Mr. Cush

Mobile Technology

How Mobile Access Implementation Changed the Hotel Industry

By Alastair Cush, Head of Global Lodging Business Development, Kaba

A growing number of properties are implementing mobile access guest room locking systems and the apps that support them. Many chain standards mandate mobile access and independents are joining the trend. What few operators understand is that mobile access implementation has changed not only every aspect of hotel door locks but also many other areas of hospitality operations. More people are actively involved in the decision making process for hotel locks than before. Mobile access has integrated the lock process with numerous property and chain departments from sales to guest loyalty and brand marketing. The original purpose of improving guest door locks was exclusively loss prevention and security. Today, mobile access expands the door lock role to include 'enhancing the guest experience,' hotel marketing, and loyalty program participation. Prior to mobile access, lock companies had relationships with hotel engineers, property management system (PMS) providers, hotel security departments, and construction teams. Now, with hospitality mobile access technology a reality, door lock companies have expanded their relationships to include brand marketing and innovation executives, IT managers, and app development companies. This paper describes how mobile access has changed nearly every aspect of what used to be a simple process of providing a secure guest room door lock.

Mobile access represents the biggest change in hotel technology today. Why? Because it transforms a basic property item, a guest door lock, into a complex multi-discipline technology integration process that combines property and chain technical expertise with a high degree of 3rd-party vendor cooperation. The transition affects nearly all segments of the hospitality industry because every major chain is installing or mandating mobile access systems.

In the past, a hotel room doors simply had to be secure and provide reliable access for guests. Now, mobile access door locks play an important role in chain marketing, loyalty programs, and the overall guest experience. Before a guest is able to open a room with their smartphone, a great deal of work is done behind the scenes to integrate multiple systems and processes.

Door Locks: New Stakeholders. New Vendor Relationships.

For many years door lock companies have been hardware providers. They built, installed and supported mechanical door lock equipment. But today's lock companies are integrated solutions providers. Mobile access has changed the basic reasons for door locks and the role they play in operations and marketing. The changes extend to a larger family of stakeholders required for door lock selection and installation, and the necessity for a completely new set of tech vendor relationships for implementation and support.

Expanded Role for Door Locks

The original reason for improving hotel door locks was loss prevention and guest safety. While mobile access technology strengthens guest security, it also expands the role locks play to include a more personalized 'guest experience.' Moreover, a well-executed mobile strategy simplifies and enhances the guest experience and streamlines hotel operations while driving revenues and adding value to a company's brand.

Mobile access is positioned as an added benefit of the chain or property loyalty app's functionality. These loyalty programs require a guest to download a brand's app to receive program participation benefits that may include:

  • Direct mobile property/chain booking
  • Mobile loyalty point tracking and rewards
  • Remote check-in and check-out
  • A menu of amenities and marketing opportunities that add revenue
  • And, secure mobile room key delivery.

Mobile access solutions give guests the ability to bypass the front desk check-in process and go directly to their room. They can also move freely about the property using their mobile device to access many public areas that require a room key. An overall integrated mobile platform delivers a personalized, interactive guest experience. Mobile access solutions also let hotels issue and manage guest keys on mobile devices for more flexible security and convenience.

The adoption of smartphones is universal. Many travelers today are comfortable using their mobile device for activities such as boarding a plane, making secure financial transactions, reserving rooms and using their credit card to charge a required deposit. This handheld trend is responsible for the cultural expectation that nearly every online activity should be mobile optimized. This extends to a traveler's hotel experience. It is commonplace for guests to book rooms and check-in and check-out on their mobile device. Major brands and independents now believe that providing mobile access to guest rooms is a required part of the 21st century guest experience. Further, brands today are marketing mobile access capability as a way to differentiate themselves and establish their brand as an innovator.

New Participants, New Vendor Relationships

Until recently, very few stakeholders were needed to implement a hotel's door locks. Only property engineers, security staff, the hotel's contractor or designer, and sometimes the PMS provider were required. Now, a secure mobile access solution requires the cooperation of a much larger number of integration professionals and technology providers before a guest can use his or her smartphone to open their hotel door. Here's why.

