Smartphone App Handles Check-In, Unlocks Hotel Room Door
January 31, 2014

Checking In To A Hotel With Just Your Smartphone?

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

If you can check-in for a flight and even produce a boarding pass from your smartphone, where else can your smartphone get you? The folks at Starwood Hotels think your smartphone should get you all the way to your room at its Aloft hotel chain. Aloft guests can now use their smartphones to check in to their room, and actually unlock the door.

The doors will unlock via Bluetooth when the phone is held in front of the lock, the New York Times reports.

Aloft is rolling out the service after first testing at locations in New York's Harlem neighborhood and Cupertino, California. The technology will be used for three months, with a planned rollout to all Aloft and W hotels as well as two Starwood Hotels & Resorts brands in 2015, the paper said.

The Starwood footprint includes 1,150 hotels in almost 100 countries, CNN reports.

The move to use smartphones to check in and unlock doors follows Starwood's experimentation with keyless check-in where the hotel offered radio-activated key cards to Starwood Preferred Guest members. The radio-activated key cards were sent via mail in advance of a stay.

Check-in will also be simplified for participating guests. Guests will receive a message on a Starwood app, which contains a virtual key, the Wall Street Journal reports. Guests can use the key within the app to unlock the door with a tap or twist of their phone. The app will be compatible with the iPhone 4s or newer models, and Android phones running 4.3 or newer versions of Android.

"We believe this will become the new standard for how people want to enter a hotel," said Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen, in a corporate statement. "It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel."

Some hotels still believe in a face-to-face check-in procedure, however. The Wall Street Journal reports that Holiday Inn pulled back from check-in kiosks.

"Robert Habeeb, president of the first Hospitality Group, which is the owner of 55 hotels in the US, says he pulled out check-in kiosks at two of his Holiday Inn hotels after finding that most guests ignored them. He found that many travelers will sacrifice speed or ease to talk with a staff member and ensure their room has the right view or location, or try for an upgrade. Other guests may still want to be greeted when they arrive."

Starwood Hotels has been a leader in bringing new technologies to its properties and customers. In addition to keyless entry, the hotel chain rolled out a plan to develop solar power at its hotels last year. The chain also ran a "Cyber Monday" sale that offered discounts at its resorts, and premiered an iPad-specific mobile app, CNN reports. Starwood also introduced Instagram integration on its websites where photos posted to Instagram and tagged with any Starwood resort location get posted on the appropriate websites.