Smartphone Room Key. Interesting, But Half-Baked.

An article at USA Today says that Holiday Inns is going to start testing a system that uses smartphones as guest room keys. The thinking behind it is focused on the fact that some guests would prefer to skip interacting with the front desk and just go straight to their rooms.

The idea is that you reserve your room online and then get issued a virtual "key" that goes into an app on your smartphone. No stopping to checking and be issued a key at the front desk -- you just go straight to your room and let yourself in.

The basic concept sounds great, but it's some holes that will have to be filled. But hey; that's what tests are for.


The gist of the idea is going straight to your hotel room with no stop at the front desk.  That sounds OK -- sort of.  I don't mind stoping at the front desk briefly. It's a little reassuring to know that they know that I've arrived and am taking possession of the room. Especially that last part. 

According to the article at USA Today, this attitude may be an artifact of my age, and may actually be the opposite of folks who came up in the age of social networking.  II'd prefer the stop to be brief. Very brief. Like; not much longer than it takes to walk thru the reception area and nod. But I do want them to know and acknowledge that my room is occupied.

Too Many Tenants
Geek technofan here, but even I turn luddite around the idea of strangers having a key to my hotel room. Sorry to say it, but issuing hotel keys via a path that includes hotel central systems to local hotel systems is already trouble without inserting the smartphone app in the procedure.

Issuing keys via the web seems like it might increase the opportunities for those unpleasant situations when more than one party is issued a key to a room.  No good.

Slow Startup
The second problem is smartphone app "start up". To make this test system work, you have to hold your phone screen up to a sensor on the door lock. Anybody who has a smartphone knows that getting an app open is not as instanteous as it appears in the TV commercials. So, now, instead of just slipping the keycard out of a pocket and into the lock, you need to fiddle through your phone apps and start the special app and hold it up to the door in proper alignment while it reads the face of your phone.

Nah... give me the keycard.

Hackers and Phone Thieves
Keycards can be stolen, sure, but they usually don't say which room they go to. In fact, other than the name of the hotel, they usually don't say anything at all. On the other hand, the smartphone app is going to have to show you the room number or it's going to defeat the whole "skip the frontdesk" point of the project.

An easy way around that, of course, is to password protect the app, but then you have to add that to the app's startup time when you're trying to hurry into your room.

Then there's the hackers. Is there a software master key?

I'm sticking with the keycard.

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