When digital doesn’t suck: unlocking your hotel room with your phone

Hotels are starting to use smartphone-based NFC as an alternative room key. But is it safe?

This is a cool statistic:

A growing number of hotels are now allowing people to use their iPhone (and in some cases, Apple Watch) to unlock their doors. The Hilton hotel group, which first started experimenting with the technology three years ago, says that the security of the system is now firmly proven … It says that the smartphone unlocking system is now in use in around 1,700 hotels across the US and Canada, notching up 11m uses so far, without a single breach.

A couple of weeks ago I was in India on business, and I repeatedly killed my keycard for my room, by having it too close to my phone. The phone was “wiping” the magnetic signature of the key, leading to yet another apologetic trip to reception just to get back into my room. It wasn’t fun.

The idea that I could just use my phone (or watch) instead is just a blissful one. I’ve enthused about it before — but the idea that it’s safe too just adds to my desire to see this rolled out as far as possible. 

The travel companion in your pocket

It’s a simple quality of life improvement, but given that most people who stay in mid-market and upwards hotels are pretty much guaranteed to own a smartphone, it males perfect sense. We’re already putting our boarding passes on our phones when we travel – why not our hotel keys, too?

Roll on the future where the phone (and wearables) are part of our digital identity system. 

It’s certainly coming to the UK:

So far nine Hilton hotels in the UK are employing the beacon technology, which is retrofitted to room locks and allows a guest to open their door when their phone is within range. Some 100 hotels are expected to feature the digital key by the end of the year, with the entire Hilton estate offering the service by mid-2018.

Germany (and specifically Hamburg) next, please.