Your smartphone could replace hotel keys

This Aloft in Cupertino, California, will be one of two hotels getting smartphone room keys in the next three months.

Story highlights

  • A hotel chain is testing an app that sends virtual room keys to your phone
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts has more than 1,150 hotels
  • Two hotels will get the technology in the next three months
  • System would allow guests to bypass front desk and go straight to their rooms

Got a smartphone? Never lose your hotel key, or even have to stop at the registration desk, again.

That's the vision of a hotel chain that plans to send digital keys to guests' phones via an app instead of making them check in and get the traditional (and famously lose-able) plastic swipe cards. Arriving guests could bypass the front desk and go straight to their rooms.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns more than 1,150 hotels in nearly 100 countries, plans to debut the system in the next three months at two of its Aloft hotels -- in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and Cupertino, California.

Cupertino is likely no accident -- being, of course, the home of Apple's headquarters.

If all goes well, the company says it could have the feature in all of its hotels by next year.

A spokeswoman said the app will initially be compatible with recent iPhone models (4S and newer) and newer Android phones. The app will use Bluetooth technology to unlock the room with a tap.

"We believe this will become the new standard for how people will want to enter a hotel," Frits van Paasschen, Starwood's CEO, told The Wall Street Journal. "It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel."

Starwood, a chain that's heavy on boutique hotels, has a history of tech innovation and employs its own digital team.

Just last year, the company launched a plan to develop solar power at its hotels, offered discounts during a "Cyber Monday" sale and premiered an iPad-specific mobile app. Starwood also announced Instagram integration on its websites, which lets visitors see images that guests have posted.

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