Monday, 24 February 2014

What a hotel wants, what a hotel needs

Over the last few years we've been speaking with thousands of hotel and lodging owners across the globe about trying to find a solution to the failing mag-stripe and failing metal key problem.

If you have ever stayed at a hotel have you ever wondered; 
‘why do I have to keep going back to the reception desk to make my keycard work again?'; or 
'why does this hotel still have those old metal keys, and not keycards?' then read on for the answer.

I'm sorry sir that this is the third time you've had to come back to the reception desk today. Hopefully you shouldn't have any problems any more with this card.


What the Hotel and Lodging industry want (general commonalities)

  • 1.      They want a locking solution that doesn't  involve replacing their existing locks.


This might sound a bit strange to some - If the current locks are breaking down, then why don’t they simply replace them? Well, firstly to replace the existing locks, it will cost a lot of money and it will cause a lot of disruption to the hotel. For example if you take out the existing locks, then they’ll probably have different holes in the doors for the new locks, so then you’ll need to replace the existing doors too (Fire Standards mean you can’t just putty up the holes) – so…more money. 

Secondly new locks might not fit with the hotels/resorts current d├ęcor. Thirdly new locks mean that they may have to install new software, and change their current systems of management too. Installing new locks may also mean installing a lot of supporting infrastructure – which leads onto point 2.

  • 2.      They don’t want to install RFID smartcard solution.

RFID smartcard access control/locking systems on the surface are a good solution to the mag-stripe and metal key locks problems, but they’re expensive (between $800-$8000 per door). The older ones require the building to be completely re-wired, and connected to onsite servers and other supporting network infrastructure. Sure the newer wi-fi RFID smartcard systems can replace the wiring, but they still need onsite modems, routers, etc, and sometimes they’re even more expensive than they’re wired counterparts. And of course you need a reliable wi-fi connection. 

  • 3.      They don’t want keypad/codepad locks

Codes and keypads to open doors have been around forever. The problem with keypad locks is a lot of the designs of these types of locks also look like they've been around forever too. Not only are alot of the codepad lock designs ugly to hotel owners, but they're also worried about the security aspect (especially in narrow hallways where people are close. 

Do you know what it is like waiting at an ATM? there is a usually a short distance of at-least a couple of metres to the next person, and you have to cover your hands to enter your PIN right?. 
The couple of metre ATM distance could be around a metre in narrow hallways, and guests might forget to cover their hands, and so others could easily see their PIN entry code (and let themselves in). Then there is the problem of guests forgetting their PIN. 

In the past it’s been difficult to generate unique PIN’s for guests and lots of different unique PIN’s for housekeepers etc. In the past to change the PIN’s someone would have to physically enter a new PIN on the lock to override the existing one (and enter a combination of stars or hashes). Also it was hard to audit these old combination keypad locks to know who opened the door at what time. This is very important in a hotel, such as if a guest complains about a stolen watch, management can audit the lock and see who accessed the room at what time, and determine if a housekeeper stole the watch.

New technology means that you can now set hundreds of codes from a web-based computer program for any future date and time, and you don’t need to visit the lock to change the codes.  This technology is great, but it doesn't solve the problem of having a keypad on the outside of the hotel/lodging door (which the hotel owners don't want).

  • 4.      They want smartphone self check-in, and smartphone opening, but they want other options too. Getting out from behind the desk to interact with guests face to face when check-in would be nice too – ie check-in on a tablet.

Have you ever heard of the expression “the customer is always right”. We’ll there has been survey after survey conducted over the last few years showing that people want to be able to self check-in to hotels on their smartphones. You can check-in to your flight on your smartphone right, and avoid the queues, so why can’t you check-in to your accommodation? Sure there are some people that don’t have smartphones, or some people that prefer the old fashioned reception desk check-in.
So the Hotels want plenty of options for guests to check-in and open their doors, because that’s what their guests wants.

  • 5.      They want to hold onto their existing Property Management Software, and their existing management practices.

Hotels invested heavily in Property Management Software around the same time they got the mag-stripes installed in the late eighties to mid nineties. Back then it might’ve cost $150,000 - $250,000 for a piece of software. This was before the Internet came along, and when there was no such thing as open source software, which forced prices for software down. Also like anyone and anything, people get used to their existing software, or existing ways of doing things. So if the Hotels or Resorts are going to get new locks, they don’t want all this new complicated software to go with it.

  •         If they have to install new locks or new hardware, they want something that is really easy to install.
This one is self explanatory.

We hear you hotels and resorts.

Our company LEAPIN Digital Keys has developed a smartphone self check-in system, that does everything that the Hotels want. 

You don’t have to replace your locks (simply replace the strike faceplate on the inside of the door, and place our battery powered electronic strike in the hole – it takes two screws. The strike has a NFC reader in it, so you can unlock the door by waving your phone near the strike. 

You guests can also use our app to check-in to your accommodation and to download your time-sensitive Digital Key which only works for the duration of the booking. 

We’ve build interfaces and modules to Property Management Systems and Computer Reservation Systems, and Booking Engines and Channel Management Systems, so you don’t need to change any of your software and existing management practices. 

If a guest doesn’t want to use their smartphone to self check-in and receive their Digital Key, then that’s fine – hotel staff at the reception desk can even use our app to check a guest in on a tablet, away from the reception desk. They can also use the same app to send the digital key to a NFC sticker (or in the case of hotels, a business card that looks just like a keycard). 

This app can also take less than 20 seconds to check someone in and program their keycard, and the Management Systems can then automatically update.


If you would like to learn more about LEAPIN’s Digital Key system, please contact us at info@digitalkeys.co

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