Some hotels have begun giving their guests the option of by-passing check-in by simply using their smartphones as keys. One of these hotels is the Starwood group, which has upgraded 30,000 room locks in more than 150 hotels so that the system works perfectly.
The hotel uses Bluetooth technology to make sure that an encrypted, secure channel is used so that thieves do not abuse the innovation. For the past year, Starwood group has been working on developing the SPG system so that guests no longer require conventional keys.
Users simply need to go through a one-time registration process that makes them receive a Push notification containing their room number. After walking into the hotel and up to the communicated room, the smartphone acts as a key opening the lock.
One of the system’s advantages is security-at least in part. As opposed to not noticing the key going missing, when a smartphone suddenly disappears, users notice. The ability of detecting a loss is very quick. The key is not only delivered directly to the smartphone on an encrypted channel, it also is locked to the receiving device. If the phone is lost, the key can be removed.
The system does not use already existing Bluetooth protocols. Instead, it creates its own encrypted channels which have rotating keys. As such, security is quite high.
Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey’s department of computing said.
“It may be more secure than a standard hotel swipe card lock but use of strong security features such as AES encryption and ‘rotating keys’ does not mean someone won’t find an alternate way in. They will need to watch, learn and adapt if they are to keep their guests secure.”
So what are the benefits of deciding for the smartphone hotel-key system? It’s not just that the smartphone isn’t demagnetized (such as magnetic swipe cards). The developers of the keyless-system claim that Onity magnetic key card locks are easily hacked with an Adruino. Moreover, skipping the check-in process altogether and heading directly to one’s hotel room does seem like an added bonus.
There are some cons to the idea, however. Consider battery life. If the phone dies for some reason, guests could be forced to seek other solutions.
Regardless, starting November 5th, ten of Starwood’s hotels will enable keyless entry via the SPG app. Next year, Hilton is also expected to hop on the SPG wagon with approximately 4,000 hotels upgrading their locks to fit the SPG system.