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At Nelson Lodge, RFID Will Unlock More than Doors
At the new hotel, located at Canada's Revelstoke ski resort, guests use RFID key cards to access their rooms. In the future, they will be able utilize the cards—or even cell phones—to ride lifts, rent equipment and partake of meals, spas and other amenities and services.
Mar 19, 2009—If VingCard, the hospitality unit of Assa Abloy, achieves its goal, the ubiquitous magnetic-stripe key card that hotels issue to guests will soon be a thing of the past. The company says its Signature RFID contactless door-locking system—which it launched in 2006 (see NFC-enabled Phones to Unlock Hotel Rooms)—is its fastest-growing product launch in recent history, with orders up 200 percent for 2008 compared with those from the year prior.
A majority of those orders come from the European market, though the system is also being utilized to secure thousands of guest rooms at hotels in the United States and Canada. One such property is the newly opened Nelson Lodge at Revelstoke, a ski area in British Columbia, Canada, now in its second year of operation. The hotel's general manager, Peter Nielsen, believes the RFID-based guest-room access system will provide benefits to guests and hotel operations staff alike.
"We just opened the hotel," Nielsen says. "It's a phased opening, and we're in the first phase. There are rentals happening now, and the RFID system is in place, but there are only 59 suites open. In the third [final] phase, we'll have 221 guest rooms."
The plastic cards that Nelson guests receive upon check-in very much resemble the magnetic-stripe cards issued by most hotels, except that they lack a magnetic stripe and are more rugged, because they need to last longer than mag-stripe cards—and because the housing must protect each card's embedded high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID inlay, which is compliant with the ISO 14443 A (Mifare), ISO 14443 B and ISO 15693 standards.
To open their room door, guests hold the card up to the lock. Currently, Nielsen says, that is the extent of the card's usefulness, though Nelson Lodge has greater plans in store. "The main reason we chose to use the RFID system instead of a mag-stripe system is the future possibilities it holds," he explains. "We plan to use them for interaction with other resort facilities, and for accessing ski lifts."
In the future, Nielsen says, guests will purchase a package deal that combines lodging with meals, lift access and other services. Guests will present their RFID card (or wristband, which could eventually be offered as well) to RFID interrogators installed throughout the resort—from the ski lifts to restaurants and concession stands, to pools and spas. Based on the ID number encoded to the tag, as well as on the package purchased, a resort-wide computer network will determine whether the guest is authorized to partake of a specific amenity (in the case of ski lifts or spas), service or meal.
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