Now Smartphones To Unlock Hotel Rooms

Good news for those travelling frequently and staying in hotels.You don’t have to linger at the front desk — or even stop by at all.

New programs are helping speed up the check-in process for busy travelers by letting them go straight to their rooms by using their smartphone to unlock doors.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts has become the first chain to let guests unlock doors with their phones. The feature is available at only 10 Aloft, Element and W hotels but will be made available to 140 more properties in those brands by the middle of next year.

Hilton Worldwide is the only other hotel chain to publicly acknowledge plans for mobile room keys — which it plans to roll out at the end of 2015 at some US properties. Other hotel companies are finding other ways to make the arrival process easier.

Other major players like Marriott International have launched the ability to check in through its app at 330 North American hotels last year. By the end of this year, the program will be live at all 4,000 hotels worldwide.

When a room becomes available, a message is sent to the guest’s phone. Traditional room keys are pre-programmed and waiting at the front desk. A special express line allows guests to bypass crowds, flash their IDs and get keys.

InterContinental Hotels Group is testing express check-in at 60 hotels.

The services are geared toward road warriors who don’t want to slow down, even for a second. Guests who like personal interaction can still opt for a more leisurely check-in, and hotel companies say the move isn’t about cutting jobs.

The aim is to make travelers comfortable using their mobile apps to interact. In some cases, that means using an iPad to request a wakeup call. But ultimately hotels would like to see people purchasing suite upgrades, spa treatments and room service though their phones and tablets — and at some point wearable devices like smartwatches.

But switching to smartphone room keys won’t be easy. Starwood’s app communicates using a Bluetooth data connection. Each hotel room needs to have a new lock that can communicate with phones.

There is the issue of security. The major concern is that if there is knock on the door late at night and a guest goes to the peephole to see who is there, nobody wants the phone in their pocket to accidently unlock the door.

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