OpenWays Cell Phone-based Front Desk Bypass Solution is Adding to the Business Traveler Experience

  • OpenWays
  • 07.21.10
The Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC) was buzzing last month as OpenWays, the mobile access control solution that enables hotel guests to fully bypass the front desk and use their cell phones to enter their rooms, was demonstrated in Guestroom 20X as a solution that is setting new standards for the future.

The consensus among hoteliers and consultants alike is that developing a strong mobile strategy is critical today for attracting travelers and retaining guests. Until OpenWays, a truly ubiquitous mobile key service to bypass the front desk and open the room was a missing link to a true end-to-end hotel guest mobile phone self-service mobile experience.

If HITEC was any indication, using a guests' cell phone (any device, any carrier) for making reservations, guestroom access and keeping on top of hotel promotions and loyalty programs will soon be the norm, while issuing plastic cards for loyalty is becoming passé due to its high cost and non-green nature. The bottom line is that mobile guest communications is the future, and room access is a natural extension, especially for business travelers and Gen Y.

"We are extremely pleased with the traffic through Guestroom 20X, as 450 visitors used their cell phones to open the electronic door lock and enter the exhibit, which displays the hospitality industry's most innovative technologies for the guestroom," said Pascal Metivier, OpenWays founder and CEO. "Most of those who toured Guestroom 20X then stopped at the OpenWays station to find out more about our solution.

"Today, questions are still pouring in, and we're excited about that," he said. "It gives us the opportunity to address any trepidation and more importantly, explain why it's so important to implement from a guest service, operations and marketing standpoint."

According to a recent survey conducted by Omni Hotels, 61 percent of all business travelers manage their personal lives remotely with a mobile device; 49 percent are using mobile phones to make dinner reservations; 44 percent are using it to order room service; and 41 percent are using it for hotel checkin.

"I have been talking about this mobile application for the past five years with our clients, many of which are five-star hotel and resort properties, and all feel this is the next logical step in their mobile strategy," said Lester Spielman, president and CEO of Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. "We have been searching for the past three years for this type of technology, challenging the various cell service providers and testing numerous smartphone brands around the world. What was shown at Guestroom 20X by OpenWays is just the beginning, with no end in sight."

Carol Beggs, vice president of technology for Sonesta Collection Hotels, Resorts and Cruises, said she believes OpenWays brings value to the hospitality industry, especially for properties that want to have a certain image of advanced technology or where there is a strong tech-savvy guest demographic.

“I described the OpenWays solution to an acquaintance who is a frequent business traveler." Beggs said. "He told me he would be very excited to have an option to bypass the front desk completely. And I have to believe there are others just like him out there - people who prefer a self-service, instant-gratification way of doing things and are accustomed to it in other travel transactions and would welcome it once they arrive at the hotel as well."

Global IT executive, David Sjolander, an independent technology consultant, said, "The cell phone/PDA is our best chance to eliminate stopping at the front desk to register and receive a key. The phone is becoming ubiquitous, and if the lock technology to support this becomes common, this process could become the norm."

Jim Bina, president of the Millennium Technology Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, said he read about OpenWays in the press, but was eager to see it in operation at HITEC.

"OpenWays definitely is a solution that I see business travelers - especially iPhone-carrying, jet-setting techies - taking full advantage of," Bina said, "but I still have a few questions."

The following questions were posed during and after HITEC:

Q: What happens if a guest arrives at his room with the battery on his is phone dead?
A: The OpenWays cell phone solution works in tandem with normal key-card operations. The locks can handle both card and phone access. If the phone is out of battery, the guest simply proceeds to the front desk to obtain a key card.

Q: If I am a meeting planner, can I program my cell phone to open my guestroom door and the meeting rooms assigned to my group? Is it possible to open more than one door with the same device, such as gaining access to club doors, fitness centers, pools, etc.?
A: Yes. The OpenWays supports the ability for a cell phone to open multiple doors as a key card would.

Q:  How do I know when a guest has checked in if there is no front desk interaction?
A: When the guest uses the mobile key, the server sends the information to the PMS so the hotel staff is aware.

