104.25 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 16.9% over the forecast period 2020- 2025 as per technews.mobi. It further states, “The demand for high-quality content on TV is proliferating due to the rapid increase in internet penetration globally. The improved wired broadband infrastructure in the urban areas has supported the market growth and is expected to further fuel the demand in the market. The scope of the study for internet protocol television (IPTV) market has considered both hardware and services provided by the vendors for the IPTV system globally.”

Hence, the global market for IPTV is going to expand drastically in the coming years as internet service and accessibility continues to improve.

AN IDEAL FOOTFALL INTELLIGENCE SOLUTION

Brick and Mortar business has its own set of prerogatives over online business. But there are certain areas where it significantly falls behind. One of them being the ability to measure the footfall or traffic to a store or an outlet especially supermarkets or retail stores. Online businesses have ways to gauge the traffic coming to the website, deriving business intelligence and accordingly making decisions. But does a brick & mortar business like a supermarket have means to measure their footfall and use it in the same way. The answer is YES or Footfall Intelligence Solution!

Footfall Intelligence enables a brick and mortar business to count its footfall and derive a variety of business intelligence. The best shall provide the following:

1. Best in Class Technology

2. Consistent Data

3. Data Intelligence

4. Quality Service

Best in Class Technology

Effective, error-free technology is a must for the success of a people counting system. The information derived is crucial for making important strategic & operational decisions. Thus, one must go with a solution provider with extensive clientele and proven examples.

Consistent Data

Consistency and uniqueness of data are necessary for ensuring it can be used in a meaningful way. Look for a solution provider who daily checks the data for discrepancies, thus transmitting high-quality unique data only.

Data Intelligence

Now comes the way data get churned to become fathomable & useful. The solution must come with an extensive dashboard enabling all kinds of quantitative and qualitative measurements say footfall quantity, red-zones and so on in the form of extensive reports. The reports' interpretation should thus lead to better store optimization or staff performance or an overall increase in ROI.

Quality Service

This is equally important to guarantee the continuous functionality and optimal health of the solution. Choose a solution provider that offers a comprehensive Service level agreement.

To conclude, this is the age of Big Data. Today data is being used in retail to enhance the customer’s shopping experience and strategically place the products that maximize the sales. Footfall Intelligence Solution thus is critical for gather data and interpreting it in a meaningful intelligent way.  

SIGNIFICANCE OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS

Businesses today have been evolving faster than ever. The way new technologies are being invented and incorporated, to make business operations efficient, is truly fascinating! The business world is becoming more comfortable with the idea of work from home and unified communication solutions are making this possible.

Unified Communication or UC defines how we connect different communication systems together and use them for collaboration. It thus ensures the smooth integration of a globally dispersed workforce.  It breaks down the barriers of distance and enables work no matter where your team is placed in the world.

The team accesses a secure system equipped with:

1. SMS & IM

2. Email

3. Voicemail

4. Scheduling Meetings

5. VOIP & Video Calling

6. Web Conferencing

7. Screen & Document Sharing

Now, Unified Communication comes with its gamut of benefits which can briefly be listed as under:

1. Greater Productivity

As the team can connect or stay connected irrespective of where they are.

2. Stronger Performance

Given employees can connect in an instant and thus resolve issues in a much quicker time.

3. Lower Costs

Businesses can shift away from a Capex model to an OpEx strategy with fewer initial expenses as UC operates on the cloud.

4. Better User Experience

Since employees can work from any place of their choice which gives them freedom of movement and hence better user experience.

The UC systems are rising in popularity year on year. The biggest trend propelling the adoption of UC is digital transformation (DX) and the emergence of the digital workforce. Now, the digital workforce centrally is based on the idea that people should have access to tools they need to perform irrespective of where they’re or what device they use. Combine this with the popular movement to cloud communications and agile methodologies, you get an environment primed for UC!

KITCHEN DISPLAY SYSTEM & ITS SIGNIFICANCE

Kitchen Display System (KDS) is a revolutionary product that has paved a digital way to communicate directly with a restaurant’s Kitchen section replacing the handwritten or printed ticket orders. The KDS connects with the point of sale machine only if it’s compatible with it. And the choice of KDS generally depends on the choice of POS used.

The best is the one that integrates seamlessly with the front of house management, comes with flexible hardware options, conveniently sends guest orders directly to the kitchen, provides coursing & timing and such information that makes kitchen operations more efficient.

KDS is a must-have product for any restaurant to stay up to speed with the growing demands of customers. It makes the life of the head chef way easier and allows the focus to be shifted onto what’s the most important activity in the restaurant i.e. cooking delicious meals.

Coming to the basic features of KDS, it shall possess the following:

1. Meal Coursing / Coursing Manager

This simply involves sending different items of a course together at once for preparation and the coursing manager overlooks this. You can set certain rules to display items of a meal and thus determine the chronology of delivering them to the customer. This can ensure all parts of a meal are served fresh.

