iPhone, Android devices are your room key in new Starwood hotels

By David Flynn, January 28 2014
iPhone, Android devices are your room key in new Starwood hotels

Your iPhone or Android smartphone will soon double as your room key at selected Starwood hotels in Silicon Valley and New York.

The trial, which uses Starwood's smartphone app and the low-power Bluetooth 4 wireless standard, will begin at Starwood's chic urban Aloft hotels in Cupertino and Harlem by March.

If the pilot program is successful Starwood plans to roll out the technology to all of its Aloft and luxury W Hotel properties by the end of next year.

Guests will be able to skip the check-in queue at the front desk by checking in on the smartphone app before they reach the hotel.

The app receives a digital token which acts as a 'virtual key' to the room. On arrival at the hotel you head straight for your room and tap your smartphone to the lock (you can also use an 'unlock' gesture which mimics twisting a key).

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

Starwood reckons it's covered for any low-tech wrinkles which may cruel the advanced system. Guests can get a regular key if their smartphone is lost or its battery runs out.

Likewise, the battery-powered Bluetooth locks run independent of the hotel's IT system so they won't be affected in the event of a computer crash, and hotel staff receive an automatic alert whenever the battery in any lock needs replacing.

Also read: Apple wants to revolutionise travel with its secret iTravel app

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2014

Total posts 122

With my iphone battery  barely lasting a day of usage. The last thing i want to have to do is return from a day in the office to line up to chat to the front desk staff for a charger or a key.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

I agree, I don't like this much, I spend too much time with a dead phone.

I also don't much like automated checkin procedures for hotels. I checked in via key-dispensing machine at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans and... while I'm not really a touchy-feely sort of person the whole experience of staying in a hotel without ever talking to a staff member feels weird and cold.

It's so easy to carry around a hotel key card! Using some app on my phone instead doesn't make my life easier, it makes it harder. 

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

Hey, you guys should probably invest in those portable battery chargers, regardless of whether your phone is used as a key or not, don't know how you'd survive without your phone. 

This sounds great to me, I don't let my iPhone run out of battery, and it'd save heaps of time. If it was out of battery for some reason you can always do it the old fashioned way, they explicitly say they're not getting rid of key cards.

I'm pretty skeptical of the security aspect of this though...won't this make it easier for hackers to break in? Bluetooth is pretty insecure.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Aloft Bangkok has had this since opening:


Although if you want it the room costs more, and there is an extra deposit.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2012

Total posts 149

I like the idea, however agree my iphone battery doesn't last and i regularly am going back to my room to charge my phone. Perhaps an idea would be to place a room card (like currently given) inside the room so it is there on checkin. I think the best feature of this is that you don't have to line up to checkin. 

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

Very cool.

I travel for leisure and don't like this idea at all.  My phone is rarely turned on when I'm out of Australia (if I need to make a phone call, I use Skype).  If I turn it on ( to use the calculator or alarm) will I be charged global roaming fees?  I have a long life prepaid plan, $30 lasts me 6 months.

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