Mobile-access adoption requires well-thought-out plan

Operators must develop a strategy for mobile access based on their existing mobile app and the quality of the guest experience they wish to provide.

As mobile access adoption rises, there are a few important things hotels should consider when making the move to mobile locks. HOTEL MANAGEMENT reached out to several lock experts to discuss what should be well thought out prior to mobile-access installation.

First, hotels should define their vision—ask if mobile access is part of a larger mobility initiative in their organization or a single usage? “Hoteliers need to ask the questions: If this is part of the enterprise solution, how can this fit into our existing mobile app?” said Michael Cline, VP of hospitality sales for Salto Systems. “How can your supplier work with your existing mobile app? Can your current lock provider supply you with your own solution if you don’t want to do an enterprise solution?”

Hotels wanting to implement mobile access technology also need to determine if the locking system they already have in place is future-proof, and if it’s able to be upgraded to digital key functionality with only minor adjustments to hardware and at minimal cost, suggested Markus Boberg, VP of business development at Assa Abloy Hospitality. “Hotels also need to ensure that they have software in place that can generate digital keys and assign those to individual guests,” he said. “Hotels with something like this already in place can upgrade to mobile seamlessly and more easily, whereas those without it will first need to update the locking system before adding mobile.”


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Hotels should consider that implementing mobile locks does not always require a full lock replacement, said Onity GM Casey Fale. “To save deployment costs and time, some systems includes a module that can be retrofitted into existing locks, including [radio frequency ID] and magstripe,” he said. “Along with the locks themselves, hotels should evaluate how the entire mobile-access solution can work with their existing brand loyalty app, or for independent properties, how they can implement a mobile guest experience without requiring an investment in a large IT infrastructure.”

While some mobile locks are hard-wired, others are wireless, said Brian Shedd, VP of sales and marketing at OpenKey. “Hard-wiring door locks requires more installation effort and cost than wireless,” he said.

Hotels also should consider design when upgrading. “Mobile locks come in all shapes and sizes,” Shedd said. “Moving from a large mag stripe lock to a sleek new mobile lock may require door repair/refinishing.”

Operators must develop a strategy for mobile access based on their existing mobile app and the quality of the guest experience they wish to provide, said Joey Yanire, assistant VP of mobile access for lodging systems, dormakaba.

Does a property have its own app that mobile access functionality can be integrated into? If yes, then integration is typically quick and simple, with mobile keys being seamlessly added alongside other app features. If no, properties need to consider vendors and suppliers that have partnerships with app developers who can provide an app platform with seamless integration. Standalone solutions or software development kits should also be a consideration for hotels that do not have their own proprietary app, but are looking to upgrade, Boberg said.

Hotels need to consider a strategic plan for how they will ensure successful guest adoption once the move to a mobile-access solution is completed, Boberg continued. Mobile keys are still relatively new and are not completely mainstream. “Properties should implement a strategy where they effectively inform guests about the technology, how to use it and what the benefit is,” he said. “Working with vendors and suppliers that offer training for hotel staff is an added plus in making the overall adoption strategy more robust.”

Why the mobile experience is improved with integration

Door locks are an integral part of a total mobile-access solution that should integrate with a hotel brand’s overall mobile experience. “In typical business properties, we know that loyalty apps can support brand growth and help to drive direct bookings,” Fale said. “A tightly integrated mobile-access system will offer customization of how a hotel app opens door locks, pushes notifications and sends updates. For resorts, the use of mobile-access technology can help drive guests to use the resort’s application multiple times a day, where they can see value-added services such as spa and day trips.”

On the property-management-system side, it is important to work with providers that have experience working with PMSes, Fale said. The mobile-key system will need to work seamlessly with the PMS to issue credentials and room permissions and ultimately provide a positive guest experience.

The hotel’s ability to attract and retain clients is crucial for their bottom line. “To stay ahead of the game, they need all their systems to work synchronously,” Yanire said. “Integrated systems can reduce expenses through automation of data transfer between systems, and optimal use of human and other resources. A sound integration strategy will also improve customer satisfaction and can increase profits.”

As door locking technology becomes more advanced and evolved, this is becoming the next phase for hotels. There are several reasons why integration with other systems is so crucial. A few benefits Boberg has seen is the ability to monitor and track locking activity in one central location as well as remotely deactivate keys in the event of an emergency or suspicious activity. “It also provides more autonomy to hotels in how they grant access to different levels of staff and to the guests themselves,” he said. “This integration gives hoteliers far more control over the access security on property and in a way they have never had before.”

Ultimately, the entire hotel industry is moving toward the “smart hotel” concept, where one day, the guest will control nearly everything via their smartphone, Shedd said. “Smart hotels will operate at a fraction of the cost of traditional hotels while providing a much more satisfying experience for the guest,” he said. “To realize the ‘smart hotel,’ every system needs to ‘talk’ to the others – including the door lock.”

How secure is mobile access?

Mobile key is the safest form of room entry available today, Shedd said. Guest concerns about security are largely the result of a lack of information.  “Hotels should make security information readily available at the front desk, in-room and on the website to help inform guests about the superior security offered by mobile key,” he said.  
Of course, adequate training of hotel staff also is key. “Front-desk agents need to understand and be able to explain why mobile key initiatives are secure,” Cline said. “There needs to be a three-prong approach: Addressed upfront, extensive FAQ and proper staff training.”

Boberg agreed that training is crucial. “To ensure and reassure guests of the safety and security of this technology, we work closely with our customers to educate each staff member at every property on how it works, so they can give guests information on all the security features of the solution,” he said. “When every staff member is knowledgeable about and trusting of the technology in place, it makes guests feel more comfortable and trusting in using it.”

But before training, Yanire said hotels need to partner with a lock vendor with a proven record of providing secure access. “The mobile key provisioning process must be secure, protected against man-in-the-middle attacks and mobile device hacking,” he said. “Mobile app developers must protect the access to the mobile key in the event a mobile phone is lost. Second, to reassure guests about mobile access safety, operators can work with their mobile access provider to develop an easily understood description of how mobile access works and the hotel’s mobile access security measures.”

Hotels 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,” Fale said.