Think of smartphones as the Killer of All Old Technology. Put one in your hand and suddenly, goodbye digital camera. So long, mp3 player (or Walkman!). Farewell, fuddy-duddy paper maps. And now, Hilton Hotels takes a leap forward into the future by turning your iPhone into … a hotel room key.
Through its HHonors app (free for iOS), Hilton aims to give its guests “unprecedented choice and control” over every aspect of their stay; from check-in to check-out. Guests will be able to extract floor plans, preview rooms, and select the exact room they wish to book. Guests can also submit requests and purchase upgrades using the same app. While most hotels do take room requests into consideration, being able to select the exact room you want could come as a very well-received thing indeed – if you’ve stayed in the same room before and loved it, you could simply select it again.
Furthermore, the hotel giant will also outfit its rooms with smartphone-enabled locks, letting guests bypass the front desk entirely and go straight up to their rooms upon arrival, using a code sent to their phone upon booking confirmation.
I lost my hotel room key once. I also lost the little cardboard folder it was in, which had the name and address of the hotel printed on it, along with my room number.
After a fruitless search for the card, I reported the loss to the front desk of the hotel I was staying at, only to be told that the code in the card could not be cancelled without the physical card itself. They gave me a replacement card, and I spent the whole night awake wondering if an axe murderer was going to open my room door with my lost key card.
With Hilton using smartphones as room keys, guests may be less likely to face the same situation – a smartphone is less easily lost or misplaced and forgotten, plus most can be shut down remotely using IMEI numbers in case of theft.
We’re still wondering how this newfangled technology works, though. Most likely it will make useof your iPhone’s Bluetooth function to connect with the door lock and guests may have to enter a digital code to unlock the door, similar to unlocking your phone’s lock screen.
By outfitting its 4,200 properties with digital locks by 2016, Hilton hopes to jump ahead of competitors such as Marriott and InterContinental. While it may take a while – changing the locks on all those properties is time-consuming work! – it certainly puts Hilton ahead of the rest in being the first hotel chain to actively take advantage of its increasingly tech-savvy clientele, plus streamlining the check-in process along the way.
Of course, there is the concern of security and how hackable this technology will be. While everything is hackable, we’re still waiting to see if Hilton encounters any bumps in the new system – and how they will be resolved satisfactorily. Or how the technology will fare once your smartphone runs out of juice.
For the rest of us who can’t afford to be checking in and out of Hilton hotels willy-nilly, have no fear! You can now have a keyless front door to your home. In the meantime, I’m rooting for the ability to arrive at a hotel, check-in, and go up to my room without having to deal with frazzled front desk staff.