Starwood to enable hotel guests to use virtual key via smartphone

28 Jan 2014

Guests of the Aloft Hotel in Manhattan or Silicon Valley should soon be able to cruise past the check-in desk and enter their rooms by using a smartphone app.

The hotel brand from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide plans to offer this feature at the two hotels, the one in the Big Apple and in Cupertino, California, by the end of the quarter, The Wall Street Journal reported.

By the end of next year, the company hopes to have the virtual key operational at all its luxury W Hotels and Aloft hotels, which today includes 123 properties.

The hotel guests will receive a message on a Starwood app that contains a virtual key the guests can use by either tapping or twisting their phone (so long as that phone is an iPhone 4s or newer, or an Android phone running version 4.3 or newer). The virtual key functions via Bluetooth technology.

The Wall Street Journal also quoted a Starwood spokeswoman as saying the hotels’ locks are battery operated, so if the hotel’s computer systems went down, the locks would still work. The locks wouldn’t work if the battery dies, but hotel staff receive an alert when the battery power is low.

An aim of the virtual keys is to eliminate bottlenecks at the hotels’ front desks, as guests check in. However, The Wall Street Journal reported Starwood executives as saying they are aware some guests prefer the human contact at check-in and there are no plans to remove the front desks.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic