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Your smartphone could replace hotel keys

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

Editor's note: Mobile World Congress is the world's largest mobile phone trade show looking at the current state of mobile and where it might go next. Watch CNN International's coverage live from Barcelona on 24 February to 28 February.

(CNN) -- 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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