I had heard about this a couple of years ago (and many stories from a few months ago) and glad to see that some places are beginning to put this out in a trial manner. The advent of the smartphone hotel key is here and hopefully gets wide acceptance over the next few years.
Do you remember hotel keys? 🙂 I have actually stayed at hotels in the last year (foreign hotels) that still use actual keys. It has been a couple of years since I have had an actual key in a hotel in the US, but I do remember that as well. Now, hotels largely use the keycard. It gives access to your room, the fitness center, the pool area, and, in some cases, the hotel lounge. In some hotels, it is also used to even access the guest room floors on the elevator.
However, think about where we are now? It is possible to check-in from your mobile phone (and pick up your key at the desk) and even check-out from your phone as well. Why not just extend that capability so that your check-in also gives you a digital key on your phone that you can then use to access your room?
There are different ways this could be implemented but current companies are using Bluetooth as the way to access the room. One of the possibilities is to just have your phone automatically unlock the door when you are in proximity to it. They do recognize that it presents some security concerns (imagine if you are at your door and you run back to the elevator to get something – your door is now unlocked), but they are working on that. Another way might be to use a special digital code that you would scan at the link on the door.
According to reports, SPG is beginning the testing of these virtual keys at the Aloft Harlem (NY) and Aloft Cupertino (CA). They hope to push it out to their other brands in 2015. Other hotel brands have not jumped on yet but may do it once they see the value of it. The designers hope is that it will be widely accepted and institute d throughout hotels in the next 5 – 10 years.
One of the big pluses with going to this system is that it reduces lines at the front desk and, for the hotels, it eliminates upgrades to customers that would not normally receive one.
What about replacing equipment? The story has this quote:
As for cost, Klebanoff and other mobile key company executives say hotels don’t have to replace door locks. Adapters can be installed inside or near the locks in an unobtrusive way.
Chip Rosales, marketing lead for y!kes, says there’s another good reason for hotels to make the switch. By letting guests check in through their mobile devices, hotels can communicate with them directly. They can transmit messages asking them about their room preferences or send information about discounts or events at the property.