4 things to consider when making the move to mobile key

Hoteliers need to choose a mobile key product that is secure, that is compatible with the variety of mobile devices and electronic lock products on the market, and that also integrates with existing hotel systems. When these criteria are met, mobile key technology can successfully improve the guest experience and enrich hotel operations, said Michael Cline, VP of hospitality sales for Salto Systems.

We asked the door lock experts the top things hoteliers should consider when making the move to mobile key and here’s their best advice.

1. Understand the Business Case

“Why are you deploying mobile key?” asked David Ginn, VP of hospitality sales, North America for dormakaba USA. “What do you want to accomplish? What are the reasons for implementing it? Just to have it isn’t enough reason.”

Hoteliers should have a good idea of what changes they hope to see after implementing mobile keyless entry—and the more specific, the better, said Brian Shedd, VP of marketing and sales for OpenKey. “This way they’ll have a basis on which to determine if their decision was a good one and appropriate for their hotel(s).”

2. Guest Experience

The solution should make it quick and easy for guests to use their mobile key to unlock their guestroom along with assigned access-controlled areas on the property, Onity GM Casey Fale said. The technology needs to enable a seamless journey—from parking to elevators to the guestroom.

When considering mobile key, it is always vital to first identify how the new technology can be successfully integrated into a hotel’s existing infrastructure. Photo credit: Assa Abloy Hospitality

As with any new technology, maximizing user adoption rates also is key to a successful mobile key rollout, said Nicolas Aznar, president of Assa Abloy Hospitality, Americas. “This vitally involves making sure that guests are aware of the technology’s availability and the benefits that it provides,” he said. “Properties should look to their provider to offer hotel staff the necessary knowledge and training so that guests are readily able to rely on effective assistance or have any questions fully answered.”

3. Cost

Making the move to mobile keyless entry will require an investment in money, time and commitment, Shedd said. Most hotels will need to replace their magstripe door locks with digital locks capable of communicating with a smartphone. Front-desk staff will need to be trained on a new system of issuing keys. All of these things and more must be factors in determining the ultimate cost of upgrading.

4. Security

When considering any sort of upgrade, including mobile key, it is always vital to first identify how the new technology can be successfully integrated into a hotel’s existing infrastructure, Aznar said. “Hoteliers should work with a provider that they can trust to determine what additional hardware is needed, such as if a complete replacement of door lock components is necessary or if a mere addition of a [Bluetooth Low Energy] reader is all that is required,” he said.

Hotels can choose to have a branded mobile key app created or can integrate mobile key within its own app. Photo credit: OpenKey

Hotels will need a mobile-access system that supplements the security features that already exist in hotel locks such as access permissions and audit trails, Fale said. “On top of the first level of encryption, which assigns access rights for a stay, the best systems will provide an additional security layer with a 128-bit [Advanced Encryption Standard] encryption key that is unique to the door lock for which the credential was generated,” he said.

With mobile-key solutions also often needing to integrate with third-party software such as a hotel’s property-management system in order to assign guestrooms and issue key information, hoteliers should be sure to identify a provider that can take all compatibility issues into account, Aznar continued.

Just How Safe are Mobile Keys? 

Although often highlighted mostly for its convenience and efficiency-enhancing factors, digital-key technology is designed with a focus on guest safety and hotel security.

Mobile keys are the safest form of guestroom entry in hotels today. Unlike plastic keycards that guests often leave within easy reach, which provide immediate access to the guestroom when stolen, mobile keys offer several layers of security, Shedd said.

Hotel door-lock technology continues to expand beyond just providing access to a guestroom. Photo credit: Salto Systems

The primary layer is the password, pattern or passcode to access the smartphone. Next is the ability for the guest to require a second password or passcode to access the mobile key on the smartphone, Shedd continued. Finally, the mobile key transmission is protected by 128-bit encryption and only occurs within the space between the smartphone and lock itself, making "sniffing" of the transmission virtually impossible.

