Hilton hotel rooms will soon open by smartphone

| August 6, 2014

Smartphones have cut out the middleman in any number of transactions: ordering food delivery (try Seamless, and GrubHub); grocery shopping (check out FreshDirect’s app); and even booking doctor appointments (see ZocDoc). And now, Hilton will let its hotel guests check in and out, upgrade their rooms, and, eventually, unlock their rooms via their smartphones.

From (Mick Baker)rooster.

Hilton will give guests the power to open rooms via smartphone. From (Mick Baker)rooster.

Hilton, which also operates DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, and Embassy Suites, is not the first major chain to experiment with keyless entry. Starwood’s Aloft started a similar service at two properties — hotels in Harlem, New York City, and Silicon Valley, in California — earlier this year. As NBC News reported, there are benefits to the service: “No longer would hotels have to throw away key cards by the thousand, and an app could actually prove more secure and convenient if done right.”

Yet there are new safety concerns with wireless entry. As security expert Chetan Sharma told NBC News, “There are ways to make its security more foolproof by having the guests download the key into the app only when they are on premise…[to] ensure that the computing system at the hotel doesn’t get overwhelmed by attacks or spam from outside.” Hotels would also need to follow up on security updates and any glitches immediately, as guest safety would be on the line. Hotel doors should also be able to be unlocked without the wireless key.

Checking in and out using a smartphone app isn’t new. Using a smartphone-powered keyless entry system, however, necessitates updates to the hotel room locks. As NBC explains, “actually activating the door lock requires significant changes to the locks themselves. A wireless receiver on the door is activated via the Bluetooth on the guest’s phone, and the lock is unlocked through a button or gesture.” These receivers are powered by battery, so in the event of a power outage, they will still function.

As for the Hilton updates, by the end of this summer all Hilton rewards club (Hilton HHonors) members will be able to check in and select their rooms from a digital floor plan, available online and via smartphone apps. The properties include Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites. By autumn, the same service will be available for DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels. And, by the end of this year, room selection will be available around the world for more than 4,000 of the company’s properties.

“We analyzed data and feedback from more than 40 million HHonors members, as well as guest surveys, social media posts and review sites, and it’s clear that guests want greater choice and control,” Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president and global head of digital at Hilton Worldwide, noted in a statement. “In fact, in a recent study, 84 percent of business travelers surveyed said they wanted the ability to choose their own room. We are giving our guests the ability to do just that by enabling them to select not just their room type, but the exact location in the hotel, all the way down to their room number.”


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