Smartphone check-ins: Not quite an Aladin’s lamp

Smartphone check-ins seem destined to be as commonplace as frette sheets on hotel beds. Earlier this week Hilton announced that guests will not only be able to book rooms and check-in and check-out but also choose their rooms via their smartphone. Given the exponential growth of the "head-down tribe", smartphone users who walk, talk and even sleep with their head down and eyes fixated on their devices, it seems like a natural if not a brilliant idea. 

Beyond using the smartphone as room-key, an option many hoteliers across segments are fast embracing with the relatively cheap RFID technology that enables it, Hilton is looking at addressing an age old customer peeve: not being able to see what they are getting till they are onsite at which point a combination of travel weariness and clever selling by front desk associates often results in their plonking their bags down on whatever is given to them. 

The potential for cross and upselling is of course tremendous. While many have already incorporated such features into their app on smartphones it is sports arenas like the Barclays Center in New York that have truly been successful in upselling to customers by advancing the notion of these sales pitches as being "upgrades".   

The race for technology is not without its pitfalls and a headlong rush to embrace smartphones as Aladin's lamps runs the risk of unwelcome customers purloining guests' data by hacking in to the devices. Apart from causing public relations headaches of the kind that continue to plague the industry from data-breaches, it is potentially capable of even more dire consequences. Smartphone vulnerabilities are among the key topics in the forthcoming Black Hat confererence in Las Vegas which begins on August 2nd, 2014.

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Four Georgia Institute of Technology students are scheduled to unveil new ways to take over Apple"s latest iPhone!" One of the speakers, 28 year old "Mathew Solnik says he can take over a smartphone from 30 feet away without alerting the user or the phone company."  Apart from stealing data including money via apps from financial institutions, the potential to not only disrupt hotel operations but also for miscreants to gain access guest areas.  Then again, these may well be teething problems that hoteliers need to prepare for as on balance the technological promise is tremendous.


Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.