Hotels expanding tech offerings to include mobile keys
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Smartphone apps are now allowing for increased convenience in almost all aspects of life, and the hotel and lodging industry has taken notice.
Starwood Hotels is jumping onto the tech trend with a recent announcement of its new SPG Keyless app that can be used in lieu of a hotel key to open your room at 10 U.S. Starwood properties. Travelers can completely bypass the check-in process at the front desk by checking into the hotel and receiving their key all on their smartphone.
Starwood sees the new digital key as the beginning of the hotel brand's efforts to digitally streamline all hotel operations and purchases. Hotel chains across the country also hope that eventually travelers will purchase services such as room service, spa treatments and other extras on their mobile apps.
Hilton Worldwide has also gone public with plans to develop a mobile check-in and a mobile room key, the latter of which is expected to launch by the end of 2015. The Hilton app will include an extra feature that will allow guests to select their room from a map of the hotel.
However, some hotel brands are more hesitant to join in on the keyless trend.
Marriott offers mobile check-in to guests at 330 of its North American hotels, and will expand mobile check-in to guests all 4,000 hotels by the end of 2014. In 2013, Marriott made $1.25 billion through mobile bookings. But Marriott has said it will wait until all of the bugs are worked out before developing its own mobile key.
"If there was ever a moment that matters, it's the moment when you go up to your door and the key doesn't work," George Corbin, senior vice-president of digital at Marriott International, told Fortune.
Assuming it does work correctly, the mobile key provides travelers with added convenience and less wait time while offering hotels the added benefit of eliminating the need for employees to work the front desk.
Despite these benefits, some guests are questioning the security of the keyless system. But tech experts have insisted that the keyless system is no more risky than the traditional key system because the data from the app is encrypted.
Beyond the added convenience the mobile key offers, Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Paasschen also highlights the increased security the mobile key brings to travelers.
"If you lose your mobile device, you notice right away," van Paasschen told CNNMoney. "If you have to use your passcode to get into your phone, even if someone finds your phone they can't get into your room."
Guests who wish to utilize Starwood's mobile key will need to do some minor prepping on their smartphone before they arrive at the hotel. Push notifications must be activated, and the guest must register with the app called SPG Keyless. Twenty-four hours before the check-in date, the guest will be prompted to check into the keyless program.
Upon checking into the app, the guest will receive a notification once the room is ready, including the room number. Using Bluetooth, the smartphone key then connects to a pad on the outside of the door to unlock the room, and the door will open with an audible click, just like it would when using a regular key.
For now, it seems the most probable obstacle of the keyless system will be the ability of the user to work the app correctly.
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