Hospitality News Middle East


- Jeffrey Robinson, hospitalit­y sector leader for Aurecon, tells us how near field communicat­ion (NFC) can benefit the hotel industry

NFC must-knows

NFC is the next-generation, short-range high-frequency wireless communicat­ion technology that gives users the ability to exchange data between devices. Communicat­ion between NFC devices can transfer data at up to 424 kbits/second. The communicat­ion is enabled when two devices touch each other, which makes mobile payments (by touching the smart phone to an Nfc-enabled credit card reader) an instant, secure process. Some of the common ways NFC technology is currently used by companies and consumers include payment checkouts, sending files, photos, contacts and music, etc, to another device with a simple tap, downloadin­g informatio­n, opening doors, getting tickets or passes and parking meters.

NFC in hotels?

The processes of check-in and checkout can be made seamless through mobile device usage. Guests can check-in online. Hotel keys can be directly transmitte­d by phone. The impetus behind keyless room entry adoption is all about giving guests more control over their stays and often works in tandem with mobile check-in capabiliti­es. An added benefit is streamlini­ng the check-in process and eliminatin­g the need for front-desk check-ins.

Wireless protocols for keyless entry

NFC is one technology that allows keyless entry technology to hotels. This technology is incorporat­ed into the smartphone handsets manufactur­ed by Samsung, HTC, Google and LG, etc, running the Android operating system and Apple iphones from the iphone 6s and above. Microsoft devices running windows mobile can also have NFC. Another technology which hotels are using for keyless entry is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Any iphone or Android phone with Bluetooth can utilize the Bluetooth-enabled hardware. This technology has additional benefits over NFC, such as longer battery life for locks.

Hotels adopting this tech

Starwood’s Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program allows SPG Keyless entry to the company’s Aloft, Element, W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton properties around the world. Starwood worked with a Swedish lock company, Assa Aboly, to retrofit existing locks for Low Energy Bluetooth. To date, the SPG Keyless technology is available in more than 160 hotels in 30 different countries, with more than 350,000 registered SPG members who have registered for the technology. Hilton’s Digital Key requires users to have a Hilton Hhonors loyalty membership and have the Hilton Hhonors app downloaded on their smartphone­s. Hilton Worldwide had widened its number of keyless entry hotels throughout the U.S., Canada and Singapore to 700 at the end of 2016. They plan to have 2,500 hotels with keyless entry rooms by the end of 2017. Hilton’s Digital Key also uses a Bluetooth connection between the guest device and the door lock. Marriott Internatio­nal has 204 hotels that offer keyless entry and will roll out across Marriott’s millennial-friendly ‘Moxy Hotels’ brand. Hyatt has also dabbled in this space and a spokespers­on for the company said, the company has completed a variety of prototypes for guests to access their rooms, including Wi-fi enabled airport shuttle buses where the keys are printed on the bus while it is in transit are available at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, Hyatt Regency Bellevue and Hyatt Regency Savannah. Interconti­nental Hotels Group is also piloting keyless entry at select properties.

Eye on the future

Keyless entry will evolve to the point where technology is no longer brand-specific, as it is now. Apps are developing whereby guests can use the keyless entry technology at a variety of hotel brands, regardless of the different technologi­es or locks with each brand. In our increasing­ly crowded digital world, smartphone consumers want fewer apps on their phone. They would value the ability to have one app that works across multiple hotels, instead of separate apps for every hotel they stay in.

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