The downside of Mobile Keys.. and how to solve it

Rising popularity

Hotels’ use of mobile devices as keys has sizeably increased over the past years.
Is it safe to say that mobile keys are no longer just a buzzword or a gimmick, but a tool that can actually add value to hoteliers and their guests?
In this article, based on insights from hoteliers and industry experts, you will read all about the grand promise and current downside of mobile keys.

Inside this article:

• The benefits of mobile keys
• Hotel skepticism – human vs technology
• The downside of mobile keys
• Are Bluetooth or NFC our best bet?
• A unique mobile key solution
• The Two-Click journeys


Mobile Keys for Hotels

Mobile keys have gained mayor popularity over the past years.
There are various reasons for hotels to move towards or start exploring the opportunities of mobile keys.
Each hotel has their own, but the general sense around mobile keys is focused around their ability to:

• Simplify hotel operations;
• Reduce costs on staff and material (and reduce the use of plastic while we’re at it)
• Improve the guest experience / Increase loyalty
• Empower hotel app usage / Increase revenue


Human vs Technology

Like many innovations, mobile keys were welcomed with a fair portion of skepticism by hotels.
The often-heard: “What about the personal touch of hospitality?” “My guests want to be welcomed by a friendly human face on arrival.”
We can’t disagree. Who doesn’t want a personal and friendly welcome on arrival?

Then again, how personal and friendly is this moment of arrival at most hotels?

We stand in line, we watch how the front desk staff is over occupied with forms, paperwork, and cutting cards. We then listen how each and every guest is welcomed with the same “name please-passport please-fill in details here-sign here-here’s your key-there’s the elevator-and breakfast starts at 9” welcome.

In response to this skepticism and the factory-like welcome experience:
The personal touch of hospitality will not be replaced by technology.
Technology will actually help many hotels become more human.


Before I sign…

Back to the perks of mobile keys; simplifying 
operations, reducing costs, improving experience and revenue? Sounds great, where can I sign!

Before I sign, I must ask; any downsides?
Unfortunately, our experience forces us to answer this question with a heartfelt YES.

4Suites has surveyed many hotels with and without mobile keys over the past years. Hotels have been discovering their options, running pilots and, at the 
same time, experiencing some downsides to the grand promise of mobile keys. (Don’t leave – we have this covered).

Getting new locks or upgrades is only a start. We’re then not even close to reaping the full rewards yet.
So what is blocking our road to the wealth of opportunities brought by mobile keys? We have listed some common-heard roadblocks below:

• Train staff and ensure they understand (yet another) new system and interface;
• Ensure all guests read and understand your new guest journey and technology
• Ensure all guests download the app. (good luck with that!)
• Ensure the doors open when the guest expects the doors to open (yes, 2 seconds is too slow!)
• Ensure all is integrated with current operating systems (e.g. PMS) and changes are updated automatically, instantly and over the air
• Ensure your system is constantly up to date with new versions of used third-party technologies


Bluetooth & NFC

Bluetooth and NFC are great technologies at their own and most commonly used for mobile keys, but are they really the most suitable for hotels and their guests’ needs?

The guest will always need to download an app, bluetooth must be enabled, the phone needs to be placed against or near the lock. Sometimes in a specific position or for a certain period of time.

All fine if you know – but how do you ensure all your guests will know and understand this too?

Apple once blocked the release of NFC on their phones. Who knows what future devices will support? What if our device shifts from phones to watches, glasses or chips in the future? Will these devices support these technologies and if so, will that device be able to act as a key too? We can be sure about one thing: whatever our future device will be, in some way it will be connected to the internet.

The right questions:

When it comes to the guest journey we asked ourselves:
How many reservations mention the Bluetooth address of your guests? How many guests know their own Bluetooth address?
This might seem like stupid questions and the answer is clear: none.
Nevertheless this information is required to create a Bluetooth mobile key.
As a result, an extra step will need to be built in the journey to obtain this information

A journey that we are aiming to simplify by all means.


Problem hunters

At 4Suites we see problems as opportunities 
(apologies for this cliché, but for an innovative tech company, finding and trying to solve problems is simply at the core of our existence).

Therefore, when we took our first dive in the world of mobile keys for hotels, our approach was simple.
By focussing on the currently experienced downsides, rather than the well known benefits, we soon figured out that mobile keys can be done differently, and better, than current solutions out there.

