What’s next in hotel door lock technology

Mobile key technologies are transitioning to a standard property requirement so guests will begin seeing more independent and regional hotels offering mobile key in the coming years.

The key to any successful technology is removing pain points for the user while making any processes easier and more efficient. Streamlining property operations and enhancing the guest experience is the end goal for any hotel technology solution. It’s no different for door locks and security, said Nicolas Aznar, president of Assa Abloy Hospitality Americas Group.

“It’s about utilizing the most advanced technologies available to accomplish the aforementioned objectives,” he said. “The next technology for door locks will be solutions that streamline the check-in process to benefit both hoteliers and guests, and as door lock technology continues to advance they will incorporate more user-friendly and robust technologies.”

Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing at OpenKey, believes that Bluetooth low energy is what’s next in door lock technology. “Not because it doesn’t exist today, but because it’s still on the very edge of adoption in hotels and resorts worldwide,” he said. “I believe all new hotels at this point will be installing BLE locks for the next five or 10 years based on trends in the hospitality industry.”

Mobile key is still cutting-edge technology so the hotel industry
is on top of the curve.

Shedd pointed out that artificial intelligence is going to play a role in hotel door locks just as AI is gaining momentum in all hotel operations. Networked electronic door locks are an important part in the expansion of AI in hotel operations, said Joey Yanire, assistant VP of mobile access, lodging systems for dormakaba.  

“dormakaba’s Messenger LENS collects data from its electronic door locks, which may be used to optimize operations, protect guest safety and ensure proactive door lock service that supports a positive guest experience,” he said. “Online locks capture and record a great deal of nonpersonal operating data, which results in predictive maintenance and continuously monitors guest door status to enhance hotel security.”

The more intelligence that is built in a lock system, the more operators learn about their hotel, the guest experience and the lock’s performance. The usage profile of each lock provides data that supports better decision-making, Yanire continued. It can also help reduce operator maintenance costs and improve customer satisfaction.  

While door locks are advancing with improved aesthetics and mobile key capability, hotels should expect to see new technology beyond the locks themselves. Onity recently released its OnPortal system, which provides full access management for hotel properties while enabling them to meet mobile technology demands, Onity GM Casey Fale said. “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,” he said. “At the same time, OnPortal is directly integrated with the DirectKey system so properties can seamlessly deliver mobile key credentials to guests who wish to use their smartphone as their room key.”

Mobile locks are quickly becoming an industry standard, with many brands planning to make mobile key a requirement within the next year, Aznar said. With this in mind, hotels are offering guests an all-encompassing solution that allows them to access multiple property services, from booking to roomservice to mobile access, within a single application that streamlines the guest experience.

Shedd also believes the trend toward engagement with guests via the mobile device will only grow over the next several years.  “Guests will continue to demand more control and hotels will continue to provide solutions that give them options in the palm of their hand,” he said.

How is mobile lock adoption progressing?

Digital locks make up the largest percentage of lock sales for every major lock company in the hotel vertical. Mobile lock adoption is off and running at a sprint pace but with more than 5 million rooms in the U.S., widespread adoption will take some time, Shedd said. Because such technologies are also transitioning to a standard property requirement, guests will begin seeing more independent and regional hotels offering mobile key in the coming years, and not only at the large global brands.

With the growing use of smartphones,
hotel lock vendors must ensure their
mobile credential is as secure as
their physical key cards.

“From what we’ve seen with the increasing popularity and implementation of mobile locks among all levels of properties, thousands of hotels are currently offering mobile key, with thousands more planning implementation in 2018,” Aznar said.

With any technology implementation, adoption takes time. There are many factors involved to ensure positive delivery of mobile key to guests, along with keeping up with constantly changing guest demands. “It isn’t simply about installing locks, but also the ability to seamlessly integrate with disparate hotel systems and third-party mobile applications, among other things, to ensure streamlined operations,” Aznar continued.

Fale believes that hotels have questions about ease of use, security and costs and that is reducing adoption speed. “Hotels need to look for technology that offers a superior guest experience,” he said. “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. We like to call it a seamless journey—from parking to elevators to their guestroom.”

Hotels also will need a mobile-access system that complements the security features that already exist in hotel locks, such as access permissions and audit trails. On top of the first level of encryption assigning access rights for a stay, the best systems will provide an additional security layer with a 128-bit AES encryption key that is unique to the door lock for which the credential was generated.

Hoteliers are by nature risk-adverse and very focused on return on investment, Shedd said. The hotel as an asset always has plenty of places that could use extra investment—rooms, lobby, bathrooms, bar, etc.  “Mobile key is still cutting-edge technology in the hotel industry, so we’re on the early part of the adoption curve that we’ll see will begin to pick up significantly as more adoption occurs,” he said. “This time next year, you’ll see more demand for mobile key than we can service as hoteliers perceive the technology to be more mature and less risky."

How to reduce chance of a ransomware attack

As with any new technology, hotel companies may have questions
about ease of use, security and cost.

An Austrian luxury hotel says it is ditching electronic room cards for old-fashioned locks and keys after having its systems frozen by blackmail-hungry hackers. The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, in the Austrian Alps, said that one recent infection with ransom software resulted in the complete shutdown of hotel computers.

The husband and wife management team said they were forced to pay roughly 1,500 euros (nearly $1,600) worth of electronic currency to restore their network. “When the hackers got the money, they unlocked the computers, making them all run as normal again,” hotel co-manager Christina Brandstaetter said.

Hotels can take a few simple steps to reduce the chances of a ransomware attack. These include maintaining a strong firewall and current anti-virus software on all computers used in hotel operations and keeping systems current with relevant software and firmware patches to help prevent infection, Fale said.  Along with protecting physical access to the front-desk systems, hotels should limit logical access only to persons that need this access, such as the general manager and engineering lead. Plus, it’s smart to have programming cards and spare cards on hand, store them in a safe place, and keep them up to date via maintenance scheduling systems so that they do not expire.

“Guests can rest assured in the security of mobile locks, because this hack affected the system server that records the keys,” Aznar said. “This is something that is all too common with computers holding any type of system. Since this wasn’t an issue with the locks themselves, it reminds us how important it is to stay up-to-date with all computer systems.”

Regularly updating an operating system and installing the latest in computer system security patches is the recommended way to keep your systems protected. Implementing the latest in available technology solutions is always going to decrease the chances of having such events occur at your property.