Apple iOS NFC Contactless Access Control (coronavirus response)
The availability of NFC* contactless payment (Restaurant POS, Front Desk, Kiosk), and NFC contactless access control (guest room doors, parking garages, elevators, meeting rooms, gyms, spas, front doors etc.) in hotels to reduce the need to touch shared surfaces that allow the transmission of coronavirus is both an urgent need, and an intelligent response, to one of the most significant issues that the hospitality industry has ever faced: coronavirus transmission and covid-19 . Importantly also, NFC contactless, if widely implemented, would demonstrate that the hospitality industry has the well-being of its guests and employees front of mind once hotels start to emerge from lock-down.
NFC payment is everywhere in Retail, via Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other similar products, as well as being the technology enabling contactless smart cards, and if the newsfeeds are to be believed, the demand for NFC contactless payment has dramatically increased since the onset of the current coronavirus pandemic (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6). But it's not just contactless payment that is driving NFC contactless implementation success, we now also see increasing adoption, and milestone implementations for NFC contactless, across a number of adjacent industries: Mass Transit (7)(8) , Student and Employee ID (9)(10)(11)(12) , Sports Ticketing and Event Access Control (13)(14), even Automotive contactless vehicle keys (15)(16)(17). It is a reasonable takeaway from newsfeed after newsfeed that the time for NFC contactless technology is now, and that coronavirus and covid-19 have only focused minds and brought forward inevitable investments to match consumer demand.
Surprisingly however, nowhere across any of the technology or industry news feeds, do we find any mention of another equally obvious and hugely important market – Global Hospitality. The widespread acceptance of contactless mobile apps in daily life means that millions of potential hotel guests now have prior experience of using NFC contactless technology and are aware of its many benefits. Many of these potential guests must now be starting to wonder when, if ever, such capabilities will be made available in hotels.
The global hospitality industry has been very severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and the travellers that are now slowly starting to rebook and appear in hotel lobbies are understandably cautious when entering shared spaces such as hotel front desks, elevators, guest rooms and restaurants. Anything that the hotel industry can do to address these obvious concerns and increase guest-confidence while staying in hotels, is a smart thing to do at this time.
The same NFC contactless technologies now in rapid rollout in other sectors can be easily addressed to specific hotel needs such as check-in, elevator and door access control, restaurant menu and payment, and will be seen as an intelligent and reasoned response to a physical contact problem that will be with us for the foreseeable future. NFC contactless, low-cost, and quick to implement when compared against alternatives being simply RFID** on a phone or watch, is a can-do, must-do-now, option for most hotels.
There is only one problem - Apple devices: although NFC works for payment (Apple Pay), Apple has not yet extended its implementation to permit NFC Access control in hotels via the Apple Wallet. The required functionality and API's are present in the current iOS release (release 13). All that is required from Apple is its willingness to digitally authorize (via digital certificate) hotel RFID/NFC keys such that they may be added to the Apple Wallet to be used in place of physical RFID cards. (note: the key card is present in the Wallet and so there is no requirement for a hotel App to control key access. NFC access control is therefore available to all hotels - no app required). (note also that Android already provides the necessary NFC Access control capability).
Now is the time for the hotel industry to speak with one voice and request help from Apple. This could be a game-changer.
*NFC - Near-field Communication
**RFID - Radio-frequency identification
About the author:
Nick Price is CEO of NetSys Technology, a software development and technology consulting company focusing on the hospitality and travel sectors. Prior to starting NetSys in mid-2011, Nick worked for twelve years as Chief Information and Technology Officer at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group where he was instrumental in moving the hotel industry’s technology focus from the front desk to the guest room. Nick is an inductee in the HFTP (Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals) Hall of Fame, a co-founder and past-president of HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation) and a board member of Swisscom Hospitality Services. Nick, a UK national, is a global traveller and has lived in Hong Kong since 1995.