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  • Writer's pictureViktor Michel-Häggström

The Battle: Hotel Mobile Key versus Kiosk Hotel Check In

If you’ve been keeping an eye on hotel technology trends. Chances are you’ve noticed there is an ongoing (unofficial) battle between two types of self check-in systems. Namely, mobile key and kiosk hotel check-in systems.

Many see the keyless entry systems as an “upgraded/modernized” option to the traditional hotel kiosks. But the fact is, they are not as easy as it seems to employ in a hotel. Especially if you have your hotel door lock systems that are older.

In this article, we'll take a deep dive into both of these technologies and explore their pros - and cons to help you find the best solution for your hotel property.


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What Is a Hotel Mobile Key?

Mobile keys have many names. It can be referred to as hotel keyless entry systems, digital hotel keys, and digital keys. But no matter what name they go by, they all refer to the same thing.

Hotel mobile keys are a solution integrated into your hotel door lock systems. The solution allows your guests to generate and store digital keys on their mobile devices. In turn, they can use the digital room key to activate the lift, hotel facilities - and open the door in their hotel room.

How Do Hotel Mobile Keys Work?

The hospitality industry has two types of hotel keyless entry systems. A hotel mobile-based app system and a digital key wallet.

  • Hotel Mobile App - The digital key is generated/stored in a hotel-branded mobile application.

  • Digital Key in a Wallet - The hotel key is stored in your mobile phone's wallet. For example, in Apple Wallet or Google Pay.

But no matter the solution, they use the same type of technology - encrypted keys and Bluetooth technology. The whole process can be broken down into 5 steps:

  1. Your guests check-in using their mobile telephone.

  2. A hotel server initializes the check in, and your property management system (PMS) allocates a room to the guest.

  3. Your hotel key card system receives a request to issue a digital key to your guest.

  4. Your guest will receive an encrypted and secure mobile key on their mobile device. The key is stored in a secure key vault, either within the hotel application or in the mobile wallet in their phone.

  5. The key transmits the encrypted key to the lock through a secure communication channel, by tapping on their screen using Bluetooth- technology. Or by holding their mobile device close to the hotel door using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Ultimately, unlocking the hotel door.

Mobile Access and Hotel Door Lock Systems: Requirements

The mobile keyless entry system does not work with every key card or door locking system. You will need an electronic door locking system or RFID (radio frequency identification) door locks.

Hence, you may need to upgrade your door locking system if it is an older type.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the preferred communication technology for mobile-ready RFID door locks. If your RFID locks have Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, investigate if your access control vendor has a defined upgrade strategy to deliver Bluetooth Low Energy. - Dormakaba

What Is a Hotel Kiosk?

A hotel self check in kiosk is an electronic device with a touchscreen that allows your guests to complete certain actions independently.

They are similar to kiosks you use in airports to traditionally print out your boarding pass and baggage tag. But instead, your guests can check in and check out using the machine. These kiosks are typically located in the lobby or near the front desk

How Do Hotel Self Check In Kiosk Work?

The process is similar to the kiosks you would find in an airport. Generally speaking, it goes like this:

  1. Your guest will click on "check-in" on the monitor screen and enter their hotel confirmation details.

  2. They verify their room details.

  3. Scan their passport, or eligible ID- documents.

  4. Pre-authorize their credit card.

  5. Code their room key card.

But the process can vary depending on which vendor you use and what mandatory stages are required in your specific location.

You can check out our previous blog post about the differences of contactless check in kiosk and traditional check in, if you want to learn more.

Hotel Self Check In Systems: Requirements

The kiosk devices are often directly connected to your existing infrastructure. Such as your hotel’s Property Management System (PMS), door locking, and payment terminal systems.

  • Hotel PMS - The kiosk uses API calls to your hotel’s PMS to retrieve your guest’s booking, trigger check-in, and check-out.

  • Hotel Door Locking System - Create room keys, or key cards using a key card coder.

  • Payment Gateway System - Connected to your payment system to process payments and transactions.

Hotel Self Check In System by Metasphere

What Is the Difference Between Hotel Mobile Key and Kiosk Hotel Check In?

Even these two methods have the same outcome - to self check-in and check-out your guests. They do it in different ways.

The hotel mobile key system will allow your guest to complete the check-in/check-out using their device and unlock their hotel door through an encrypted mobile key.

Whereas a hotel kiosk will require your guests to use the machine on your property to check-in/check-out by themselves and receive a physical room key card.

But let's have a look at each of these solutions' points of differentiation and compare them.

Hotel Kiosk versus Mobile Key Access - Advantages and Disadvantages

Let's have a closer look at some of the key comparison points hoteliers typically consider when purchasing hotel technology.

Namely, their functionalities, installment process, deployment costs, labor involvement, and return on investment.

  • Functionalities

Generally speaking, a hotel mobile key system comes with more functionalities than the traditional check-in/check-out processes. Especially if it comes in the shape of your own hotel-branded application.

In these situations, the hotel keyless entry system may include value-adding functionalities such as access to FAQs, facility information, and the ability to chat with employees.

