From the horse’s mouth
Starwood has hit the news recently with a smartphone-driven electronic locking system for their hotel rooms. This is where a “token” is sent to your Bluetooth Smart or NIFC-capable smartphone after you check in and your room is ready. then you touch the smartphone against your hotel room’s lock to let yourself in. Here, this “token” effectively works in the same way as the traditional keycard, “claiming” your room and unlocking that door. It has been pitched as a way to allow guests to bypass the Front Desk and head straight to their rooms.
But a problem has shown up with this “cutting-edge” technology where multiple hoteliers could jump on the bandwagon, what with multiple locking-system vendors offering these systems to the hotel trade. What is likely to happen is that the client software for one system may not play nicely with another competing system and a lot of the client software will be wrapped in a “customer-service” app that is branded to a particular hotel chain.
Then you may stay at multiple different hotels and they supply their own app in order to allow you to use their “touch-and-go” electronic locking technology. This can lead to a cluttered smartphone and operator bedlam caused by multiple apps competing to answer that “touch-and-go” lock or other NFC or Bluetooth device when you use your smartphone to interact with these devices.
This situation has been answered by the HOFTEL group who are a group of hotel-property investors and they wanted to see a level playing field for “touch-and-go” electronic locking. They see a reality that not all of us will be exclusively loyal to particular hotel brands for reasons like “shopping around”, a hotel chain not having presence at our destination amongst other things.
They have established the “OpenKey” system for the lodging industry that can work across multiple locking systems and properties. It is based around a single app on your NFC-capable or Bluetooth-Smart-capable smartphone which interacts with differing locks at differing properties. The data in this app is focused towards the hotel so it can work in a manner that is even agnostic of third-party booking agencies.
It is intended to support existing and newer locking systems that implement RFID, NFC and / or Bluetooth Smart technologies. As well, certain realities are integrated in to the software. Firstly, there is support for “secure share” which is similar to what is being offered for residential smart locks. This is where you can share a copy of your key to someone else on a “one-shot” basis or for the duration of your stay. The feature would play in to the hands of couples and families who share a room or setups where a group of travellers have a particular room like a suite occupied by a member serving as a common lounge for that group. Another security option is to allow users or hoteliers to use a passcode to increase security on these systems
Of course, there isn’t a need to “reinvent the wheel” which can play in to the hands of a larger group of people such as independent or small-time operators, assisted-living facilities and traditional apartment blocks. This last user group can benefit from an easily-changeable single-electronic-key smart lock setup that can be implemented around the whole of an apartment development. Even hoteliers who face situations where a person is renting a room on the “inn/hotel” single-payment-covers-all model and having that as their residence can benefit from the OpenKey model rather than shoehorn their electronic locking system to cater for the needs of these users.
If the OpenKey platform can achieve a level playing field for hotel locking systems, why can’t this be achieved for the up-and-coming smart-lock systems that are being heavily promoted as part of the “Internet Of Things”. This is with the goal of not having your smartphone crowded out with many apps for different vendors.