Interview on Electronic Door Locks with Daryl Brett
Hi, it's Brendon, the technology concierge and today I'm joined by Daryl Brett. How are you Daryl? I'm good. Thank you very much for having me back. It's great Daryl, and I spoke about Minibars a couple of weeks ago. It was a great session, so if you haven't watched it, I’d encourage you to do that (Link in the description) I learned a lot including what the difference between a fridge and a mini bar is? So, all these years, I’ve been completely uneducated and now I know. When we were
talking off camera just after that the whole area of mobile key came up, and BLE, and NFC, and where we currently stand and I said to Daryl it would be great if we could do another session. So, here we are today. So, Daryl, probably a good starting point maybe if you could give us a little bit of History on, you know, Electronic Door. Not a problem at all, again not wanting to go too far back into the history and where they all started and which hotel etc. but the principles of how do you get through a door? Now, you've got to start off really with a key that's where this whole story started. Now, how does a key work? So, a key is a certain shape and in the door is a receiving shape, so the male and the female parts. So, you get given a key that matches your
door, you turn it, you open the handle, you go in, alright. So, literally the key is just a carrier of information, a carrier that's unique to that door. Yep, okay. So, effectively when you move over to the world of hotel locks and where we went from metal keys to cards bits of plastic the principle remains the same. You get given something of reception that matches
your specific door. Okay. So, it has data now there's a lot of history about what data is on the card and I remember many years ago, 20 years ago, when we were selling MaxTribe card technology, there was this huge concern that when you had handed over your MaxTribe card, it had your name, your credit card, your birth date, your… you know, everything about your personal history on there, but the fact of the matter is, it had very very small packet of data. Now, what information went on to that card? Well, the card needs to know which building it's in, so the Ritz Carlton, for example, it needs to know which room it's allowed into, so bedroom 101 of the Ritz-Carlton and it needs to know the date and the time of when it's allowed to work, so 10 o'clock on Friday when you check in, and four o'clock on Sunday when you check out, so effectively that's the key. So, where it is, who it is, and the date, and the time, now the lock itself is a battery operated lock. It doesn't communicate to anything else, so it has to be programmed for effectively the other half of that communication, so the lock knows that it's in the Ritz Carlton, it knows it's room 101, and it has a true date and time. So, it's got a clock in it just like in your watch,
or your phone, or anything like that. So, you get given your card, you present it to the door, and like a metal key, the data is just checked, so is this the right hotel? Is it the right room? Is it within 10 o'clock Friday, and 4 o'clock Sunday? Yes, I'll let the guests in, or, no, I won't let them in, and that's it. It is as simple as that, now there are other bits and pieces, you know, whether it's a guest card, or a staff card, or whether the deadbolt's been thrown but that's all not really as important as those critical bits of information. So, everybody use MaxTribe, MaxTribe carried this bit of information, got you into your room, everyone was happy. The problem with MaxTribe Technology as with all technology as it becomes older it starts showing its weaknesses.
So, MaxTribe Technology, it used to be that if you held your magnetic card next to your phone which has a magnet in it, it would demagnetize the card. So, there you are standing at the door sliding your card in and out and nothing happens. Around 2002, there's a technology brought out called RFID. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification device. So, it's another carrier for that bit of information, so the same information, the lock, where it is, who it is, the date, and the time. Now, just gets put onto an RFID card rather than put onto a MaxTribe card. So, from MaxTribe Technology in 2002 they moved over to RFID technology. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is much more secure, it's less
able to be corrupted, so you don't have the card being wiped but the core information remains the same in the building you’re in, the room you're allowed into, and the dates, and the time. Now, technology moved on everybody's happy locks upgraded they had to change their readers but the core functionality remains the same. RFID in 2012 had another small evolution and that was something called NFC( Near Field Communication), so effectively it's the same technology but is a little bit more secure, there's a lot less energy to it and means that the communication carrier needs to be closer to the device, so an RFID card can work up to a meter away; whereas, the NFC card or carrier only works up to about 10 centimeters away. So, being a lower range read, it means the batteries in the lock haven't got to reads work so hard to effectively get slightly bit of battery life, so this is really where in 2012 when iPhone, I think, was iPhone 5 came out about, then everyone said great iPhone, uses their app wallet that's NFC built into the actual device itself.
