Installing guestroom smart locks: caveats and challenges

Installing guestroom smart locks: caveats and challenges

While some major international hotel chains are implementing smartphone-based guestroom entry systems, most operators are still taking a wait-and-see attitude. One factor that is holding hotels back is the perceived cost and difficulty with installation. To address these concerns, vendors have come up with different solutions.

“Our system easily integrates into a hotel’s existing loyalty app, and mobile key users can simply press a button on their smartphone when they’re in range of their room, and walk right in,” said Patti DeLano, marketing analyst at Onity – part of UTC Climate, Controls & Security. “Onity’s DirectKey system includes a module that can be retrofitted into existing Onity locks, saving deployment costs and time. In some cases, the DirectKey module can be retrofitted to work with locks from other manufacturers.”

However, in the real world, things are much more complicated. “There are several challenges to system integrators, with the primary one being the legalities and licenses of all the different components required to work together. With mobile door unlocking the success of the system involves the guest’s personal cell phone, a cell phone mobile app, the hotel’s infrastructure and operating software, and a trusted service provider,” said Gregory Botsch, Principal, Production Direction, John Portman & Associates.

“Considering that each hotel operator requires a proprietary system to be run on their management and reservation systems, the complexity of getting all of the components to work together is significant. The cell phone app would need to be designed to work on all types of cell phones and through every possible service provider. You begin to see the number of variables that need to seamlessly work together to make a smartphone locking system function everywhere and for anyone.”

Is walking directly to the guestroom secure?

From a guest’s point of view, being able to bypass the line at the front desk – especially after a long flight – is certainly one of the benefits of mobile check-in. Yet having unknown people walk up to the guestroom floors directly without going through the front desk first has also raised security concerns among hoteliers considering this kind of technology.

Typically, these locking systems are set up for members of the hotel’s loyalty program. “This means that they will already have obtained all the personal information about the guest in advance and therefore some of the risk is mitigated,” said Peter Romanov, Commercial Director, Hospitality and Access Control, EMEIA, Allegion.

According to Rune Venaas, Head of Lodging Business Development, EMEA, Kaba, hotel access and security measures are typically not a question of how check-in method is used, but how access is limited by authenticating access rights at critical points of access. “Such access points could be access to elevator, access to specific floors, common areas, and of course access to the hotel room itself,” he said. “It is often a question of balance between convenience and security for the hotels who want to provide a high level of security at the same time that they want to provide a welcoming and open atmosphere to their guests.”

In the end, what components to choose or how the system should be implemented is dependent on the situation at the individual hotels. “The most important thing is to make a good plan based on the hotel needs and have the relevant resources in the project for a swift and good-quality implementation,” said Magnus Friberg, CEO of Zaplox.

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