The Hotel Room Key of the Future

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Above: could this be the standard hotel key of the future? (CJ Photo)

By Alexander Britell

PUERTO MORELOS, MEXICO—While there are still some scattered hotels where one can still find a physical key with a keychain, the vast majority of the world’s hotel properties use the keycard.

That could soon change, however.

One of the top new luxury resorts in the Caribbean, the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, has begun offering guests a new, high-tech key that could revolutionize the hospitality industry.

It’s a soft, silicone bracelet reminiscent of the kind you find at all-inclusive properties, with a twist: these have a special chip inside that can open the door to your room, access the elevator, pay for your drinks at the bar and even come into the ocean with you.

If you’re on the beach, a waiter will bring a special device to swipe your bracelet and charge your room.

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Above: the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

The implementation of the bracelet is the brainchild of the Grand Residences’ general manager, hospitality veteran Carlo Bicaci, who said the hotel has already begun offering the high-tech keys to guests and will give them to 100 percent of its guests by November.

The bracelets are produced by a company called Salto; while a typical keycard costs around $1, this kind of key can cost a hotel around $7.

But for luxury properties in a hyper-competitive marketplace, offering the ease of an all-inclusive resort, even in a high-end luxury property, can more than make up the difference.

It also means eliminating the need for cash in hotel transactions.

The keys will even come in several different colours — indeed, it’s not hard to imagine hotels one day turning these keys into their own branded style statements.

And it’s not hard to conceive of another development: eventually turning hotel keys into smart watches or bracelets, including information on guests, from containing guests’ preferences to integrating social media.

Could a hotel room key one day be a guest’s personal concierge?