In the not so distant past, hotels used typical pin tumbler-based locks and keys. As time passed and hotels evolved, new methods of maintaining guest safety and privacy have emerged.

The most notable change occurred when hotels made the transition from using traditional keys to keycards. Keycards use various types of methods to unlock doors; unique hole patterns, bar codes, magnetic strips, and even RFID signals.

Guest safety and privacy improved right along with the evolution of in-room access methods, however each version of the keycard had (and has) its Achilles heel when it comes to security – even if the single biggest flaw is always being placed into a jacket with the room number written on it, just waiting to be left on a lobby table.

Here at OpenKey, we help the hotel industry make the evolutionary jump from using keycards to going completely keyless.

Hoteliers are realizing that keyless entry is not just the fastest and easiest way to give guests access to their room – it’s also the most secure and efficient way as well.

To help shed light on the subject, we thought it would be a good idea to dive a little deeper into how  OpenKey’s keyless entry platform works, and what makes it the universal standard for mobile key in hotels around the world.

The OpenKey APP

Most BLE guestroom locks in hotels today use an encrypted token that must be housed in a native app for keyless access.  OpenKey has created the most popular keyless entry app in use for both iOS and Android to make mobile key easy and free for hotel guests to use.  Guests simply download the OpenKey app to their smartphone and register one time with their name and mobile number. The HOST system will send the guest a verification number to sync with their reservation and provide a mobile key to their room.  The OpenKey app also features hotel amenities, dining and entertainment options for guest information.


The OpenKey Universal BLE Upgrade Module

OpenKey has also developed a universal BLE module capable of adding mobile key capability to any guestroom lock regardless of plastic keycard functionality.  This module takes only minutes to install and retains the plastic keycard capability of the lock, effectively allowing hotels with magstripe locks that cannot be upgraded by the manufacturer to add keyless entry for their guests.

The OpenKey SDK

Hotels also have the option of integrating the OpenKey Universal Abstraction Layer SDK into their own app to provide mobile key functionality.  In this case, the hotel’s app would deliver the mobile key user experience while the SDK provides the backend security and universal connectivity.

Digital Key Management

At the heart of the OpenKey platform is the HOST front desk system used to provision, issue, revoke and change settings on mobile keys.  HOST can be used as a stand-alone system for issuing mobile keys or it can be integrated with the hotel PMS platform. Hotels have complete control over guest mobile key access to common (ie, fitness room, pool) or restricted areas (ie, VIP Club room, meeting rooms) through the PMS or HOST platform. This provides the opportunity to create a truly personalized and secure guest access solution.


Secure Mobile Key Generation

Mobile key security is a product of both the lock company and mobile key provider.  Most hotel locks require an encrypted token for smartphone access. This token is contained on the smartphone device within an app and provided to the lock for validation when the user presses the mobile key function for room entry.

Every digital key generated is unique, and completely non-reusable. The mobile key expires at the end of the guest stay and is no longer on the smartphone.  In other words, a brand new digital key is generated for every customer for every stay.

Skipping the Front Desk

The OpenKey platform provides hoteliers with several options to make guest check-in fast, seamless and simple – while eliminating the need to stand in the front desk queue.  One option involves sending guests a web check-in form up to 24 hours in advance of their stay to confirm room and payment details and inform them about using keyless entry. This email will contain a link for the guest to download either the OpenKey app or hotel’s branded app prior to arrival.  Guests are able to request check-in remotely and the hotel is able to send them a digital room key before they arrive, allowing them to proceed straight to their room.

Hotels can also choose to have mobile keys issued from a kiosk in the lobby. This provides a mid-range solution between remote check-in and the front desk experience.  Kiosks are able to capture a credit card swipe or insert as well as help keep guests out of the front desk line while still issuing a digital key.

Bluetooth Room Access

Keyless entry uses the Bluetooth function on a smartphone, so guests need to have their Bluetooth capability turned on for it to work.  Some guestroom locks will ‘wake up’ when the smartphone is touched to the lock. Some locks are always ‘awake’ and searching for a Bluetooth signal to pair with.  In either case, the Bluetooth signal communicates an encrypted token from the smartphone to the room lock for validation and access.

Hotel Guest Checkout

The OpenKey app allows guests to request check-out from within the app, saving them time standing in that front desk line again.  The app notifies the front desk that the guest has left the room and deactivates the mobile key. Guests are always able to check-out in the normal fashion in which case the mobile key will expire when the front desk agent checks the guest out in the PMS.  If the guest simply leaves the hotel without checking out at the front desk or within the app, the digital key will expire on the day and time set within the HOST platform.


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