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Starwood Turns Smartphones Into Door Keys

Ten hotels in the Aloft, Element, and W chains are about to make stopping at the front desk optional.

Starwood Turns Smartphones Into Door Keys
[Photo: Flickr user Jonathan Haeber]

Remember when checking in for an airplane flight always involved actually checking in with a real human person at the airport? Thanks to technology, those days are long over. But checking in at a hotel still requires a visit to the front desk–which, especially at the end of a long day of travel, is not much fun.

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Starting on Wednesday, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting one of 10 hotels in Starwood’s Aloft, Element, and W chains, you’ll be able to breeze through the lobby, head for your room, and use an iPhone or Android phone to unlock the door. You’ll do the job with Starwood’s mobile app, and it will require a one-time registration. After that, the app will use push notifications to alert you of reservations which are eligible for keyless access, and to let you know your room number.


Hardware-wise, all this requires hotel doors with new Bluetooth-enabled locks which can establish a wireless connection with your phone. That’s why it’s debuting in only 10 hotels. Starwood, which has 1,200 properties in its portfolio, says that 150 Aloft, Element, and W locations will be ready for keyless entry by early next year; it isn’t yet saying anything about its other brands, such as Sheraton, Westin, and St. Regis.

The hotels which will be offering the option this week are located everywhere from Beijing to Qatar to Harlem to West Hollywood. I recently got a demo at the one nearest me: the Aloft Cupertino, which is not only in Apple’s Silicon Valley hometown but practically on its campus, and popular with tech-savvy travelers. (The same hotel also has two robotic butlers.)

Seeing keyless entry for myself left me looking forward to the day when every big hotel chain retrofits all its major properties for the technology, which I assume will come sooner or later. And maybe even using a phone to unlock your hotel room will eventually feel a tad old-fashioned: Starwood also says that it will have an Apple Watch app next year which will permit you to gain access to your room with a wave of your wrist.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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