2. Meal Pacing

This has to do with delivering the entire meal hot and fresh. So, accordingly different parts of a meal are timed or paced. Each cooking station is thus notified to prepare its part of the meal to ensure the meal is served fresh.

3. Cook Times

This signifies when a particular part of the meal needs to be cooked. The aim is to prepare food with long and short cook time in such a way that the entire meal is served once or follows a proper hierarchy.

4. Recipes / Ingredients

This is for staff to double-check recipes, preparation procedures and maintain quality control.

5. Routing Capabilities

The purpose is to move the food to correct relevant destinations say grill, pantry, fryer and so on.

Speaking of benefits of KDS, few are as under:

1. Environment-Friendly

 Since it’s paperless.

2. Amplifies Efficiency

Orders are immediately sent to the kitchen and prepared in a much-organized manner which exponentially enhances the overall efficiency.

3. Order Tracking

Monitor the order cycle and use color code to imply if the part of an order is on time, running late, being prepared and so on.

4. Reduce Cost

The saving through KDS is visible only after a bit of time. However, the saving is immediate as far as order accuracy goes.

5. Business Intelligence

One can derive valuable data that can be used to further improve overall kitchen operations.

6. Integrated Online Ordering

The order received online directly appear on a KDS and doesn’t require the staff to intervene to reenter it into the POS system.

SOLID IT INFRASTRUCTURE IS KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

Information Technology Infrastructure is basically a set of Information technology components that forms the basis of IT as a service. Though it typically comprises of physical components such as computer and networking hardware, different shades of software and network components come under this umbrella.

The ultimate aim of a solid IT Infrastructure is to ensure smooth business functioning & sustainability. With the kind of technological upheaval we are witnessing, the IT specialists in various industries are paying special attention to the scalability of the IT infrastructure in place. Say if we talk about Data Centers, more organizations are moving to cloud from physical ones as it’s easier to manage and scale.

Coming to the components of IT Infrastructure, the primary ones are the physical systems such as hardware, storage, any routers or switches, network, software and so on. Then there’s a need for IT Infrastructure Security to keep the network and its components secure for maintaining the sustainability of the organizational system.  

Speaking of the future, here are a few ways of making the company IT infrastructure future-ready:

1. Move To Cloud

 A hybrid cloud is an option that has the best of both the worlds and the transition shall further facilitate the team collaboration and encourage agile development. The movement to the cloud also enables the prospects of scalability and business expansion.

2. Prepare For AI

AI is the topic of obsession in the technological world currently and increasing number of organizations are taking advantage of Deep learning, Machine learning & AI to bring added business value.

3. Deriving Useful Insights From Data

A business that harnesses the power of Data always has a competitive advantage. A spectrum of storage portfolio certainly assists in distilling the data and helps gather actionable insight from it.

4. Rethink Your Storage Options

Storage is more than having big external hard disks. It has to do more with reading the data that one acquires from it and then uses it for optimization. One can contemplate on multiple options and choose based on the nature of business. A company can go with a solo solution or mix of Flash Storage, Software-Defined Storage, Hybrid Storage, and Tape Storage.

5. Secure Your Valuable Data

This is important and encrypting the data is the way forward to ensure security and protection.

TRENDS TO INFLUENCE MENA HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN 2020

With the Year 2020 around the corner, the hospitality industry is all set to welcome the New Year with great optimism & even greater goals for growth. As per a UAE based Hotel Management Company – Aleph Hospitality, the following 5 factors at large are going to impact the development & performance of the MENA hospitality industry in 2020.

Saudi Arabia’s New Visa Regulations

The impact of Saudi’s new tourist visa shall continue to bear positive changes on the Saudi Arabian economy especially the Hospitality Industry. The opening of the vast Kingdom has incited interest in the leisure travelers from GGC & beyond. For Hospitality Industry, this will lead to a flow of huge investment opportunities & also prompt hotels to diversify their product offerings to meet the needs of the new demographic.

Profitability As A Center Of Focus For Hotel Owners

Expenses shall continue to be a point of stress as hotel owners will continue to seek high profitability from their assets. In order to protect the bottom line, the hotel owners will be open to new management models ranging from white-label to franchising. Expect 2020 to witness a spike in such agreements to manage costs and stay profitable.

Adoption Of Smart Solutions

With Digital Transformation making sweeping changes in many industries, the Hotel Industry seems to be a bit slow towards the adoption. The advent of facial recognition or biometrics boarding now enables passport-free travel which has made the travel, thus the life of tourists easy. Hotels businesses should think on similar lines for customer service and make activities such as hotel reservations, check-in or check-out personalized and easy. After all, convenience is key for the ultimate guest experience.

