In the past, hotel rooms were opened with keys. Then came the mortise locks with key cards. A few years ago, the contactless locks with RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) were introduced, whereby the guest could access his room by holding the card in front of the reader. The latest development is the smartphone check-in hotels as a room key. Although this access control system is still in its infancy, it is clear that these smart locks are going to conquer hotel land in the future.
Benefits for guests
How does this access technology work? With the mobile phone, guests can retrieve a mobile key that is encrypted and sent to the smartphone. By means of an app, the guest can then open the door of the hotel room with Bluetooth (sometimes also with NFC or a QR code, see box). A smartphone is very useful for access control and tracking, since it is personal and therefore more difficult to exchange.
Hotel guests can already use their smartphones to check in and out in some hotels, but that’s just the beginning. In addition to unlocking and locking the hotel room, it is also the intention to book exactly the hotel room you want via smartphone.
An additional advantage of the smartphone as a key is that the guest can no longer lock himself out so easily. You sometimes want to leave a key card in your room, but few people leave the house without their smartphone.
Benefits for the hotelier
For the hotelier, such a visitor management system saves time and money. This means that dozens of key cards no longer need to be created. Furthermore, there is no more hassle with lost or forgotten cards in the hotel room. Moreover, you can say goodbye to the cardboard inserts where the room number is written down. After all, the guest has used the app, checked in online and was immediately assigned a hotel room number. Finally, the application of sensor technology, such as RFID and beacons, ensures that hoteliers can collect, combine and analyse more and more information.
For chain, large and small hotels
Wireless access control via smartphone is in principle possible for chain hotels and for both large and small lodging companies. At the moment it is the case that especially chains are experimenting with the technology.
Examples of Three Smartphone Check-in Hotels
- Starwood introduced the technique a few years ago. Members of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program can download an app, check in and use the smartphone as a key via Bluetooth. After booking a room in a hotel where the technology is available, the guest will receive a notification 24 hours before arrival with the option to choose SPG Keyless. If you check in using this method, your room number and Bluetooth key will be sent to your phone. For SPG Keyless, Starwood called on the services of Abloy, the world’s largest lock manufacturer. For the time being, SPG Keyless technology is only available in the trendy brands Aloft, Element and W. The intention is to roll out the technology to other brands of the hotel giant.
- Hilton is doing something similar through its Hilton Honours program. The hotel chain wants to work quickly to equip all rooms worldwide with the right technology.
- Solutions are also being developed for smaller and family hotels. For example, the company Salto Systems developed the Mobile Key System, which is suitable for smaller hotels. The regular version uses a Salto app, which guests have to download. There is also a version in which the system is linked to the PMS of the hotel.