New Zealand Hotel Takes Tech-Savvy Approach With BLE Technology

By Claire Swedberg

Mi-pad's hotel in Queenstown automatically provides guests with room assignments and access via an app using technology from ASSA ABLOY Hospitality, and enables visitors to manage room conditions to meet their own comfort needs.

image_pdfimage_print

A new hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand, leverages technology that includes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as a way to offer a more tech-based approach for a young, tech-savvy audience. Mi-pad Queenstown is offering its guests automated access to rooms through a mobile app by sending a room assignment via BLE transmissions at the hotel, and is allowing visitors to unlock the appropriate room doors with the tap of a smartphone.

The system, provided by ASSA ABLOY Hospitality, consists of RFID- and BLE-enabled door locks at each room, as well as a downloadable app provided by Seveno that allows users to customize room controls to improve their experience. The solution was taken live with the opening of the hotel in August of this year.

The Mi-pad Queenstown hotel

Mi-pad is a new hotel firm that aims to resolve some of the challenges traditional hotels face, such as queues at check-in counters, misplaced room keys, bad lighting or uncomfortable room temperatures. The company says its solution relies on technology to make the entire hotel visit more convenient and customizable for its guests. The first mi-pad hotel, in Queenstown, opened as a place for the young (and the young-at-heart) who enjoy engaging with the latest technologies, says Stephen Borcoskie, the CEO of mi-pad’s parent company, TJK NZ. The six-story, 57-room facility is designed to be energy-efficient and convenient for visitors.

Several years ago, while the hotel was still in the planning stage, the company wanted to allow guests to easily check in, as well as access their rooms and other hotel features, such as after-hours entry and the rooftop terrace, which offers 270-degree views of Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables mountain range and the city’s Skyline Gondola. It looked into technology options and selected ASSA ABLOY Hospitality’s Mobile Access system. “It was at a level that could interface with other systems,” Borcoskie says, “and we could be trained in the use of the technology.”

ASSA ABLOY Hospitality began working with the project developer in February 2016, according to Michael Benikos, the managing director of the company’s Hospitality Oceania division, to build a customized version of its VingCard Allure devices for the hotel firm. Meetings continued into 2017 with fire, electrical, mechanical and security engineers. In May of last year, ASSA ABLOY Hospitality collaborated with mi-pad on room access and the integration of the electronics in the room.

Around that time, Benikos says, “We got the acceptance of the order, although we were still finalizing the products and configurations required.” The mobile app was then tested and certified for use with the VingCard Allure product. Building commenced in May 2017, and the system was installed from January to May 2018, with the hotel opening in August.

The system consists of 57 Allure units, one for each guest room, with two high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID- and BLE-based remote controllers for public door locks. It also comes with 16 Signature RFID-enabled locks for back doors, each operating on ASSA ABLOY Hospitality’s Visionline security access management software and the mi-pad mobile app.

To use the system, a guest first downloads the mia app, either before or during the reservation process. When he or she arrives onsite, the solution employs BLE beacons to identify that person and the time of arrival. Guests who have Bluetooth functionality turned on can present their device to a beacon. Once in proximity, the device, connected to cloud-based Mobile Services software, will recognize that individual and transmit digital key data to his or her phone.

The system enables guests to unlock their room door using their smartphone.

Check-in is thus made simpler than the traditional method of standing in line to speak with hotel personnel, Borcoskie explains. Instead, when a guest arrives, he or she can simply walk in “and be greeted by our friendly mi-crew members,” Borcoskie says, then view room information in the app. Furthermore, he adds, tour groups can arrive at the hotel with the app loaded on their phones, and they’ll already be checked in and able to proceed directly to their rooms, avoiding long check-in processes at the end of the day’s journey. “The satisfaction is in the hands of our guests upon arrival at the hotel.”

The room “key” is automatically encrypted and sent to a guest’s device, along with room number details, via Mobile Services, using a secure communications channel. Once received by that device, the digital key and room number information is stored in a secure key vault within the app. The individual can proceed to his or her room, where a VingCard Allure door lock is installed. The guest presents the device to the appropriate lock, then the app uses a secure communications channel to transmit digital key data via BLE, thereby providing access.

The locks also send data to the Visionline software via a wireless connection to a unit on each floor, manufactured by ASSA ABLOY Hospitality. In that way, the resort has access to information about any unexpected behavior, such as someone attempting to use his or her card on multiple guest room doors. Hotel management can view the data on a dashboard that indicates when each guest checked in and entered his or her specific room.

In addition, the hotel offers control of room conditions via the same mia app. Mobile Access is designed purely to serve as a digital key access platform, however, so the additional smart-room features—such as thermostat and lighting control—do not use the technology, despite being integrated into the app. While hotels have the option of implementing Mobile Access as a standalone solution, Benikos says, mi-pad Queenstown wanted guests to be able to access check-in and room access alongside other functionalities that the hotel’s app provides, such as control of guest-room lighting and temperature settings.

VingCard Allure door locks also provide hotels with the option of installing a guest-room-facing panel. Using this interior panel, visitors can post such notifications as “Do not disturb,” which will then appear on the hallway-facing panel. This also enables the hotel staff to view which rooms are ready for housekeeping.

Stephen Borcoskie

What’s more, Benikos says, the hotel can use data culled from the system for analytics purposes. “We are able to track the number of app downloads,” he states, which indicates how many users adopt the system, as well as the live apps in use, which signals the amount of retention the technology experiences.

In the future, mi-pad plans to work with the technology company to develop additional app features at its own site in Queenstown, as well as to productize the technology so that the hotel chain can sell the solution to new-build hotel developers. The system’s benefits are twofold, Borcoskie reports. It serves to make the guest experience more convenient and comfortable, while freeing up hotel administrators from paperwork-based tasks to focus on any guest requirements.

The deployment posed a few challenges regarding fire-safety ratings, Benikos recalls. “We did face challenges to get the customized Allure product fire-rated and approved,” he says. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality made custom metal fire boxes to house the Allure units, then carried out fire tests to satisfy compliance requirements.