The Future of Hotel's Keyless Keys
By Anthony Maggio Co-Founder & Head of Product, CheckMate | May 25, 2014
Anyone who travels frequently likely has encountered the frustrating experience of arriving at a hotel and waiting in a long check-in line. While airlines and rental car companies have made mobile check-in and boarding stations commonplace, hotels have been slow to adopt mobile solutions and solve pain points around the arrival process.
A recent study by Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research found that for guests from the United States, waiting more than five minutes to check-in at a hotel diminished satisfaction levels by 50 percent. Given the impact that lines and wait times can have on guest satisfaction, it's no surprise that hotels are beginning to prioritize resolutions to these challenges.
In the past year, a number of initiatives have emerged in the spirit of providing guests with a more seamless arrival process. Notably, Marriott launched mobile check-in and check-out at more than 300 properties, and CheckMate announced a platform that allows hotels to white-label their mobile check-in services.
The latest endeavor around hotel check-in came in late January 2014, as Starwood announced their plans to roll-out a "Keyless Key" at select aloft and W properties. Guests who download the Starwood Preferred Guest app are able to check-in and use their phone as a key to their room. This move is a big step forward in providing hotel guests with a convenient alternative to waiting in line and serves as yet another example of technology advances designed to reinvent the hotel check-in process.
The announcement raises several questions about the path forward for hotels and other chains planning to follow suit:
- Which wireless protocol will become the next standard for mobile keys and which handsets will be supported?
- How much is this going to cost … and who's going to pay for it?
- Will "keyless keys" eliminate the front desk? Is this the end of personalized service?
- What alternatives exist to help hotels reduce wait times without implementing new hardware?
Perhaps the most interesting component of Starwood's announcement is their decision to use Bluetooth technology to enable the keyless entry technology. To date, most mobile key solutions in hotels have used near field communication (NFC,), the predominant platform used by Samsung, Nokia and HTC handsets running the Android operating system. Although NFC has gained traction among some smartphone manufacturers, it also has been criticized for security problems, cost and it's very short range (approximately 4 inches). More importantly, Apple decided not to implement NFC technology into the iPhone, which still maintains a 44% market share of smartphones in the US.