Going keyless is the key: The hotel room key goes mobile
The keys are activated through smartphone apps. When guests check in through the app, the hotel sends them their room numbers and enables the phones to act as virtual keys. Sensors in the door can detect and verify the phone through technology such as Bluetooth LE. There's no need to wait in line at the front desk.
"We're eliminating keys," Phil Dumas, president of Unikey, which is partnering with Miwa Lock to offer keyless entry, said at this week's HITEC hospitality technology conference. "You can completely bypass the front desk."
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is testing out virtual keys on iPhones and Androids at the Aloft Harlem in New York and Aloft Cupertino in California. The company plans to roll it out to other hotel brands next year.
InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott are not testing mobile keys, but they have introduced mobile check-in, which lets guests bypass the front desk if they choose. Marriott offers both mobile check-in and checkout at 500 Marriott hotels and plans to expand it to other brands.
Hotel Tonight, the last-minute hotel room booking mobile app, said this week it would offer mobile check-in and "keyless entry" powered by Brivo Labs on Android devices. The technology won't work unless the hotels install compatible hardware on their door locks. Hotel Tonight says it is in talks with major global hotel brands to adopt the technology.
That's precisely what has held up the widespread use of virtual keys. Hotel companies have been reluctant to invest in changing or retrofitting locks.