Your smartphone may soon serve as your hotel key card

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Hotel key cards may soon be a thing of the past if an upcoming pilot program proves successful. Two hotels that are part of the Starwood international hospitality chain will soon allow customers to use smartphones to unlock their rooms instead of traditional magnetic swipe cards.

Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen told the Wall Street Journal that they believe smartphone-enabled self-service technology will be an important selling point for hotels in the future. It may be a novelty at first, he pointed out, but it will ultimately become table stakes for managing a hotel.

True enough, being able to skip the check-in counter and head straight to your room after a long drive or a cross-country flight is certainly appealing.

Compatible rooms will use Bluetooth proximity keys which are similar in functionality to Kwikset’s new Kevo deadbolt. The technology was reportedly developed with the help of access control vendor Assa Abloy AB from Sweden, we’re told.

The locks – being installed in Starwood’s Aloft hotels in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood and in Cupertino – will initially be compatible with the iPhone 4S and newer as well as several recent Android handsets.

Assuming the pilot program is a hit, the company said they plan to expand the service across the entire W Hotel and Aloft lines by the end of 2014. Collectively, that’s only 123 locations but you’ve got to start somewhere. It’ll be a bit expensive up front to retrofit the hotels but van Paasschen promised to provide “significant contribution” to help hotel owners with the expense.

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