Is Your Key the Right Fit?

May 01, 2017

People are carrying fewer things with them than they did a year ago-even a few months ago. With Apply Pay and even a Starbucks app on your phone, your wallet has become nonexistent. You can even start your car at a push of a button – in fact, lock or unlock it with an app. Now that everything is conveniently on your phone, hotels are looking to get rid of their magnetic swipe keycard and update to go keyless door locks.  But in the age of hackers, are digital room keys the right way to open doors?

There are two reasons that hotels are looking to go keyless – convenience and lost key cards. Convenience for guests is THE biggest factor of why a hotel might want to go keyless. Picture this: your guests’ check-in into your hotel through their mobile device, they receive their room number 24 hours prior and when they arrive to your hotel they completely bypass the front desk line and go straight to their room (Sounds like paradise to me). Use of the digital key encourages guests to use the hotel app for other conveniences, thus killing two birds with one stone. Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing for OpenKey believes “Hotel guests want more self-directed experiences. They want to be able to leverage technology to accomplish things that they don’t need to stand in a line or interact with other people to achieve.”

Hotels also don’t like to deal with lost keycards. "Our tech-savvy guests manage most aspects of their life and travel from their smartphone, and many no longer want to keep track of or fumble with keycards each time they enter their room,” said Chris Holdren senior VP of global and digital at Starwood Preferred Guest & Digital.

But before we get ahead of ourselves though, there still may be reasons to hold onto that magnetic strip keycard for little bit longer – specifically, 2 main reasons: Battery life of phones and security.

First, battery life on phones these days isn’t what it used to be. So what happens if your guest is out of the room and their phone dies? How will they get back into the room? The only back-up solution here seems to be that – wait for it – hotels will have to issue magnetic key cards to allow the guest to re-enter their room! This creates work for both the hotel and guest and defeats the purpose of keyless locks.

Secondly, hotels are holding back because of security. How are we sure that these digital keys can’t be hacked? According to Hilton and Starwood, they’re reassuring guests that the new solution is just as secure as the old one. “Mobile keys are sent to the guest’s phone over the internet using (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption and cryptographic hash functions. These mobile keys are specific to a user’s mobile phone and guestroom. They cannot be used on any other mobile phone and cannot be used to access any other guestroom” said Dustin Bomar, VP of digital acquisition at Hilton. (But seriously how safe was the old system of keycards? Because a keycard can get programmed to multiple rooms.)

However, while it’s great that the mobiles keys are specific to the user’s phone and cannot be used with any other phone but that brings up the question of how multiple people sharing a room go about having the same digital key?

With all these issues looming over keyless entries which way should hotels be leaning towards?

Our conclusion is that the keyless option is not for every guest. Our key to success is that there should be a dual system in place, where both the keycard and the keyless option co-exist to ensure guests’ concerns and convenience. A spokesperson for Hyatt had said," we know that mobile keys aren’t for traveling families, particularly with young ones prone to dropping phones in the pool. So while our approach will include mobile key for those properties that fit, we are also pursuing functionality that allows travelers to print their keys at a quick key-dispensing terminal with a QR code from their app.”

Other ways in addition to the quick key-dispensing terminal there a few other steps that would make the dual-key system a success. First, a quick identification check for keyless entries as an added security upon guest arrival to ensure safety. Second, a hotel could keep a dual lock system that accepts both a digital key and a keycard this way guests are not confused by a different lock system. A dual key system will keep both keyless and the keycard guests happy. Whatever the preference of the guest, with these suggestions hotels can still open doors with whichever key fits.




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