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Will You Someday Use Your Cellphone to Open Your Hotel Room Door?

February 5, 2008 at 10:17 AM | by | ()

USA Today has a half-hearted report on the emerging room key technologies in hotels these days. We say half-hearted because there's no technology mentioned that gets us really excited about staying in a hotel room in the future.

For instance, the Plaza Hotel when it finally opens whenever that may be will use radio-frequency key-cards that can unlock your room door when swiped past the lock at close range. That's kinda cool. It can save us the frustration of trying to swipe a keycard thats been demagnetized against our knowledge.

There's also talk of creating a papercard which would look and work exactly like the plastic keycard, except it's more environmentally-friendly. This sounds nice until the paper gets squashed in our purse.

Lastly, Accor Hotels is testing out a new lock that opens when guests' cellphones or PDAs are flashed in front of the door. Now, this is some great hotel technology. We imagine your cellphone is programmed at the front desk to open your room and your room only. Wouldn't want people breaking into rooms just by flashing their BlackBerrys around.

Sadly, they say it will be years before this type of lock becomes common in hotel rooms.

Two more room key technologies involve the iris scan a la Nine Zero in Boston and the fingerprint lock. Apparently, the seven-room SoHo Loft Hotel in NYC already uses this.

Its guests are escorted to their rooms, where their prints are scanned on the lock. Guests can open the doors by pressing their index fingers on the locks and keying in a numerical code issued at check-in. The code is issued as an extra layer of security, Drake says.

The hotel throws out the scanned fingerprints a few days after the guest has checked-out. Yet even that might not be foolproof. A recent guest complained:

The finger print door mechanism took 10 times to work.

[Photo: Crys]

Archived Comments:

I guess I'm a bit of a luddite

...because I figure the more complicated the technology is, the more likely it is to break down, which will then require specialists to get into your dang room because you really just wanted to crash and not stand in the hallway or go back down to the concierge.

What's wrong with keys, keycards, etc.?

Re: Will You Someday Use Your Cellphone to Open Yo

Some comments from an expert.
  1. Paper cards are a problem. All mag stripe locks are designed according to an ISO standard that specifies card dimensions including card thickness. (.030") A paper card is not a thick as a plastic card and therefore customers who use them will experience a higher frustration level because the read head cannot exert enough pressure on the card to read it reliably. Hotel owners concerned about guest satisfaction should not purchase them. Plastic cards have a 'green' advantage in that they can be recycled and used over and over.
  2. Demagnetized cards. There are 2 issues here. The most common problem with a card not working on the second day of your stay is front desk error, they simply did not make the card for enough nights. The second reason is magnetic damage. Low Coercivity mag stripe cards can be damaged by any cell phone with a speaker, or even if placed stripe-to-stripe next to your credit card. Your purse, your cell phone case, your wallet money clip, and numerous other items have magnets in the clasps and fasteners. A brief brush against one and your hotel card is history.
  3. Fingerprint Locks - want to see how frustrating these can be? Buy yourself a fingerprint reader for your home or work computer. You can log on with your fingerprint instead of a password. After 30 days ask yourself if you still like it. Don't worry, you have your password as backup :).
  4. Cell phones, NFID, RFID, retina scan, and other technologies. Nice, but until the door cannot be opened by bypassing the electronics, it is a waste of money. Hotels today are not built well, especially the low & medium priced chains. The internal door frames can be spread easily. All you need is 3/4" and the door is open. Frame spreading  is less successful on doors equipped automatic deadbolt locks provided by 3 of the major hotel electronic lock companies. Next, a wire under the door can pull down the lever handle and you are in. Many thanks to the ADA!
  5. Never EVER leave anything of value in a hotel room unless you put it in the room safe. When you are in the room, use the deadbolt which will lock out other cards, and use the door chain.