We all move over to that technology, problem was at that point in time that Apple decided that they didn't want to open up the NFC functionality on their phones, Android did but of course 50% of the global market suddenly couldn't use that technology in their locks, so the lock remained at RFID which is pretty much where we are today. The hotel industry, however, still wanted to a guest to use their own device they wanted to move away from having to issue a card. The only other real solution available was Bluetooth. Bluetooth Low Energy specifically, so again the same information where you are, the date, the time, the room number, but it's just a different carrier. Again, we're now in the world of Bluetooth Low Energy. Bluetooth Low Energy is transmitted by the phone but it needs a supporting app to actually operate and this is where the industry has, sort of, should I say, stopped its evolution.
Yeah, so, RFID tried and tested works brilliantly want to start using a mobile device great we'll use NFC but Apple put paid to that other alternative is then really problem is with BLE because I now need to develop an app to put onto the device to be able to carry this information all the hotel chains suddenly had to invest in software or software developers to build the app, stop me if I'm going too far ahead I'm just trying to, sort of, build this road map of where we are today and how we can now get back to it. This is good, this is good. So, this is almost where we are now, really, as you said, I think, it was 2012 or 2014 that Marriott was the first group that pretty much came out with an app that would support what we call “mobile key” which is allowing your guests to use a Bluetooth Low Energy to open their door. Correct! So, you've got the Marriott Bonvoy App, they developed it so that they could try and catch a guest. It wasn't so much for the Bluetooth element, it was more the fact that they could then capture a guest and rather than a guest going through an OTA(Online Travel Agency), to book a reservation if you're doing it through their own proprietary act, they can actually manage that guest, say, and they can manage the guest information, and they can get repeat business and rewards and everything else, and as an add-on to that to encourage guests to use it, you've suddenly got this new technology to get into the room ID, the Bluetooth. So, as a bonus of being a part of the loyalty program… Correct! Correct! Now, this same information still applies to get the property name, the date and time, and everything else. It is just the carrier so Marriott went ahead and they developed
the Bonvoy App. They had enough financial clout to be able to develop an app, that's unique to them, so, they can capture this information and allow the guests to use their mobile device. Unfortunately, not every hotel chain or hotel operator has deep enough pockets to do this, so they then became a range of third-party app developers that an hotelier could effectively pay on a monthly basis or a weekly basis or an annual basis to build this app for them. This really is then got to the stage where the hotel said, well, why am I doing this? You know, why am I developing and paying for an app to allow a guest to use their phone to open the door? when I can still give them a bit of plastic that does exactly the same job, and so really Bluetooth has been around it has been talked about by a lot of the locking vendors to try and encourage an upgrade because unfortunately Bluetooth is different to RFID. So,
if you've got an RFID trip or an RFID lock, you need to add in a Bluetooth antenna, so you suddenly have an additional expenditure to make your locks work Bluetooth, so it's pretty much where we are at the moment. Some big chains do, some small chains thinking about it, a lot of the independent operators are going, it's just I can't see the business model to actually do this. Yep, and I think we've talked about it before, Daryl, one of the reasons I suppose to actually do it would be to eliminate that plastic key. From this inability point of view, you know, to be more environmentally friendly and I think they'll certainly, in Europe, they're a bit ahead of us when it comes to, you know, sustainability, but I think, we'll see it here as well. I think there's a lot of hoteliers’ stroke operators that want to come across as environmentally friendly, so, yes! We'll go away from using a plastic card and you can use your mobile phone, but in real terms they're actually doing it for the cost saving of the plastic. Now, you buy a plastic card and just an arbitrary figure, it's a dollar, you can get a lot cheaper than that, let's just go for a dollar, now your average night, say, is what two nights or three nights… well, let's make Math’s easy and says one night stay, okay! So, that's 365 bits of plastic that you have to issue, you probably receive 50 of those back. The other 50% go in the bin or they go in the briefcase, you take them home with you or