Commitment To Reduce Plastic Usage

 The initiative of plastic-free UAE taken by UAE Government is finding increasing popularity & foothold across the emirates.  Big chains like Jumeirah, Marriot, and Hilton announced plastic-free initiatives this year and the trend is expected to intensify in 2020. The Hotels & Restaurants can help a lot in the coming year if they decide to go full throttle on this.

Lucrative African Market Penetration

Africa is not just land with exquisite natural beauty; it’s full of opportunities to grab as far as the hospitality & tourism industry is concerned. Ethiopia, for instance, saw a growth of around 48.6% in the travel & tourism economy in 2018 and this growth is expected to continue. So, Africa is going to be an investment magnet in 2020.

PRAXIS: ERP TAILOR-MADE FOR HOSPITALITY & RETAIL

Enterprise Resource Planning is a centralized system that allows tight integration between different departments of an organization & enables them to work as one. ERP system tracks business resources such as cash, raw material, payroll, order, purchase & so on and facilitates the information sharing between different departments such as HR, Sales, Accounting, Purchase etc.

There are a number of ERP software programs efficiently designed to tackle the demanding everyday operational needs of a business. Among them, the one to reckon with is Praxis ERP.

Praxis ERP is designed specifically to cater to Hospitality & Retail. Developed with the best industry practices, it’s scalable to meet the evolving demands of the business. Here are the key benefits

1. Replaces Multiple Systems as One Scalable ERP Solution 2. Eradicates Interface Issues 3. Lower Vendor Maintanenace Fee & Server Storage Cost 4. Delivers Quick Return on Investment

STANDOUT FEATURES

1. Multiple Location Control 2. User-Friendly Interface 3. Modular Design 4. Universal Standard of Design & Coding 5. Highest Security 6. Fully Integrable with POS Solution

COVERAGE

1. Integration With POS     2. Financial Management System 3. HR Management System 4. Fixed Assets 5. Employee Self Services 6. Financial Budgeting System 7. Manpower Budget

INTEGRATION WITH POS  

This module is designed to integrate the Sales System of a POS with the Financial System. The Functions are as follows:

a. Import of Sales and Collection information from POS Software as per the defined schedules. b. Generation of extended reports related to sales and collection.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

The Financial and Accounting System are tweakable to meet the needs of a customer. Following are the major modules here:

Chart of Account-It entails features to setup organization structure, company, subsidiary company, cost center, units and income expense groups. Further, the nominal accounts enable to maintain five levels of account details.

General Ledger-General Ledger allows a user to input Journal Vouchers in the system. A user can also read data from other integrated modules such as Payroll, Accrued EOS, Vacations and Food Cost. Then one can generate vouchers for Accrued Expense / Accrued Income or use Period Control to close financial month and year. Batch generation of monthly reports in pdf is also available which saves time.

Accounts Payable-Account payable offers functionality to maintain complete payable sub-ledgers information. It’s integrated with the Material Management System (MMS) to book the supplier invoices using material receiving from inventory and includes posing of all MMS transactions to financials

Accounts Receivable-Account Receivable is used to maintain complete receivable sub-ledgers information. Customer ledger, statements, aging, and other reports can be generated.

Cash Management-The module deals with Bank & Cash related transactions entailing customer receipts, cash receipts, daily sales receipts (integrated with POS sales system), supplier payments and GL to GL Payments. 

Reporting-Comprehensive reporting is available to meet the business intelligence demands of users on different levels.

HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

HRMS module is coded considering the local and customized requirements of Multiple Markets. Following modules are included in HRMS:

Employee Personal-Employee Personal system is for maintaining Employee Related Information including Employee Personal Information, Government Documents, Education/Experience, Dependents, Administrative and Employee Assets. A robust reporting module is available to generate admin and legal reports.

Leave Management-Employee leave Module provides facilitates maintenance of Employee Vacation Information including employee travel destination and ticket information.

Payroll- Payroll Module maintains employee salaries data with a full cycle of payroll generation. The major processes include earning entitlements, due deduction, loans GOSI module, monthly timesheets, and payroll generation.

FIXED ASSETS

The system offers a complete module with Asset Tracking System. It allows a company to maintain asset information and capacitates it to classify Asset-based different factors such as Asset Types, Categories, Physical Location, and Integration with GL Chart. The System can generate and post depreciation on an actual basis.

FINANCIAL BUDGETING SYSTEM

Budget System provides a forecast of revenues and expenditures i.e. enables the construction of a financial model depicting the business performance if certain strategies, events, and plans are carried out. It's efficient in the following ways: a. Ascertain the difference between the actual & the forecasted business trajectory by comparing actual financial operations against the forecast.  b. Maintain monthly financial budget on multiple levels such as cost center, department/unit, and nominal account.

MANPOWER BUDGET

The payroll system has the capability to maintain manpower budget based on departments and positions. Here are a few pointers on the significance: 1. Manning Charts 2. Retention Support Scheme 3. Learning & Development 4. Downsizing 5. Succession Planning