Security is an issue that often rears its head for all the wrong reasons, leaving those of us in the accommodation industry with the challenge of making safety a priority without turning guest rooms into prison cells.
A shocking turn of events made international news last year when a hotel chain admitted how a series of guest rooms had been ransacked due to a breach of security in their door locks. This thief opened the world up to just how easy it is to bypass card reading door locks just by using a marker pen. It should not take an incident like this to force a review of safety and urge managers to update those old security systems.
So what is happening in the world of accommodation security systems? Door lock technology has progressed and we want to investigate some of the new technologies available, including: invisible door locks, otherwise referred to as RFID, which stands for Radio Frequency IDentification. This is an automatic identification technology whereby digital data encoded in an RFID card or “proxy tag” is transmitted by the card and captured by a reader.
These sophisticated and more secure safeguarding technologies now offered to the accommodation industry have been around for a little while but are still some of the most advanced hotel door locking systems around. They are innovative, intelligent, and allow state-of-the-art access control for both staff and guests. The locks grant or deny access to the hotel or room and this particular technology eradicates the need for a magnetic strip; eliminating any friction or demagnetisation, which means that these “contactless” key cards have an unlimited life span.
So what prompts individual properties to make the decision whether to upgrade their security measures or not? Craig Levey from LokOtel Australia, an Australian owned and operated company that provides quality door locking systems, energy management solutions in-room safes, providers safes, safety deposit boxes and window restrictors says, “He would question why old technologies would now even be considered; would you go out today and buy a 1990 model Commodore?”
LokOtel is a relatively new player in the hospitality security arena with their mission being to offer properties a choice when assessing their security requirements. No two properties are the same and neither are their requirements; each property needs to be assessed on an individual basis to see what the best solution is for their needs and budget. They are the exclusive agents for the Syron range of electronic locks that are currently installed in over 6000 properties worldwide. Syron has been leaders in the electronic locking field since 1995 and their electronic locks offer quality and reliability coupled with latest RFID technologies designed for the accommodation sector.
According to Mr Levey, this new technology is still seen as being a more expensive option but as it becomes more widely used these systems will naturally become more affordable and this can already be seen happening with very little or no difference in price compared with the old magstripe locks. He points out that RFID allows for contactless card operation (the card doesn’t actually need to touch the lock). The RFID technology also eliminates some niggling problems that occurred with the older magstripe systems. Mr Levey explains, “magstripe” locks were plagued with demagnetisation problems and were also costly to run needing regular cleaning and maintenance to remove foreign objects from the card slot.”
The company’s new model offers Mifare technology and a sealed design allowing no wires to pass through the door from external to internal trim, thus eliminating issues and increasing speed during installation while promoting a modern sleek appearance. The system also offers all weather readers that can be used to control auto entry doors, car park entries or any area where a standard lock can’t be used. There are lift readers and controllers to incorporate the lifts in the system also, in short you have a total solution that can be employed to control the property as a whole.
The overall aim of the company is to provide customers with a choice when sourcing electronic locking systems.
It is a fact that the accommodation industry has become more and more driven by technology. From the property management systems and in-room technology to the environmental management systems and door lock and security systems, in order that the customer gets the best from these systems it is essential that they are all compatible.
Andrew Dufton from Vintech Systems not only provides top of the line electronic locks, energy management systems, energy efficient minibar, automated minibars and in room safes, but makes an important point regarding current trends towards room automation, “With the advances in technology, hotel management are now starting to look at different technologies all communicating with one another. When considering a lock, these other technologies need to be taken into consideration and how they will integrate into the whole network of hotel systems.”
This latest modification in what the accommodation industry desires from integrated technological systems is causing a transformation of the market place and according to Mr Dufton is, “bringing with it better energy consumption, more staff efficiency and increasing the overall guest experience”.
So what should the managers and safety and security decision-makers do? Mr Dufton, who is an expert in security having spent seven years as a security consultant for government and international banking organisations, advises that their first task should always be to assess the needs of their accommodation’s property, staff and guests. “Look at the issues that are unique to them and develop a scope based upon these findings.” As this enables them to make an informed choice regarding suppliers and equipment.