they just don't get recovered. So, all of a sudden every room is costing you what do we say 365 divided by two let's call it 180, so 180 dollars per room per year. Yep, that adds up. Now, even if like that's worst case scenario you're saying 50% to that, you know, is realistic. So, let's bring that down to what we are saying eighty dollars per room that's a hell of a lot of money that a property has to spend just to keep the bits of plastic flowing out the reception. Now, Bluetooth what other locking vendors do is, you actually buy the Bluetooth token, yeah, so that's the token that gets issued to the phone and they charge you an annual fee for that token, but you can use that token as often as you like, and this seems to be the average of around $25 a year per room for the token so all of a sudden you're at $60 worth of plastic now you're at $25 worth of token you're saving money and you then multiply that to 100 beds or 300 bed hotel you are saving a lot of money. So, yes there is this, oh! Let's be environmentally friendly let's get rid of plastic but there is also quite a big operational cost that isn't really understood or talked about. I'll probably get shot by my peers in the industry
for putting it out there, so look the Bluetooth there is a couple of pushes for it. (1) As I say is the operational cost (2) is the environmental friendly element, and (3) is the wow factor. So, the problem is the app development and that's the big cost and that's when nobody really wants to send the money, so where is the future going from here I suppose is really where our conversation had we had after the last meeting, it's back to NFC, believe it or not.
So, what's happened is Apple have now released the NFC functionality in their phone, all right, so all of a sudden you now don't need to develop an app, you don't need to host an app, you don't need to do anything because the phone already has that inherent capability. Now, the downside to the industry is that if you went for an RFID lock it didn't necessarily mean it was NFC enabled, so all of these hoteliers that have gone for RFID have upgraded to BLE will now have to spend a little bit more money again on their lock to upgrade the RFID to NFC. And, are we at a point yet where we know that, you know, NFC will be the winning technology always, you know, jury's still out as … either working with Apple it is a pilot that's my understanding. Yes. There are obviously, I think, it was Floor Bleeker from the CIO of the course said, “Look it's a great step in the right direction.”, but obviously it only caters to 50%
of our guests, you know, what do we do about Android guests, and the other question was, you know, what will the business model be, you know, what are Apple going to charge a hotel. Yeah! Are they going to, you know, charge per room, per month fee, or is it going to be a per entry fee which could add up to be quite a substantial cost. Yeah, and this is the way the whole industry goes. It's this incremental charges and yes, so NFC is now available, or it has been available since 2012 to 2014, but it couldn't be adopted and now can be adopted.
You're right, nobody really yet understands from Apple how they're going to make their charges. we understand from, you know, inside the industry that they are doing it on a per transaction basis, so each time a guest presents their phone to the door, Apple are going to get a little, you know, half a cent or however much they get out of it, which then is going to build up very quickly, you know, rather than per each, say, it's per use. So, these are still questions that aren't 100% clear in the industry yet. The good things are with NFC is, obviously, because it's an inherent part of the iPhone, Android as well and because it's very low energy it actually continues to work even when the phone is flat. So, your phone goes flat you've still got three hours of NFC use. Yup, it also means you haven't got to touch the phone, so you can walk up to the door and automatically you can open it when you get close to it, bearing in mind the NFC is very very close.