First, a mobile access delivery system must enable communication to an app on a guests' smartphones almost anywhere on the planet. Next, information from the app must integrate smoothly and instantly with a hotel's PMS as well as the brand's guest history database and loyalty rewards program. Then, the process must create and deliver a secure, encrypted mobile access key credential to the guest's smartphone. When this process is executed perfectly, guest access is convenient and secure and provides a seamless guest experience during check-in/check-out, and throughout the guest's stay.

App Cooperation

The mobile mindset of today's generation requires choice of service. With mobile access solutions, hoteliers can create apps to meet those demands by turning the mobile device into a travel information tool that provides guests with a convenient way to control their travel preferences. From secure room access, to taking advantage of hotel accommodations and services, in-stay features available on mobile devices simplify travel and enhance the guest experience while driving revenue and adding value to the hotel brand.

Mobile guestroom access is attractive to hoteliers because guests use a smartphone app rather than requiring the hotel to provide a key. This lowers the key cost for hoteliers and lets guests use a device they are familiar with. A well-designed app delivers a variety of benefits to hoteliers and guests. One noteworthy advantage for operators is that guests with a chain's app on their smartphone are more likely to book directly through the hotel company and bypass the online travel agency (OTA) reservation process.

The mobile app has emerged as the most effective platform for hoteliers to present their service offering to guests. The technology behind mobile access is continuously evolving. It brings together 3rd party solutions companies and creates cross-vendor relationships that are new in our industry. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the preferred communication technology used to deliver signals from guest mobile devices to a door lock. But the entire mobile access development process begins with the door lock company cooperating with an app developer and a hotel chain's systems and marketing experts. This team must agree on mobile access features, functionality, and delivery options. An effective working relationship must be based on the communication and interaction of data between separate technologies at each step of the development and implementation process.

Guests can obtain a key on their mobile device from anywhere in the world. Their mobile device is now their key permitting them to bypass the front desk and go straight to their room when they arrive at the property. The BLE module housed in hotel lock communicates with the guest's mobile device allowing access to their room. Guests can also go freely about the property using their mobile device to access any public area in the hotel requiring access credentials.

A knowledgeable mobile access provider understands how door locks fit into the property's total technology integration. This understanding enables the vendor to create the sophisticated relationships necessary to deliver a smooth experience for a property and its guests.

Hotel technology and mobile access is continuously evolving. Future guest service innovations are always in development. When operators select vendors that are innovation leaders, they will simultaneously satisfy today's guests and be positioned for future developments. Experienced vendors are designing the next generation of tech solutions that will help operators adapt when mobile access takes the next inevitable leap forward.

Mobile access has transformed the door lock provider's role. In the past, product success meant an attractive design, reliability, solid construction and effective access control based on the property's needs. Today, lock vendors must provide all of this, plus support their hotelier customers in seamlessly integrating the mobile access solution with a much larger third-party technology, marketing, and operational infrastructure. A connected mobile access guest is a loyal guest. More than just securing a hotel room door, mobile access connectivity represents a valuable opportunity for hotels to increase loyalty and enhance their brand value. Personalized and connected mobile access guest experiences enable hotels to offer additional food and beverage and amenity packages, and concierge services that drive incremental revenue. Hotels maximize many marketing benefits when they address its guests' mobile lifestyle. Brands that consistently provide superior experiences by leveraging mobile access connectivity not only remain relevant, they also strengthen brand loyalty.

Alastair Cush is Head of Global Lodging Business Development at dormakaba, a leading provider of high quality access management solutions. dormakaba provides the Saflok and ILCO brand of electronic locking solutions. Mr. Cush graduated with an MBA from HEC Montreal Business School. He has been with the dormakaba group since 2005, holding management positions in Product Management and Marketing for the lodging segment. Mr. Cush nurtured partnerships between dormakaba and major hotel chains while positioning dormakaba as an innovation leader. It is the ambition of Mr. Cush and dormakaba to make access in life smart and secure. Mr. Cush can be contacted at 514-735-5410 x236 or alastair.cush@kaba.com Please visit www.kaba.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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