Hilton is rolling out its digital key technology in the UK.
The technology is embedded in its Hilton Honors app and will allow members of Hilton’s loyalty programme – Hilton Honors – to unlock their rooms (and any other relevant areas such as the fitness centre) using their mobile phones.
The announcement follows on from previous enhancements to the app. See previous story
The technology is activated the day before arrival, and means that Hilton Honors members who book directly with Hilton can select their desired room on their smartphone using digital check-in. They will then be asked if they’d like the option of a digital key during their stay.
On the day of arrival (once the room is ready), they will receive a notification via the app.
In the US, where the technology is already being used, the “token” is then activated as they pass through the hotel lobby and past the front desk, allowing the digital key to be enabled before they head to their room.
Geraldine Calpin, Chief Marketing Officer, Hilton explained that while the intention was for this “Straight-to-Room” technology to work in the UK, “At the moment the guest registration process requires us to see the passport of non-UK guests, but we are going to build the technology into the app this year so that all Hilton Honors members with the app can completely by-pass the check-in desk.”
When the guest approaches their hotel room, they can simply press the virtual “unlock” button on the app to unlock the door.
The app allows the member to opt in or out of the digital key to their mobile phone, and in the event your phone is running out of charge you can also opt in during your stay and have both a key and the mobile phone check-in.
Calpin said that the dedicated line at check-in for Hilton Honors members would be retained, since this was not only for check-in but also for augmented services for members “because we want to reward their loyalty”.
The roll out of rooms is continuing with ten hotels completed (1,700 worldwide) and a 100 UK hotels to completed by the end of 2017, with all 140 UK properties by mid-2018.
The investment involves retrofitting the beacon technology to hotel doors. The technology also has the ability to turn on the lights and air conditioning when you are in the room (rather than, for instance, placing your key card in a slot by the door) and also unlocking the door when you are inside to allow access for room service, allowing you to continue working.
Other additions to the mobile app include a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose combinations of points and money to book a stay and the existing offer of free standard wifi.
Hilton says that the technology still works for Hilton Honors members who book through a travel management company and whose room reservation has come through a GDS system.
Calpin said that the phone (and the app) is not used to track guests around the hotel, but was only used to activate the key and then use the key when you approach your hotel room. The technology does not rely on being on the hotel’s wifi to operate when walking around the hotel but does require some data for its initial activation.
Lastly Calpin said that she was confident that the new system was secure. In the event a phone is stolen or lost, the app would only work for unlocking a room if the app was unlocked – either by finger identification or PIN number, allowing an extra layer of security within the phone, so that even if the phone was unlocked, this further barrier is there.
The phone also allows the room number to be displayed (reminding you of your room number), but this can also be switched off.