Mr Dufton also asserts that when looking at changing the system the quality of the locks should be any manager’s biggest priority. “These are going to represent a ten year plus investment for a hotel, so choosing a lock that will stand the test of time is important.”
Another consideration according to Mr Dufton should be the integration of the locking system and other hotel systems. The locking system should integrate with the hotel’s property management system at a high level interface allowing for greater efficiency and flexibility between each communicating system.
Vintech Systems has been in operation since 1998 and considers itself to be Oceania’s #1 supplier of quality locking systems and accommodation centric products and services. It provides the accommodation industry with holistic technological solutions.
When considering energy efficient management solutions Mr Dufton explains, “the protocol that the door locks use to interface with the hotel EMS is called Zigbee, a wireless communication that allows the lock to “talk” directly to the EMS. This in turns helps the lock become part of the overall cost saving measures to the hotel”.
Mr Dufton realises the importance of budget for managers when considering an overhaul of these systems that is why he is very reassuring about the cost of Vintech Systems technology. He says, “budget at the end of the day is key and with the rapid uptake of RFID in the open market we are seeing the price of this technology drop to the point where there is very little difference between RFID and magstripe locks”.
Choosing the right integrated system, cost, safety and quality seems to be the key recommendation in terms of selecting the best technological outcome for your property. Keeping guest safety at top priority, unlike the earlier scenario that hit international headlines. The RFID system seems to provide the securest options. Especially when you hear that this does not get easily hacked due to the nature of the technology; it makes stealing the information off the card very difficult. RFID uses a higher level of encryption than the older magstripe technology and this again is very reassuring.
However an ever-constant fear is the issue of substandard locks flooding the industry, while they may keep the initial installation costs down, this comes with a cost. The expected service life is greatly reduced than from more established companies, so indeed the lesson to be learned here for those of us in the accommodation industry, is to keep up to date with the newest technological advances, assess the individual needs of your accommodation and talk to a knowledgeable and reliable provider of this technology.
Remember to always make sure that the finest quality system your budget allows is purchased and ensure this technology is able to “talk” to all the other technological systems already in place. Do this and you will readily take your accommodation security into the next decade and beyond.
Julian M Good, the general manager of Oceania Assa Abloy Hospitality, is a global leader in door opening solutions, dedicated to satisfying end-user needs for security, safety and convenience. Essence by VingCard is an entirely new concept in locking design and technology that takes minimalism to the extreme, eliminating all lock hardware on the door by encasing all electronic components inside the door itself, making security virtually invisible to hotel guests. Although undetectable on the door exterior, Essence by VingCard integrates VingCard Elsafe’s most advanced contactless locking solutions into the interior electronics, including RFID and near field communication compatible locking technologies.
“Essence by VingCard represents another giant leap forward in hotel design and technology,” said Mr Good, “it not only makes the lock disappear from the hotel door, resolving design challenges for savvy, design-conscious hoteliers, but it also minimises a variety of other operational issues, such as integration, installation and maintenance.”
Since the advent of electronic security, hotel door locks have presented a challenge to hotel design professionals, such as architects and interior designers, who are tasked with blending the lock hardware into the hotel décor. Even though lock manufacturers have made strides in recent years by minimising the lock hardware and incorporating new technologies such as RFID and NFC, a visible card reader has remained on the door exterior, giving hotels a distinctly commercial feel in the hallway.
Essence by VingCard eliminates that challenge, hiding the locking components from the user and allowing designers to align the guest room doors with the current trend toward a more residential look in hotel design, while proving the ultimate in security technology.
“In addition to being the dream of hotel design professionals, Essence is also compatible with our patented wireless online Visionline system,” continued Mr Good. “This makes it essentially the most advanced and streamlined locking system on the market today, from both a design and operational standpoint. It is the pure essence of form and function, and we are proud to introduce this innovative concept to the industry.”