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RFID and NFC Technology Magic: Hotel Keys Vanish Into Thin Air

ASSA_ABLO_RFID_NFC_mobile_keyOver the past few years, express checkout at major hotels has become an industry standard and a convenient option for business travelers short on time. With the help of NFC devices, you will soon be able to bypass the check-in process as well. And those plastic key cards that seem to de-activate when they come in close proximity to your cell phone? You won’t need those either. In fact, NFC technology, building upon RFID platforms, is allowing for the dematerialization of keys. The physical key is reduced to data, wirelessly transferred from an NFC-enabled mobile device to an NFC terminal.

The use of this technology isn’t completely new. For instance, Google has positioned itself at the leading edge of mobile payment technology with Google Wallet, a mobile payment app for Android phones that stores banking information and allows the phone to be used in lieu of a credit card.

In this vein, companies like NXP Semiconductors N.V., OpenWays Technology, and ASSA ABLOY Group are capitalizing on RFID and NFC technology to create mobile access systems: door locks that read your smart phone for key credentials. When your NFC-enabled phone comes within a defined proximity to the door lock, access is granted. Right now, hotel room locking systems seem to be getting the biggest push.

OpenWays Technology recently partnered with NXP Semiconductors to create Mobile Key DUAL©. OpenWays initiated the partnership with NXP because of their NFC and mobile security expertise. NXP is the number one supplier to the global Identification market, and co-invented NFC with Sony.

Last June, ASSA ABLOY partnered with Nordic Choice Hotels for the world’s first mobile key pilot project (pictured above). Using NFC–enabled phones, about thirty hotel loyalty guests checked into the Clarion Hotel Stockholm via a mobile key application. Guests then received a mobile key and were free to bypass the front desk and proceed straight to their rooms, entering using their mobile phones.

Nordic Choice Hotels saw that mobile keys are the future of hospitality; they also learned a few lessons over the course of the pilot. A major issue was that the mobile key technology needed to be available on any cell phone, through any carrier. Even though more NFC-enabled phones are emerging on the market, there are still many companies, Apple for instance, who have not embedded their phones with NFC chips. Eventually, Nordic Choice decided to deploy OpenWays’ Mobile Key DUAL © with pure NFC, which is compatible with all cell phones and is mobile carrier independent.

VingCard Elsafe, a part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, has leveraged RFID and NFC technology in a similar way. They partnered with BMW Group, a manufacturer of premium automobiles, to turn another type of mobile device, a car key, into a hotel key. According to VingCard Elsafe, this will change the way last-minute hotel rooms are booked. From the BMW advanced navigation system, drivers can search for and book nearby hotel rooms. Guests can then bypass hotel check-in and access their room with their BMW key, which is equipped with NFC technology.

Further applications of RFID and NFC technology in the mobile access world include residential implementation. In the future, you may not even have a keychain, nor would you need to hide a key under the doormat. If you need to give someone access to your residence or business, a digital key can be sent via your mobile phone.

Technology that once seemed futuristic has arrived. Thanks to RFID and NFC technology, expect to see big changes in the way you pay for products and services, access hotel rooms, and maybe even unlock your own door.


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