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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.
In addition, the Signature RFID system accommodates the use of cell phones containing RFID interrogators compliant with the Near Field Communications (NFC) standard. Such a phone contains an RFID module that acts both as a reader and a tag, depending on the particular application. For use with Signature RFID, a guest owning an NFC phone will receive a text message from the Nelson Lodge in order to confirm a reservation. This message will contain an identification number captured by the phone's RFID module. Upon arrival at the resort, the guest will then use the phone—just like an RFID card—to access his room and any services purchased when booking his accommodations.
"The idea," Nielsen explains, "is you'd have all that stuff on your phone before you get to the hill." This way, he says, guests would not need to wait in line to check in at the hotel. If they wanted to get a jump on skiing or snowboarding before unloading their cars, in fact, they could access the ski lifts simply by presenting the phones to RFID readers mounted at the base of the lifts.
Exactly when all of this additional functionality will become available is still uncertain, Nielsen says. Although the resort issues conventional bar-coded lift tickets rather than having the Signature RFID card or wristband serve that function, the resort does plan to transfer to an RFID-based system—possibly as soon as next season. However, he adds, not enough guests own NFC-enabled phones to merit the hotel's use of the technology at this juncture. "Before we invest in the software needed to support the NFC applications," he states, "we'd like to see a higher penetration of NFC phones in the North American market. But for us, NFC applications are one of our motivating reasons for using RFID-based locks."
One benefit Nelson Lodge and its guests will receive immediately is a more dependable key. Magnetic-stripe cards are easily demagnetized—especially when placed near a cell phone—rendering them unusable and requiring guests to return to the check-in desk for a new card. RFID cards, however, do not suffer the same weakness. What's more, while the magnetic-stripe readers require occasional repair and cleaning, the RFID readers need less maintenance.
More stable cards will save time and frustration for guests and employees alike, Nielsen says. In addition, housekeeping staff members are issued master key cards, used to access and clean guest rooms, in a wristband form factor. "This makes the key more difficult to lose," he says, citing lost master keys as a major liability for hotels. "You are only as secure as your key cards are."
But the RFID-based system comes at a premium, Nielsen says. "The cards are more expensive," he explains, "but they are supposed to be more durable, so they have a longer lifespan. Plus, there is less potential for the locks to stop functioning." That's not to mention all of the resort-wide applications currently being planned.
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