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Technology Spotlight: Is Keyless Entry "Key" for the Hotel Industry?

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By KC Hopson, Owner, Event Rebels 

Go directly to your hotel room. Do not stop at the front desk, do not collect your key card. This Monopoly-inspired scenario isn’t too far off for many hotel guests. Several major hotel brands have announced plans to install keyless entry systems that can be unlocked directly from a guest’s mobile phone. With keyless entry and mobile check-in, hotel guests will have no need to wait in line at the front desk upon arrival. Many in the hotel industry are hoping that this streamlined process will appeal to increasingly tech-savvy travelers.

In January, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced they would debut keyless entry starting in a few of their Aloft brand hotels. Then, in July, Hilton Worldwide issued a press release detailing a new digital plan focused on giving guests the ability to manage their entire stay. In addition to checking in and out on their own, guests at over 4,000 Hilton Worldwide properties will soon be able to select their room in advance and unlock the door from their smartphone when they arrive.

Hotels are not the only ones hoping to implement this technology, HotelTonight, the hotel booking app, has partnered with Brivo Labs to add keyless entry to their app. At Google’s I/O conference in June, HotelTonight reported that they are in talks with hotel chains to implement the necessary door hardware.

Although keyless entry is relatively new in the hotel industry, keyless "smart locks," are already available for private use. Many locks use either Bluetooth or NFC technology to communicate with your smartphone and verify a digital key. Some locks may require you to tap a button or pass the phone over the lock, while others can recognize your phone as you approach and unlock the door automatically.

Hotels may be slow to implement the new technology due to the cost of retrofitting, such a large number of doors. Many hotel properties are franchises, where the cost of the upgrade would be the responsibility of the independent owner. Both Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Worldwide have said they will contribute to the cost of the upgrade, but have not indicated how much they plan to cover. Starwood and Hilton have stated that they hope to have keyless entry available in properties by the end of next year.

K.C. Hopson, President of EventRebels, has been doing business with meeting planners who have need for technology solutions for more than 10 years. He frequently writes about meetings technology on his company’s blog.  K.C. is currently serving his second tour of duty on the board of PMPI.

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