Mobile Key Touchless Guest Experience

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June 16, 2020
Mobile | Technology
Geneva Rinehart - geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com
Kim Delaney- kim@hospitalityupgrade.com

In the wake of the pandemic that crippled the hospitality industry, hoteliers are searching for solutions to help guests feel safe and build confidence.  One way to build guest trust is to provide a reduced contact guest experience. Responding to this are innovative technology solutions addressing some of the most critical aspects of protecting travelers and staff in this age of the highly contagious COVID-19. 


Any technology that can help reduce guests’ contact with surfaces and people is being considered. This brings a renewed focus on electronic locks, mobile key systems and limiting face-to-face interactions between guests and staff. “Now more than ever the hospitality industry needs to harness the benefits associated with mobile app solutions,” said SALTO’s vice president of Hospitality Sales Michael Kline. 

dormakaba’s Director of Product Management Alistair Cush said, “The hotel industry has been looking seriously at mobility for a number of years now, for enhancing guest experience, operational expediency and mobility mobile marketing.” 

Mobile key card technology is a way for hotels to update technology that will better enable adherence to CDC safety and social distancing guidelines. President Fayyad Sbaihat of Onity said, “The need for contactless mobile key is accelerating – we are getting many inquiries from hoteliers as they seek solutions that enable contactless guest experience and preserve recommended social distancing guidelines.” In many cases, this no-touch access can be achieved through a simple upgrade of existing locks.

Secure key credentialing and Bluetooth® technology allow a hotel guest to download an assigned key to his or her smartphone for easy access to the guestroom and other controlled areas. Onity’s platform is called DirectKey, it is backed by a scalable mobile credentialing platform that has been deployed across an installed base of more than 3 million Bluetooth devices. According to Fayyad, “This minimizes costs and reduces the development time and implementation of a mobile key system, and Onity’s dedicated project teams work closely with hoteliers to meet their needs.”

“NFC contactless technologies will be seen as an intelligent and reasoned response to a physical contact problem that will be with us for the foreseeable future. NFC contactless, low-cost, and quick to implement when compared against alternatives being simply RFID on a phone or watch, is a can-do, must-do-now, option for most hotels,” said Nick Price, CEO of NetSys Technology Limited. 

With products installed in more than 7 million hotel rooms in more than 42,000 hotels worldwide, ASSA ABLOY offers mobile access solutions using RFID- and NFC-based solutions for the hotel and cruise industry. ASSA ABLOY’S mobile access solution is powered by SEOS, a commercial ecosystem for digital keys on smartphones. It offers an interface that can be integrated into the hotel’s loyalty app, giving the hotel a way to connect with their customers.

The digital marketing service Fuel recently expanded the digital-key functionality of its mobile application for independent and boutique hotels. Enabled through an integration with ASSA ABLOY™, the incorporated technology allows hotel properties with the Fuel Contactless Mobile App and ASSA ABLOY™ locking systems to let guests access their assigned guestrooms using a mobile phone as a digital key. With this feature enabled, guests can check in remotely, bypass the front desk, and go directly to their rooms upon arrival.

Coupled with Fuel’s late 2019 integration with Onity’s DirectKey™ system, the new ASSA ABLOY™ integration greatly expands the number of hotels who can benefit from this solution. Stuart Butler, chief operating officer of Fuel, said, “As consumers look to travel again in the midst of the pandemic, safety is their primary concern. The Fuel Contactless Mobile App eases these safety concerns and provides a seamless, contactless guest experience at a very affordable price.”   

Not Without Challenges 

However, budgets are always a factor especially during times of pandemic. For budgets that have survived COVID-19, outright replacing locks to mobile capability may be the best option, but for many others, searching for a solution to accommodate existing locks might be more appropriate.  “Industry providers recognize that hotel needs and priorities have altered significantly due to COVID-19 and we are committed to working with properties every day to ensure a successful recovery. This includes prioritizing support needs for hotels facing challenges as a result of the pandemic and proactively following up with hotel locations to make sure that they are prepared to reopen with the proper solution updates,” said Nicolas Aznar, President, Americas at ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions. “These may involve updating mobile key services or providing system updates with a cloud-based access management system that can manage operations remotely."

When it comes to updating to mobile keys in an existing system, one hurdle the industry is working on clearing is ensuring the technology works across all operating systems. According to David Ginn, VP of Sales for dormakaba’s Lodging Systems, “All dormakaba locks manufactured today are compatible with iOS and Android smart devices for wider adaptation.”

NetSys Technology’s Nick Price recently wrote an article calling on Apple to do more in this area specifically for the hotel industry.

It’s important to note that even once hotels get in the queue for installation, the wait could still be two to three months. Topping the list of challenges for many hotels is the high hardware cost and the complexity of working closely with all the systems needed (remote check-in with mobile key requires a higher level of orchestration between the PMS, key system, app and door locks.) 

Bridging The Gap

Many of the main players are working with app companies and are showing signs of collaborative promise. When the current budget constraints can’t be overcome, hotel IT might consider alternatives, especially ones that allow the use of existing locks but also provide for a mobile key. One of these companies, STAYmyway partners with all the major locking companies to provide a secure, cloud-based mobile key and access management tool to allow hotels to update locks without having to change them, also giving guests access their rooms from their mobile phones. The option allows hoteliers to lengthen the life of their locks, no matter the brand, saving the hoteliers the expense of replacement.

Guestroom access is only part of the picture. A contactless check-in experience may be a consideration for many hotels looking to reopen for business this year. Mobile apps like Fuel Travel’s hotel application is designed to increase guest engagement and customer retention through features that include check in and out procedures, additional service purchasing, amenity requests and customized alerts, all from the user’s smartphone.

In keeping with social distancing guidelines and limiting person to person contact, Canary Technologies launched a program called Contactless Check-In™, which allows hotels to check guests in with no physical or material contact between the guest and the front-desk agent. There is no app to download, and the guest can complete the entire process with a few simple taps, including identity verification and form of payment. The company is offering the program as a free service for the first few months, to help the hard-hit hotel industry.

A final consideration should include new, anti-microbial technology. “For years, BioCote® has been included in the plastic elements of our locks like our reader faces. We also offer our full line of electronic locks in a BioCote® finish,” said SALTO Vice President Michael Kline. 

Additionally, Lodging Interactive Systems’ (LAS) announced that it will license, manufacture and distribute a proprietary anti-microbial plastic key card (NAML) that is capable of inhibiting up to 99.99% of virus and bacteria growth on its surface. According to a representative these keycards would only increase the cost per card by a few pennies. 

LAS President Matthew R. Brooks said, “Now more than ever, introduction of products that help preserve the health of staff and guests are an imperative for hotels and resorts.”

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