Upgrading the Infrastructure

By Ed Lawrence | Oct 15, 2006
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Wireless technology is ready for deployment in hotel security

Some members of the legal profession—those who specialize in plaintiffs’ liability lawsuits, for example—are licking their chops at the potential opportunities when hoteliers neglect the issue of door locks.

Simply stated, door locks are no longer simple pieces of hardware intended to provide access to a room. Rather, in the words of Ralph Witherspoon, president of Witherspoon Security Consulting, Cleveland, they are security devices that should be large blips on a property owner’s radar screen.

“The entire industry is going electronic, especially in the area of door locks,” he said. “There is a huge liability issue for hoteliers who ignore the potential of lawsuits occasioned by rapes, assaults or murders on their properties,” when it can be proven that guests were not afforded reasonably adequate protection against intruders.

“More [often] the use of electronic locks is becoming the de facto standard,” he said.

Leveraging technology

The logic is this: If electronic devices are available but not installed, a victim’s attorney may argue successfully that a compromised key lock was the culprit.

“The cost will be more than just legal fees when you factor in the amount of financial damage and bad public relations,” Witherspoon added.

ASSA ABLOY, New Haven, Conn., recently introduced VingCard Signature, an addition to numerous electronic locking system solutions, including traditional magnetic-stripe and Smartcard systems.

“Signature delivers the same security reliability [as the original VingCard and is] wrapped in a flexible, style-conscious system,” said Pascal Metivier, president of ASSA ABLOY Hospitality EMEA and Latin America. The company has products in more than 33,000 properties worldwide, securing in excess of 5.5 million rooms.

Technology options also are a critical component of the flexibility embedded in the product, according to Marc Freund-lich, president and chief executive officer of VingCard North America, which offers a contactless, electronic-locking system with radio frequency identification (RFID) that is new to the hospitality industry.

“Signature RFID was developed as an open-platform RFID lock that is design centric, guest-friendly and compatible with all main RFID ISO standards [ISO 14443 A-MIFARE, ISO 14443 B, ISO 15693] and the new near-field communication secure transaction platform” that will soon be deployed in cell phones, Freundlich said.

According to Freundlich, the “125 kHZ proximity locks installed in hotels in the late 1990s have limited functionality and security compared to the newer, more secure and flexible 13.56 MHz contactless technology employed in the Signature RFID.

“In addition,” Freundlich said “earlier systems are not likely to be compliant with today’s RFID standards, secure transaction protocols or compatible with the other RFID devices. ”

“VingCard’s collaboration with Philips Electronics produced short-range wireless technology that results in a method that allows guests to use a cell phone for guestroom access. Plus, hotel staff and security personnel may use cellular technology for access to private areas,” said Dominique Brule, segment marketing manager, mobile communications, Philips Semiconductors.

“We believe that in the very near future, hotel guest and staff NFC-ready cell phones will be used as RFID keycards and become the preferred way to access guestrooms and other secure areas,” Brule said.

“Most properties today—especially larger resorts and those in the gaming, condo-hotel or timeshare arenas—want an online security solution but may find it to be cost-prohibitive in its existing format,” said Freundlich, who also is president and CEO of TimeLox North America.

A new TimeLox RF online solution is built on the ZigBee Alliance platform, which meets IEEE 802.15.4 physical radio standards and operates at 2.4 GHz.

“ZigBee is the only wireless standards-based technology that addresses the unique needs of remote monitoring and access-control network applications,” he added.

The ZigBee Alliance includes BM Group, Ember, Freescale Semiconductor, Honeywell, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola, Philips, Samsung, Siemens and Texas Instruments. Currently undergoing beta testing in Singapore and Europe, the industry can expect RFID lock installations by the end of this year.

Hotels and the hospitality markets are beginning to upgrade their security to new forms of locking, especially wireless, with multifunctions prevalent for the guest. With it, they can provide a safe and secure environment for everyone who visits.


LAWRENCE is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at [email protected].

About The Author

Ed Lawrence is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at [email protected].





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