NFC door locks key roadblocks

The Confidant RFID locks, like many RFID systems, is NFC-compatible.

 

It sounds like a great idea: book your hotel room with your smartphone, and then, upon arrival, breeze past the front desk and use that same phone to unlock your door. But NFC-based door locks continue to face barriers to adoption, especially inNorth America

“You’re seeing this gain a lot more traction in Europe than in the U.S.—they seem to adopt earlier than we do,” said Bill Oliver, president, North America, at VingCard Elsafe. 

“A lot of the gap hinges in North America on the iPhone because of the prevalence of it,” said Alastair Cush, director of product marketing at Kaba Lodging. The iPhone 5 does not have NFC capability, but Samsung and Android phones, which are gaining market share, do, Cush said.

➔ “A lot of the gap hinges in North America on the iPhone because of the prevalence of it. The iPhone 5 does not have NFC capability, but Samsung and Android phones, which are gaining market share, do.”

Alastair Cush, director of product marketing, Kaba Lodging

Much of the push toward NFC is driven by the desire by credit card companies to encourage payment via smartphones, Oliver said. “There’s quite a bit of deployment in public transit in Europe, where you can pay bus or train fare by waving your phone next to a reader.”

Still, there has been interest in NFC locks in the hotel industry. “At HITEC, we were demonstrating opening the lock with the cellphone and we had a lot of people contacting us interested in it but, unfortunately, we had to tell them they don’t have that type of phone in the U.S. yet,” said Chris Lawrence, VP of sales at Miwa Lock Company

There are alternatives to NFC when it comes to using cellphones to open door locks. Some locks can connect with a phone via Bluetooth, and others allow a phone to use an acoustic key, similar to a modem sound, to open the lock, Cush said. 

“The big strength of NFC is that it is compatible with Mifare, so NFC offers compatibility with the existing install base of all lock manufacturers,” Cush said. 

The extent to which NFC penetrates the hotel industry, and which hotels adopt the technology, depends on a variety of factors. Oliver said that the demographics of a particular hotel brand will play a large role as hotels with tech-savvy guests might find the technology more useful than a hotel brand that caters to more traditional travelers that are less wedded to their smartphones. 

“I think there’s always going to be a need for a room key, because not everybody is going to want to trust that technology and use it,” Oliver said. “I think it will be a mixed bag overall.”

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