Q: In the past, several attempts to provide a mobile checkin solution failed. Why was OpenWays successful?
A: OpenWays learned from the past failures of those that preceded it. Here are the main differences:
- OpenWays provides a way to open the door with your cell phone. In previous attempts, the guest would check in via cell phone, but would then have to go to the front desk to get a key card, defeating the purpose of bypassing the front desk.
- With previous attempts, room inventory management became fast an almost impossible equation to manage. A pull mobile checkin is always an issue to manage room inventory, while asking an estimated time of arrival from guests is virtually unmanageable. OpenWays can operate as well with a pull checkin mode but more interestingly it also operates in push mode, which is designed to let the hotel front desk staff manage best the room inventory.

Q: Where is the OpenWays application server located?
A: OpenWays applications are designed to run within the hotel’s trusted IT network. In other words, it runs either on the hotel chain’s IT hardware or within a secured data center under contract with the hotel. The application also can run on virtual machines and also in the cloud.

Q: Can staff master key cards be replaced by a phone or a form of PDA?
A:  Absolutely. This is a major advantage of the OpenWays application for staff. The master key is now controlled online and in real time. Should a staff member lose his or her phone or PDA, the acoustic key can be cancelled in real time without having to walk to the all the locks in the hotel to cancel that master key (the current process required with traditional key cards). Also the OpenWays solution provides the most important features of online locks while using the existing cost-efficient standalone locks.

Q: Do I need to change my locks?
A:  The OpenWays solution is designed both for new locks and for retrofitting existing locks. During the HITEC event OpenWays introduced a new upgrade module that is compatible with the major e-locks on the market. Upgrading existing locks to OpenWays can be done fast, without drilling and in a very cost-efficient way.

Q: What is the ROI from implementing OpenWays?
A:   OpenWays’ mobile key applications ROI is driven by several factors:

- Better guest service and guest experience allowing the for the option to bypass the front desk
- Reduction of operating costs at the property
- Reduction of plastic card waste while positively contributing to the environment
- Increase of direct room sales at a greater margin versus sales through third-party channels
- Increase of prepaid sales vs. post-paid sales, allowing for cash flow improvements
- Wow effect and innovative image

Q: What smartphones can handle OpenWays applications?
A:   When using the OpenWays data-request mode, the guest can obtain his or her key by simply pressing on an icon on the smartphone. This works with all smartphones including the iPhone 4G, Androïd, Nokia Symbian, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, etc. For non-smartphone users, OpenWays works as well by simply using an SMS coupled with a toll-free (1-800) number. The OpenWays application works with over 4.5 billion cell phones worldwide.

Q: As a hotel or as a chain do I need to come to an agreement with phone carriers to operate OpenWays?
A:   It is not needed. The OpenWays solution is carrier independent while being fully interoperable. This makes its deployment easy and cost efficient (even on a worldwide basis).

Metivier said he encourages questions about OpenWays to keep coming in from hoteliers, consultants and vendors alike. The more questions, the better the OpenWays team will be able to educate the industry about the benefits of using mobile technology for front-desk bypass and room access.

"If there was ever any question about the how dependent business travelers - and consumers in general - are on their cell phones, just look around you," Metivier said. "At HITEC, I was hard pressed not to find someone clutching their phone, accessing e-mails via their BlackBerry or dropping their business card into one of many booths that were offering the iPad as a giveaway. We are living in the mobile generation, and hotels that want to remain competitive in 2010 and beyond need to adopt a mobile strategy that not only includes reservations processing, but also provides the traveler and the hotel with efficiency - simple, streamlined ways to send and receive information and improve on the guest experience. Business travelers that are familiar with ordering services via mobile device will soon come to expect using the same tool to check into their hotel and enter their room.

"Over the summer and fall we will be announcing global hotel companies (in addition to InterContinental Hotels Group's Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express) that are coming on board with OpenWays, including large Las Vegas casino operations that find true value in keeping in touch with their valued guests both on and off site," he said.

OpenWays is a global solution provider of mobile-based access management and security solutions. With offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, Seoul and Paris, OpenWays provides technology solutions allowing for the secure issuance and delivery of access rights and keys process via any cell phone operating on any network. The OpenWays solution is truly unique as it built on the concept of credential dematerialization. The OpenWays mobile room key solution works on all 4 billion cell phones in service in the world today.

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