Starwood Hotels was listed as an Apple partner when the giant company announced its new phones and smartwatch on Sept. 9, leading some to believe that the NFC chips in the devices might have other functions besides payments — like opening hotel doors.
The hotel chain has indeed gone ahead with its plans to offer keyless entry, but not using NFC. As of now, Apple has locked the NFC chips in its phones, making them usable for Apple Pay mobile payments only.
Starwood’s “SPG Keyless” service will first go live at Aloft, Element, and W hotels in 10 locations in Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, and Doha on Nov. 5. Members of Starwood Preferred Guest’s loyalty program only get it first.
Hotel guests have to download the SPG app in order to key in with their (iOS or Android) device. The app also enables them to check in. Starwood says it will release an app for the Apple Watch next year (when the Watch ships), but it’s unclear if that app will use the NFC chip in the watch.
These developments are relevant because the NFC chips Apple is baking into its devices can do more than make mobile payments. This might include opening doors at home and other home automation functions, paying for public transportation, and sharing files directly from device to device.
To use the iPhone app, guests must have booked a single room only through Starwood or one of its channels. The app sends the guest a push notification when the room is ready.
My only question is why Starwood chose to do an homage to the horror movie The Shining in its demo video, complete with a sign on the door reading Room 237. Odd.