New technologies stalk hotel key cards

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The Independent Travel

A Stockholm hotel is trialling Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, the latest experiment in the hunt for a way to stamp out hotel key cards.

Described as the world's first pilot of such technology, it allows guests to bypass the front desk at check-in and go straight to their room, which can be unlocked using a cell phone.

The "key" is sent when the guest checks in from their handset prior to arrival and use a short-range radio signal to enable communication between the phone and the door lock.

To check out, guests simply swipe their cell phone at a special point in the hotel lobby and the key is cancelled, as it is if the mobile handset is lost or stolen.

Guests at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm in Sweden will be able to trial the service, which is created by Assa Abloy, for four months.

However, the system isn't yet as easy as it sounds - as NFC technology isn't yet widespread on European mobile handsets, participants will have to use the Samsung NFC-enabled handsets provided as part of the trial.

This is the greatest barrier to full-scale implementations of NFC mobile phone unlocking services, and explains why other hotel companies are choosing to explore different ways to use cell phones as hotel room keys.

In September, InterContinental announced a trial with French technology firm Openways that would provide similar functionality for guests of two US hotels, using an "audio key" which can be played from a smartphone to the hotel room door.

As the hardware required is commonplace, the OpenWays technology is theoretically compatible with any cell phone, although it's arguably a less elegant solution.

Earlier this year, Aloft announced that it was piloting a scheme using a special RFID-enabled Loyalty Card that allowed guests to unlock their rooms without receiving a keycard on check-in.

Assa Abloy says that the experience gained from the Stockholm pilot is planned to be enhanced and expanded upon, promising that "it will be possible to securely open digital door locks using your mobile phone in hotels and commercial buildings as well as in your home."

See the system in action http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqeCNEvs4Xg

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