Hilton to Let You Use Your Smartphone as Your Room Key

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech
Man holding smartphone
Man holding smartphone

Add “hotel keycards” to the list of technologies the smartphone looks poised to kill.

Hilton has announced that by next year, guests will be able to use their smartphones, rather than the traditional plastic cards, as their room keys. The technology, which will work with Android and iOS devices, will be available to customers with Hilton “HHonors” accounts and will eventually let the guest skip the hotel front desk entirely, as check-in, check-out, and the room key process will all move to the phone.

The move calls for Hilton hotels around the world to equip their rooms with the special smartphone key technology. Hilton is keeping mum on how the smartphone-based key services will work, but Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta said the company “is developing proprietary technology that is safe and reliable for our guests to use and cost-effective for our hotels to install.”

Naturally, using your smartphone as your room key raises some security concerns. According to Roel Schouwenberg, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, how safe such a system will be depends largely on how it’s implemented.

“You’ll be effectively storing your room key on a device that’s increasingly under attack,” Schouwenberg said. “Developments like these further increase the value attackers see in going after smartphones. Given the physical security implications, I’d caution against being an early adopter of these types of systems.”

There’s also the practical concern: What if your smartphone dies? 

We’ve reached out to Hilton for comment regarding these issues and are awaiting a response.

In addition to letting customers use their smartphones to unlock their rooms, Hilton is also launching an initiative that will let you not only check in at your hotel from your mobile phone, but choose which room you’d like to stay in as well. The concept is fairly similar to how airlines allow you to check in for your flight from your smartphone, so it’s not exactly an untested idea. 

According to Hilton, Hilton HHonors members will be able to check in at 6 a.m. the day before their stay from their smartphone. They can then choose which room they’d like to stay in based on a list of available rooms, complete with photos — perfect for making sure your room with a view isn’t just a view of a brick wall.

Once the hotel chain rolls out both mobile check-ins and the smartphone key technology, guests will be able to simply walk into their hotel and up to their rooms without having to stop at the front desk. Now if only there was a smartphone app that could help us steal those mini-shampoos.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+ here