With mobile-key security, great consideration has been taken to prevent data theft and unauthorized access at every step of the process, Aznar said. This begins by first using the latest in encryption technology to fully protect digital key and room number information, which is then transmitted to guest devices using a secure communications channel. Once transmitted to a guest’s device, the digital key should safely be stored in a secure key vault that is located within a hotel’s mobile app. Once presented to the appropriate door lock, encrypted key information is again transmitted using a secure channel.

When choosing a provider, it’s important to make sure they have developed a product with the latest in security technology, Cline said. A mobile-key solution should have smartphone authentication technology for verifying a mobile user’s identity via personal identification number or fingerprint.

“It should also provide instant key updates or key cancellations in the event the guest no longer should have room access,” he said. “Mobile-key management should use real-time access-rights changes, audit trails and blacklisting of lost keys. It should also ensure that no information is stored in the cloud and that any information collected or used is used only as a temporary bridge.”

What’s New in Door Lock Technology?

Hotel door-lock technology continues to expand beyond just providing access to a guestroom. It’s becoming a part of the guest experience and a way to improve overall guest satisfaction. It’s also providing hotel management and operations a way to streamline operations and cut costs, Cline said.

Mobile-enabled locks continue to evolve with advanced technology inside the door locks. Photo credit: Onity

“The same smartphone application that will let a guest into a hotel room can also check them out or plan a future stay,” he continued. “It’s now essential to provide all-encompassing access-control solutions that address the needs of the wide range of applications and operating environments from the most basic guestroom door or main entrance to meeting rooms, lockers, padlocks for gates, elevator access, emergency exits, pools, spa facilities and more.”

One of the latest innovations in the hotel guestroom lock market is a "touch" lock that allows the guest to leave their smartphone in a purse or pocket and simply touch the lock to open the door, Shedd said. “When touched, the Entrava Next lock wakes up and reads the encrypted digital key token on a guest smartphone,” he said. “These locks also work with [radio frequency identification] cards and keyfobs.”

Another trend in hotel door locks is adding multiple forms of access such as keypad, thumbprint or optical scan to a Bluetooth lock, Shedd continued. Most of these multifunction access locks are still in the early stages and have yet to see much adoption in the hotel market.

Dormakaba developed the small-footprint Saffire LX as a future-proof Internet-of-Things lock, Ginn said. “Saffire LX is a sleek contemporary RFID and BLE-enabled electronic door lock with a small footprint to accommodate nearly any design requirement,” he said. “It is an easy-to-use and flexible solution that is visually attractive, high-performing and integrates seamlessly with every hotel décor.”

With much of the hospitality industry moving to cloud-based services, security access technology is seeing a similar shift due to the multiple advantages that such platforms can provide, Aznar said.

“With Assa Abloy Hospitality’s recent launch of Vostio, hotels are now able to implement an access-management system that can be monitored and controlled from virtually anywhere in the world,” he said. “This sort of functionality means that hoteliers are all the more able to quickly identify and contain any possible security threats, and regardless of where they are at the time that an issue arises. Being cloud-based also eliminates Vostio’s need for onsite servers, resulting in a cost-effective and maintenance-free solution that can receive regular software updates to safeguard against newly identified threats and vulnerabilities.”

Mobile-enabled locks continue to evolve with advanced technology inside the door locks, Fale said. The latest mobile-key communication modules make it possible for hotels to improve door-open times when guests use a mobile key, as well as integrate with in-room smart devices such as televisions and thermostats. “In addition to what’s inside, locks will continue to develop more streamlined aesthetics, especially for high-end properties and resort applications,” he said.

While door locks are advancing with improved looks and mobile-key capability, hotels should expect to see new technology beyond the locks themselves. Onity recently released its OnPortal system that provides full access management for hotel properties while enabling them to meet mobile-technology demands.

“For example, the OnPortal software allows for roving check-in with an easy-to-use tablet interface so staff can greet and engage guests in places like VIP reception areas and airports,” Fale continued. “At the same time, OnPortal is directly integrated with the DirectKey system, Onity’s mobile-access technology, so properties can seamlessly deliver mobile-key credentials to guests who wish to use their smartphone as their room key.”