Electronic locks adapt to new demands

Rapidly growing demand for low-contact hospitality experiences is driving quick updates to hotel lock systems, and growing concerns about safety and security are encouraging hoteliers to leverage a range of options.

“The fundamental reason a lock exists on the door is controlled access,” said David Ginn, VP of hospitality sales North America at Dormakaba. To maintain the safety of both guests and staff, hoteliers must be able to completely control all access to every part of the hotel—and be able to quickly revoke that access if necessary.

New Safety Standards

Safety, of course, has taken on a new definition as hotel brands make digital key and check-in services a core component of their COVID-19-driven cleanliness programs. This, said Nicolás Aznar, president, Americas at Assa Abloy Global Solutions, is why the technology is expanding to other hotel areas, such as building entrances, elevators, garages, fitness centers, spas and much more. “Ultimately with digital key technology being sought after for both its convenience and cleanliness-enhancing abilities, we are soon approaching a moment in the industry where its availability will be universally expected as a standard feature at virtually all hotel locations.”    

Dormakaba, said Ginn, has rolled out automatic door openers that respond to keycards—or Bluetooth keys on mobile phones—to both unlock and open doors, reducing the need for guests to touch doorknobs. “The common doors are really a focal point, and reducing touching would make your guests feel more comfortable.” 

Improved Control

Next-gen lock solutions are providing hotels with improved control and functionality over operations via integration with improved access-management software technology, Aznar said. “When combined with such platforms, hotel staff can instantly monitor any access attempts on specific locks throughout a property to ensure that security is never compromised.” 

Staff can now get security alerts in real time and know immediately if a wandering intruder is attempting to use a keycard on multiple doors in an attempt to gain access or if a door has been left ajar so staff can investigate a potential threat. When a security risk is identified, employees can then instantly deactivate any suspect keycard to minimize or even eliminate a threat from arising. 

Cloud-based access-management solutions also offer a range of other safety-enhancing services, like giving staff the ability to oversee and manage security access operations from anywhere with an internet connection. This, Aznar said, “drastically [reduces] response times in the event of an emergency where attempting to locate a stationary terminal may represent critical time lost.” At the same time, cloud-based access-management systems require no onsite maintenance and are constantly updated automatically to protect businesses from any newly identified potential security vulnerabilities.       

To maintain security, hoteliers must make sure their lock systems are compatible with other systems throughout the grounds. In larger hotels and branded properties, locks and other hotel elements can be connected through a third-party network, said Ginn. “Any transaction that happens at the door, we know immediately because we talked to that third-party system and they transport a message down to our server. We know in real time what's happening. If you need to cancel a staff key, you go to the server and say ‘delete this key.’ Within two minutes, that message is transmitted throughout the hotel.” 

The next vertical hotel locks will need to work with, Ginn added, is employee safety systems, making sure management can quickly see where a team member in distress is located in order to provide aid. “How do we partner with up-and-coming technologies that hotels are looking to do that increase safety for their staff, too?” he said.