Starwood To Offer Keyless Mobile Check-In

Starwood announced a pretty awesome new innovation today, whereby they’re testing a new keyless mobile check-in option. Through this program you can use your smart phone to enter your room. Via Apple Insider:

Two of Starwood’s Aloft hotels — one in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and another in Apple’s native Cupertino — will be pilot sites for the new program, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After the two-property pilot, Starwood hopes to have the system active across each of the hotels in its W Hotel and Aloft portfolios by the end of 2014, which would represent some 123 locations throughout the U.S. While hotel owners would be required to make a capital investment to implement the technology, von Paasschen said Starwood would provide a “significant contribution” to defray those costs in order to get the program off the ground.

Here’s a video advertising the new offering:

Frankly I’m surprised it took this long, as I think this is a really exciting new innovation. I would’ve guessed that programmable loyalty program membership cards would double as room keys first, but I think this is great as well.

While I think this is a great idea, there are a few logistical challenges that immediately come to mind:

  • If you’re an elite member (theoretically the one that would benefit most from this), you probably won’t want to skip the check-in desk in terms of seeing about the possibility of an upgrade, late check-out, the welcome amenity, club lounge hours, etc.
  • What if multiple people are staying in a room? It seems like this would only work for the primary member’s iPhone.
  • How will IDs be verified? Not that I personally see this as an issue, but this means it could be quite easy to have a family member or friend stay at a hotel under your name so they get elite benefits and you earn points and stay credits.

So it’s certainly exciting technology, though I’m curious to see how it’s executed.

What do you guys think? Would you do keyless mobile check-in, or do you want to make sure everything is to your liking with your reservation and go the “traditional” route to the front desk?

(Tip of the hat to Mike)

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest
  1. I would think eventually they would develop the app enough to accommodate for the usual elite requests. Choice benefits would be offered for selection when checking in, so you could pick from the app if you wanted the free internet, bonus points, etc. Hours for clubs and other benefits would be available as well. Upgrades would be tricky as those a lot of times are manually processed upon check-in but I’m sure they’ll figure out some way to automate it.

    Reading their press release, members will be issued a permanent RFID card to act as their room key each time. Solves the issue with Apple not yet incorporating RFID/NFC technology in their iPhones yet but I too wonder how they will prevent others from staying under someone else’s name. Not only could they earn points for that member, but if that member holds status, they would reap the benefits of that elite status without earning it.

  2. I apologize, I was reading an old press release that talked about the RFID cards from a couple years ago. Still could technically sign in to the app using an elite’s credentials and reap their benefits. This would actually be easy to share your account with friends and family as all they would need to have is your account information.

  3. Maybe they can tie this to a registered device (iPhone serial number, etc…) so only that device would be able to unlock the door. If that is the case, unless you give your device to another person you would be the only one able to open the door. It would be similar to pressing the SOS button on your car. That service is tied to that specific car that is attached to a specific account. Yes, anyone in my car could use that if they know my passcode but again they would have to use my car (the device).

    On the other hand I still prefer to check-in in person. I usually make sure I got the room I requested (high floor, away from elevator and vending machines, etc…).

  4. @ JBG — If the test works I’d guess they’ll eventually expand it internationally. I don’t use data when traveling internationally, so would probably go with traditional check-in then.

  5. I would be willing to try it out. Doesn’t the
    Nine Zero Boston (Kimpton Hotel) use a retinal iris scan key option for their Presidential Suite?

  6. I’m a Platinum and I think I’ll pass. Hilton had a check in kiosk that I tried once to avoid the lines and did not get an upgrade, yet the Gold member I traveled with went to the desk and received one. Just give me the slim plastic key I can slide in my pocket and one in my wallet and I won’t be locked out when my phone battery dies…..

  7. This will not be in lieu of plastic keys but in addition to, so everyone can decide for themselves. Over on Engadget, someone commented that this will be nice for conventions and other events where a ton of people are checking in.

    Personally, I’m more curious about security of this method. It’s been shown that some plastic keys are not safe and generally the more complicated something is, the easier it is to break.

  8. This would not work with iPhones because the phones don’t have NFC capability. Only Android and Windows Phone smartphones have NFC capability. People with iPhones would need to either use an RFID card/sticker or hope that the app would work with an NFC case, which are few and far between.

  9. I had one of their RFID cards that would just automatically work on their room. The issue is that their system couldn’t figure out how to text me because it was a Sprint number that I ported to Verizon. So when I would check in at an Aloft, they would have all sorts of issues generating keys because it thought my permanent key (which was also an SPG card) was already programmed. The idea seemed nice but lacking in execution.

    Oddly I never have issues checking into Aloft’s or W’s as they tend not to have convention facilities. It’s Westin’s and Sheraton’s that have a whole bus of people that arrive at once when there is usually a line.

    I do like the RFID keys in general – downtown Brooklyn has an Aloft and a Sheraton right next to each other. I much prefer the Sheraton for the club lounge, style of the rooms, available upgrades, on site restaurant, more platinum amenity points and green choice points etc etc, but the one thing the Aloft has going for it is there is rarely a line and the RFID cards always work (and it usually runs about 20% less expensive). Particularly since you have to scan in the elevators its a huge time saver.

  10. I’m not sure why Starwood doesn’t simply work on using the SPG app to be used as a room key for Android devices. As others have mentioned, Apple doesn’t want to include NFC/RFID support for whatever reason, but the other half of us with Android phones probably have an NFC chip already.

    Why not update the existing SPG app to use our existing NFC chips to be remotely programmed as keys for the existing NFC/RFID locks used at a large number of existing SPG properties?

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