Electronic locks: Security or necessity?

This is the final part in a series on electronic locks in hospitality. Click here for part three: Guests are keyless and on the move.

Anyone can take a metal key to a hardware store and make a copy. This glaring security issue was the greatest barrier to safety in hotels for years before the emergence of the electronic lock, but it was a mix of security and convenience that eventually led to its full-scale adoption by the industry.


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“In the highly competitive hotel market, guest convenience should always be considered a top priority when deciding to implement any new property feature, yet the ability to offer guests a safe and secure experience remains paramount,” said Lihong Wu, president, North America for Assa Abloy Hospitality. “Security also goes hand in hand with operational efficiency.”

Indeed, before electronic locks hotels often had to choose between convenience and security. If management had reason to believe room keys were copied they would be forced to rekey the hotel, sometimes multiple times. Bob Keck, senior designer of hardware development for Y!kes, said that electronic keys protect guests from this by overwriting past lock codes with the first swipe of a new stay.

“The need for convenience on the property side made this option more secure,” Keck said. “Hotels could have been more secure in the past—with a lot of work. Locksmiths were expensive employees, and it doesn’t take long to forge a key.”

The data-gathering component of electronic locks has also made security more effective than ever, and one facet of that is in the form of instant feedback on lock activity.

“From a security perspective, want to know what is going on at a guestroom door at any time and now we can monitor all of them from remote locations such as the hotel’s basement,” said Stephen Pollack, VP of marketing for Kaba. “What’s important is knowing instantly, so a hotel can react just as fast. There is no need to look for proof of a security breach; the proof is now right there in front of you.”