Starwood hotel guests start to check in, unlock rooms via smartphone

3 Nov 2014

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Starwood hotel group is rolling out a potential game-changer across its properties, with smartphones now used to bypass check in entirely and act as room keys.

Following its plans being announced earlier this year, Starwood is provisionally installing this at a selection of hotels before a full roll out by next summer.

“[SPG Keyless] is an initiative we’ve been working on for the past year to let our guests, and Starwood preferred guests (SPG) members, use their smartphone as their room key,” explained Chris Holdren, Starwood's senior vice president, when talking to the BBC

“Basically our SPG members will go through a one-time registration process. Then, on their day of arrival they’ll get a push notification with their room number. They will then be able to walk into the hotel, go directly to their room and use their smartphone as the key.”

Smart services are something many major hotel chains have been working on for a number of years now. On the back of major booking sites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com and Trivago.com’s app capabilities, customers are attracted to processes that cut out as many barriers as possible.

In the US last year, Marriot International began allowing app check-ins, with a full roll out completed by the end of this year. At Hilton, all 4,000 properties worldwide will have their own smart-service for checking in by the end of the year.

Starwood’s service will use Bluetooth to communicate, but not to secure. “We deliver keys across completely encrypted channels, and the key is locked to your phone,” explains Dr Selva Selvaratnam, the chief technology officer of HID global, the company which designed the locks' security.

“If your phone is lost we can take the key away just with the push of a button. We don’t use the Bluetooth security protocols, we create our own aes encrypted secure channel, and the secure channel is a rotating key.”

Guest using smartphone in hotel image via Shutterstock

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com