One of the important developments in hospitality operations has been the integration of security and property management. As a result, for increased efficiency, magnetic stripe key systems substituted mechanical card locksets which gradually got replaced by Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and contactless cards in hotels across the globe. The latest technology now in the electronic locking segment is the Near Field Communications (NFC) which is a short-range wireless communication that enables the exchange of data between devices within a distance of 10cm (4 inch).
Presently, most hotel properties install an RFID lock which is user-friendly as RFID card don’t get demagnetized like magnetic strip cards, a huge advantage to a hotel for enhancing the guest experience. However, looking at the future potential, RFID locks are already being upgraded to work in conjunction with NFC-cell phone technology. Among other applications, NFC technology offers contactless transactions such as payment, ticketing, keys, data transfers and check-in and access to online digital content, all of which are a great benefit to everyday actions in hotels. In addition, the technology has enabled tech-savvy travellers to use their personal mobile devices as virtual guestroom keys. VingCard Elsafe, part of ASSA ABLOY, the world’s leading provider of locking solutions, offers NFC compatible mobile access solution and has designed RFID system that is easily adaptable to new Near Field Communication technology.
Today’s frequent business travellers require hotels to provide unparalleled security with unprecedented ease of access. By retrofitting existing locking systems to keep pace with RFID and NFC solutions, hoteliers are now able to provide guests with technology that caters to both demands. Compared to normal smart cards used to open the doors, NFC-enabled phones are a lot more secure. For example, a smartcard is easy to misplace or lose which can lead to security mishap for the guest but with the NFC technology, the chances of such a scenario happening are negligible. Still in the unlikely event of losing of phone, the access credentials can be revoked remotely and then reissued while phone is located via GPS. This makes it impossible for unauthorized people to use a lost or stolen NFC mobile phone.
The strongest advantage and one that is unique to mobile contactless credentials or virtual key, is that the credential can be instantly delivered to a person’s handset – no physical hand off is required. The easy transfer of credentials simplify things for users and make it easier for security managers to keep precise track of who is entering and exiting monitored access points. But, the area where mobile contactless credentials are poised to have the greatest impact is the hotel security management. With mobile contactless credentials, security managers can manage all users from a central access control system and instantly deliver credentials with the appropriate level of access to employees and visitors. The mobile contactless credentials in a handset also enable security managers to more precisely track the activities of hotel personnel and support real-time traceability for both online and offline doors.
George Winker, VP of Sales / North America, VingCard Elsafe in his article on the new technology states, “Security at hotels is paramount, and the leading mobile access technologies boast significant advantages in that regard over physical keys and magnetic key cards. Solutions like NFC Mobile Keys include built-in end-to-end security features to prevent unauthorized use of lost or stolen mobile devices to access rooms. The system allows hotel managers to instantly and remotely add, remove or update access rights for any users, regardless of whether the door locks are online or offline. Some of these solutions interface with central property management systems and servers, enabling the reviewing of remote audit trails and advanced communication functionality keeps hotel management constantly in the loop regarding security issues via automated text message or email. Mobile check-in technology has some valuable environmental benefits, as well. Because guests’ existing mobile devices act as the room key, dedicated keys – such as the plastic magnetic-stripe cards common in today’s hotel industry – need not be manufactured. Thus, no additional physical materials are needed to produce the door keys, reducing the hotel industry’s overall production of waste materials, as well as reducing the property’s carbon footprint.”
The NFC technology is predicted to hasten the use of mobile phones as mobile electronic keys for secure access control. As per hospitality industry estimates, NFC support for mobile devices is set to increase to 46% by 2016.
Alternative Electronic Locking
Though NFC technology already exists, the necessary infrastructure and supporting devices still have some way to go. Also, only a few cell phone manufacturers have included the technology in their phones. An alternative, locking technology that uses mobile phones to open doors without NFC is crypto-acoustic credentials by OpenWays. It allows travellers to access their guestroom with any model of cell phone and not necessarily a smart phone. The Mobile Key Trio by the company gives hoteliers the ability to upgrade the existing electronic-locks, significantly increasing security and create new service opportunities for hotels and guests. Pascal Metivier, OpenWays, Founder and CEO said, “Hoteliers now have an alternative to address the guest room security breach threats while also significantly upgrade the capabilities of their electronic guestroom locks. Today, less than 0.05 percent of the 6.5 billion mobile phones on the market are NFC enabled. As a result, offering multi-technology reading capabilities is the only way for hotels to build a competitive advantage while ensuring that their technologies are future proofed.”
Going by the consumer behaviour trend, mobile phone access control key is the future in hospitality business as everything is going onto mobile phones. Not surprisingly, hotel security vendors are exploring a variety of ways to employ emerging mobile access technologies to provide added convenience and time-savings. For instance, the virtual key or contactless credentials on cell phone enables guests to skip the traditional front desk check-in process entirely while easing hotels’ bottom lines through reduced staff requirements.
As a matter of fact, mobile phones have steadily offered users more tools and benefits than simply making and receiving calls. Several hotel services, such as payments, ticketing and loyalty, have already been integrated into mobile phones. The same development is now enabling the security function with advanced access control and keys. What is needed now is structural development of technology enabled devices that will conveniently deliver the contactless credentials from an access control system to the end user.