Whereas, kiosks - on the other hand - will often be restricted to check-in, check-out processes, and walk-in reservations.

Hotel Self Check In Interface in Metasphere

  • Installment Process

Both of these systems need to be connected to your hotel infrastructure. Typically, this would include an interface to your hotel’s PMS, payment gateway, and door locking systems.

But it is important to highlight that the hotel keyless entry system will only work with your locks system if it is an electronic door locking system or RFID door locks. On the contrary, hotel kiosks typically only work with Magstripe or RFID key cards.

  • Deployment Costs

Unless you're opting for a tailor-made hotel application or a designed hotel kiosk, you can expect the same deployment costs. Generally, these costs consist of the integration, monthly subscription, and maintenance fees.

But keep in mind you may need to replace or upgrade your existing door locking systems if you want to deploy a keycard less entry system.

  • Labor Involvement

Both of these are viable solutions to reduce your work burden. They’re designed to be user-friendly and allow your guests to complete the check-in/check-out processes without nearly no human intervention.

  • Return on Investment (ROI)

Given their similarities in cost and the same core functionality, these two solutions are able to generate a good return on investment. For instance, we estimate our clients can reduce 1 full-time employee per 2 kiosks using our self check-in hub system. But the true extent of its ROI really depends on your hotel.

Aside from that, based on research mobile keys can save hotels up to $1,000 per month.

But let’s face it. One big challenge single-property or multi-hotel groups face when using a mobile keyless entry system face is to encourage their guests to download their own hotel application.

On the contrary, it may be tricky to instruct guests to use the kiosk when they arrive on property, as they may be more inclined to go directly to the reception.

In the end, it depends on how embedded the solution is in your operations and how you advertise it to your hotel guests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let's have a look at some frequently asked questions about mobile key cards and hotel kiosks.

What Are Digital Hotel Keys?

Digital hotel keys are encrypted and secure mobile keys. They are stored in a secure key vault either within the hotel application or in the guest’s mobile wallet. Your guests can use it to open hotel doors, activate lifts, and unlock doors to hotel facilities.

Why Mobile Key Is Taking Over in Hotels?

Mobile keys are gaining traction in hotels because it merges security, convenience and reduces labor costs. It allows your hotel guests to complete the check-in independently and skip queues at the front desk. These solutions are particularly popular to digital-native generations such as Millennials and Generation Z.

How Is a Kiosk or Tablet Synchronized With Your Hotel Software and Door Locks?

Most hotel kiosks are integrated into your door locking system and existing hotel PMS. There are vendors, like us at Metasphere, who can deploy our solution to hotels without a PMS interface. Click here to schedule a demo for more information about this option.

Can You Use Hotel Kiosk or Mobile Keyless Entry System as a Night Reception?

Yes, typically your guests can complete the check-in/check-out processes independently, without any human intervention. But it's important to note the extent to which you can alleviate these tasks depends on applicable governmental restrictions in your area.

We at Metasphere can use biometric facial recognition to authenticate the guests’ identities to Immigrations or Checkpoints Authorities. Currently, we can offer an interface to DTCM in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore EVA System (Visitor Authentication System).

Is Mobile Key Safe?

Yes, the guest’s details are retrieved and verified using an interface to your hotel software. The mobile keys are encrypted, secure, and stored in a secure key vault. It will only unlock the designed locks using a secure communication channel (Bluetooth- or NFC technology) and your hotel can deactivate the key from your back-end system.

Conclusion: Hotel Kiosk Versus Keyless Entry - Which Method Is Best?

In this article, we took a deep dive into two self-service technologies gaining traction - kiosk hotel check in systems and hotel mobile key.

  • Mobile Keys - Digital encrypted hotel keys use to open the hotel doors through a mobile device.

  • Hotel Kiosks - Electronic devices with a touchscreen that can check-in/check-out guests and generate physical keycards.

Keyless entry systems are great from a guest standpoint. They provide your guests with a seamless guest experience. All check-in steps are completed - before arriving at the property - and your guests will completely skip any lines.

The downside is the deployment costs if you need to upgrade your outdated door locking system to deploy this solution. On top of that, it’s hard to incite guests to download a hotel application to use the keyless system (Let’s face it… how many applications don’t we all have already?)

Hotel kiosks are easier to deploy to your existing hotel infrastructure and can alleviate the pain for guests to queue at the desk. But it creates a less seamless experience. As your guests often have to be physically present at your property to use it.

So which self check in method is best for hotels?

Well, it depends on your situation. If you have an electronic door locking system, it would be a natural way to go for a keyless key card system. But if you are in the same situation as many other hotels, you probably have an older door locking system.

In those cases, a hotel kiosk may be a more feasible solution.

We at Metasphere have developed a solution that allows you to deploy the kiosk - without any interface. Aside from it, we've incorporated a hybrid/omni-channel approach to our kiosk. Wherein your guest can start their check-in journey at home using their own mobile device, and complete it in the kiosk on property.

Do you want to learn more about how our advanced kiosk technology works and how it will benefit your hotel? Book a free demo with us today.


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