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After travelling for a long day, the last thing that you want to do is to wait in a long line to check into the hotel. When you finally reach the front desk, it seems like the hotel staff has to key in millions of keystrokes in the computer before finally handing you your room key.

To hotel, longer front desk wait times impact guest satisfaction. This will change in 2016, with the help of mobile technology. One of the 3 travel tech trends to watch in 2016 would be keyless entry, in which you can use your smartphone app to bypass the check-in counter and unlock your hotel room. You can also use the hotel mobile app to personalize your stay experience.

Starwood Apple Watch keyless

#2 – Keyless Entry

What to watch

  • Keyless hotel room entry is Starwood’s path into your smartphone. (Jul 14, 2015)
    • After launching its Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Keyless solution at select properties (Aloft Beijing; Aloft Cancun; Aloft Cupertino; Aloft Harlem; W Doha; W Hollywood; W Hong Kong; W New York-Downtown; W Singapore; and Element Times Square), the company is now installing SPG Keyless in 30,000 doors at all of its 150 global W, Aloft and Element hotels.
    • Available to guests who book directly through Starwood channels, such as its website and mobile app. Keyless also works via the Apple Watch.
  • Hilton will let hotel guests use their smartphones as their room keys. (Aug 11, 2015)
    • Available in Q1 2016 to all members of Hilton’s loyalty program (Hilton HHonors) who book through the hotel’s mobile app, websites or call centers
    • The app will open doors for 170,000 rooms at 250 US properties within the Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Canopy by Hilton brands.
    • In 2016, Hilton plans to expand the keyless entry technology across 11 of its brands globally.
  • Marriott plans to install doors that you can unlock with your phone, let customers log into their Netflix accounts from their room TVs, and may also offer wireless charging. (Jul 9, 2015)
    • On a side note, Marriott also acquired Starwood in Nov 2016, creating the world’s largest hotel company. Combined company will have 1.1 million rooms in more than 5,500 hotels with a total of 30 leading brands.
  • Carlson Rezidor experiences keyless entry through its new lifestyle brand – Radisson Red. (Nov 11, 2015)
    • The brand appeals to tech-savvy guests with an ageless millennial mindset by offering a non-traditional stay experience. They are looking at no front desk, mobile check-in, and keyless entry so that staff are multifunctional and have the ability to interact with guests and customers in a very free-flowing setting.
    • 4 Radisson Red hotels will open in The Americas in 2016.
  • IHG rolls out mobile check-in/check-out and will soon offer keyless room entry (Jun 24, 2015). Mobile room key technology is still in the “testing” phase for the brand, but that may arrive soon.
  • For Hyatt, mobile room keys are something that the hotel is pursuing and they’re currently testing a number of solutions. (Mar 27, 2015)

Check out this video by Starwood for SPG Keyless Entry

How it works

  • Customers book their stays through the hotel’s apps or sites or call centers, input when they are arriving in the mobile app, and get a notification via their iOS, Android, and Windows phone (in some cases Apple Watch app) when their room is ready.
  • Instead of checking in and getting their keys, guests receive a code that will allow them to unlock their room.
  • Guests then use the Bluetooth technology inside the smartphone to unlock the doors by pressing the virtual “unlock” button on the app and putting their phone next to the panel of the door.
  • Guests can also print an additional plastic key card (in case their phones are running out of juice) through a hotel kiosk based on a code generated from their phone without having to wait for someone at the front desk.
  • Other services: Guests can order food from the mobile app from their room, at the pool and in the bar. Guests can also text their needs to the staff as opposed to making a call or visiting the concierge.
    • For example, Starwood has adopted “state aware” technology, so that it knows where you are when it is sending you a promotion. Before your stay, it can push relevant tourist sites near your hotel or a map with directions to your hotel. During your stay, Starwood can offer dining and other promotions that you can use at the hotel. And post-stay, it can send you feedback surveys, ask you to check in on social media, or offer promotions for your next trip.

Starwood keyless

-Source: Starwood-


  • Increase hotel revenue – Drive direct booking to brand.com rather than online travel sites
  • Personalized experience – Empower guests to customize their stay via the app by requesting amenities such as extra pillows, extra towels, snacks, drinks, etc.
  • Better control – Digital check-in helps hotels manage their inventory because customers can tell the hotel when they are arriving, helps housekeeping schedule room cleanings for the day, while the texting app let employees accept many requests at the same time
  • Increase overall guest satisfaction, engagement and brand loyalty


  • Security of the new keyless system
    • Dustin Bomar, VP of digital acquisition at Hilton: “We prioritize guest and property safety above all else. The locks and mobile keys are designed to be equally secure as traditional room keys. Mobile keys are sent to the guest’s phone over the internet using (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption and cryptographic hash functions. These mobile keys are specific to a user’s mobile phone and guestroom. They cannot be used on any other mobile phone and cannot be used to access any other guestroom.”
    • Chris Holdren, senior VP of global and digital at Starwood Preferred Guest: “We have been working in close collaboration with our lock manufacturer … and have developed a software and hardware solution that is safe, reliable and design-forward, and just as secure as today’s key card. The software is a highly secure, two-part key system. … It requires users to enter a personal password along with an additional temporary code that is sent directly to their mobile phone.”
  • Integration with the tradition system
    • Dustin Bomar, VP of digital acquisition for Hilton: “Our solution will allow traditional keycards to continue to work alongside the mobile-enabled doors. The change isn’t likely to be too jarring for traditionalists, considering conversion plans usually provide for locks that work with both key cards and mobile devices. Therefore, if a guest’s phone battery dies, he loses his phone or just doesn’t care for technology, he can still get into the room.”

Who are the technology vendors?

  • Assa Abloy Hospitality, a subsidiary of Assa Abloy, a Swedish lock manufacturer, currently has tens of thousands of mobile-access-operated hotel locks installed worldwide.
  • Kaba, a Swiss lock and security provider is shipping locks with mobile-entry options to hotels in advance of their being ready to implement the technology.
  • Technology to use: Aside Bluetooth which is the most popular at the moment, these providers also use RFID and NFC to operate the door mechanisms.

Is it expensive for hotel?

Yes, it is. The implementation cost could be $150-240 per door unit. However, over time, this cost is expected to go down.

The Mariott key making kiosk

-The Marriott key-making kiosk-

My thoughts

In this arena, Starwood is definitely in the front line, followed by Hilton. Marriott is number 3, but as they have just acquired Starwood, the giant hotel company Marriott-Starwood would be the leader in this keyless room entry technology. Carlson Rezidor, IHG, and Hyatt are still running behind. While Carlson Rezidor takes a new approach by positioning a separate lifestyle brand to implement this new experience, IHG and Hyatt are both still in the testing phase. Hotels need to pay close attention on the security aspect of this technology. Just one security issue could affect guest’s confidence to adopt the service. Nevertheless, 2016 would be the year in which all major hotel chains will put their efforts and investment in keyless entry. As a consumer, I would definitely love to see this go mainstream. Even if my phone is out of battery, I still can print an additional plastic key card at the hotel kiosk.

What about you, will you welcome this?

Check out my posts on the other 2 trends:

#1 – Automatic Check-inClick here

#3 – Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Click here


Published on my LinkedIn Profile