It's almost touching the door, so it's not as if you're going to open everyone else's door, you have to go up to your own individual reader, be within 10 centimeters of it, and it'll open. You haven't got to get the phone out you haven't got to open an app you haven't got to launch. So, as long as it's in your pocket a little bit like your card literally these days… Yeah, it effectively exactly the same technology it's in your pocket, it goes up to the door, you touch the door, and that's what releases it. Now, there will be
options on that security that it might be like when you're going to pay through Apple wallets where you go up to the reader and you have to present your thumb to it or you have to face id it, it may be the same. So, you may still need the operator who may still want you to get your phone out to use it but it won't be in the same way as you have currently with Bluetooth, where you have to get the phone out, unlock it, swipe through to the relevant app, open the app, choose the room, click on open, then present your phone. So, it's nice to have but again is the guests going to be comfortable doing that each time they want to go to the room, and these are the drawbacks with BLE, it was being sold as a great thing and you know, it is great and as much as you can open the door without having a bit of plastic, but operationally is it actually the best for the hotel industry and that comes back to what we're talking about earlier on a separate discussion over Kiosks(displays info), it really does depend on your guest profile, are you a business traveler? Are you a holiday traveler? Are you a family? Are you staying at a resort? And, every single property will need a different solution to what is the best way of opening the door. Yeah, I think I always say Daryl,
you know, you've got to offer guest choice it's not a one-size-fits-all approach there will still be guests for some time, that are not that tech savvy and won't be using Apple wallet, they won't be using Google pay, or whatever it is. There will always be a percentage of guests that will require a traditional form of access to their room that we haven't touched on and I think it is worth highlighting and I see it as, sort of, one of the stumbling blocks for the adoption of Bluetooth Low Energy, is the fact that it does require a guest to download an app to their phone. So, you know, in North America, loyalty programs seem to work extremely well, you know, if you're hire or Hilton you've got plenty of choices and property to stay at. You can be quite loyal, you have downloaded the app you can take advantage of mobile key, but here in Australia with less, you know, sites to visit in a sense we haven't seen that sort of loyalty. So, you might stay at Hyde in Melbourne, and Hilton in Adelaide, and then Marriott in Brisbane.
So, you don't want three apps in a sense. So, I think NFC is a step in the right direction from that point of view, certainly, right? Yeah, look that's a very valid point, and each hotel operator will develop their app their own way, with their own features, and everything else which does then mean that if you're not as loyal as the American market is and you're going to jump from one brand to another brand or operator to another operator, yeah, you're right, you're going to have to each time download a new app which in itself isn't a problem, but whenever you download an app you then go to register, you've got to pass all your personal details, you've got to do everything else and then you get the myriad of emails and subscription details and everything else… I get enough emails in the day as it is without downloading one specifically for a brand that they're going to bombard me with advertising now you can normally opt out of it but I don't know about your brand, but if I've downloaded I have to stay at a hotel for whatever reasons, the day I check out I normally delete it, just delete it, and then you know because I'm not going to need it again, or if I need it again I'll download it again, it takes seconds to download. So, you're right, if NFC wins the race then the whole app goes out the window because it's the inherent app that's built into the iPhone or the Android device. It does just mean, unfortunately, that all the hotel operators that have now gone down a certain route effectively are going to have to change their hardware again on the door to be able to accommodate NFC. So, it's going to be a big brave person to make a decision once they've gone down one route to another one. Yeah, really good… I'm still not 100%
sure which way it's going to go now this again comes back to why are we doing this because the other element that is never really talked about is the energy management in the room. Sorry to bring it back to another subject, but it's all relevant only in as much as probably 80 to 90 percent of the hotels in Australia still have a wall reader inside the room to turn the lights and the AC on because it was a legal requirement for energy efficiencies. Yep. Now, the moment you say goodbye to the plastic because you're using a mobile phone because the wow factor, you now have no way for the guests to turn the lights and the AC on. I've seen that there was a… I won't mention the client, but just pre-covered they started using mobile key for guests and when they kicked off they had about 10 rooms a day that they had to go up and they put the key card into the slot before the guest's arrival then it by the time of the COVID hit, I think it was 40 rooms a day that staff would have to go up and in a sense pre-prepare the room for the arriving guest which just doesn't make sense, right. So, it's good… Yeah, you're 100% right . . .