It was eye-opening to speak with so many industry-experts and hoteliers that were aware of the mobile key benefits, but we still rarely came across great use cases. Of course, some of the mayor hotel groups have been able to implement a successful mobile key solution for their loyal guests, but how many of us have a few 
million laying around for an innovation like this?


Our approach

Focussing on the experienced downsides, our goal was to introduce a unique mobile key solution that can:

• Live up to the grand promise
• Really simplify the journey rather than add frustration
• Bring actions needed by hotels and guests to an absolute minimum
• Run without an additional interface and training for hotel staff
• Work without forcing guests to download an app!
• Be independent of any third party technology
• Be innovative today as much as ready for the technology of tomorrow.


The 3 pillars of success

We soon figured that our solution would need to be built around the power and connectivity of the internet.
Hereby we could provide a real-time, flexible and future-ready platform with unrivaled connectivity and features.
The three main pillars of our solution are:

• The Cloud
• The Internet of Things
• API

An access control cloud platform, powered by IoT, and from the very first brick built up on API.


The solution

Introducing the easiest, yet most advanced mobile keys for hotels.
4Suites has been able to deliver a unique, fully automated and seamless mobile key solution for hotels.
Our solution is ‘idiot-proof’, where all intelligence is taken care of in the back by 4Suites’ access platform and API.
There is no need for an additional interface for hotels and guests don’t need to download an app or login.


The two-click journey

4Suites has been able to bring the entire process of allowing the guest to open their assigned room back to two single clicks. How does it work?
• Reservation details are automatically transferred from PMS to 4Suites platform
• Reservation changes are instantly updated
• A confirmation email or text message is sent to the guest

Still no action required by the hotel. Just carry on with your general business, 4Suites API and technology is in full control here.
• The guest receives the confirmation email or text, which can easily be set-up and branded to meet each hotel’s preferred style and communication.

Click 1: the guest presses the button in the email to receive his keys.
• The web-app is opened. The guest does not need to download an app.
• The guest is automatically logged in. A unique and secure link has been created
• The guest sees as list of doors which have been assigned to him based on the reservation. The room key and any other general doors or booked spaces

Click 2: the guest presses the button of the doors he wants to access.
• At that moment a signal is sent to the cloud to verify rights and sent back to confirm opening.
• There is no need to wait, no need to place phone against the lock, there is not even a signal between the phone and the lock
• The door will open in 250 milliseconds after tapping the button in the web-app.


What people say

“As hospitality is an industry of comfort and choice, accommodation providers already witness the need to provide mobile keys to a growing number of travellers who simply prefer to skip the traditional reception for more comfort, privacy, speed of service or whatever reason. In that aspect, having a full cloud mobile key access system, that doesn’t require anything to download but a single mobile web link, will be crucial for the popularity and the adoption of the mobile keys from travellers. 
This is where 4Suites stands out”
Krasimir Trapchev
Co-founder and CEO Clock Software

“There is 3 challenges to get mobile access right. First is the lack of open API’s and connectivity between tech companies, secondly the industry is very good in making check in a process with too many steps and therefore complicating it, and thirdly the hurdle of needing to install an app to do all this. Check in and mobile access should be almost a one-two clicks process. Then hotels can go back to focusing on hospitality and experience. I believe 4suites is the only company well positioned to achieve this as they address the 3 challenges head on.”
Vassilis Syropoulos
Vice President Demand Management
 Pandox AB Hotels


Yes, please

So how can I get 4Suites to my property?

We happily invite interested hotels to get in touch for more information and to receive a full demo of our solutions.

4Suites works with various hotel lock -and access control manufacturers around the globe (our hardware partners).

4Suites’ platform is integrated with various hotel systems to provide a fully automated workflow; e.g. Mews Systems, Clock,  Apaleo, StaynTouch, Protel, Amadeus.

Custom integrations can be set up on request and smaller properties are currently also happily using our manual data entry options.


Get in touch

Are you a hotel interested in a unique mobile key solution? 
Get in touch!

Are you an access control manufacturer interested to move to the cloud and/or leverage IoT to enhance your products? Become a hardware partner!

Or are you a software company interested in an integrating our services and/or have something cool to offer our integration team?
Become an integration partner!