After installing the Starwood Preferred Guest (SGP) App, guests will receive a virtual key on their iPhone, which can then be used to unlock a door with a tap using Bluetooth 4.0. The newer Bluetooth specification, first introduced with the iPhone 4s, has been used in a similar way for many home locking products like the Lockitron and the August Smart Lock, but this is the first time it's being used on a larger scale.
Starwood officials are betting that the technology will become the standard for hotels in the future, replacing traditional hotel check-in methods.
"We believe this will become the new standard for how people will want to enter a hotel," says Frits van Paasschen, Starwood's CEO. "It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel."
Bluetooth 4.0 (or Bluetooth LE) is being utilized in a number of innovative ways. In addition to being installed in multiple different home locking products, it has also been used to replace traditional password logins on Macs through the Knock app and to deliver car diagnostics in the Automatic connected car device. Bluetooth 4.0 is also the driving technology behind Apple's iBeacons, which are rapidly being implemented in retail stores and other locations across the world to deliver location-based notifications.
Two Starwood Aloft hotels, in Harlem, New York and Cupertino, California, will be updated with the Bluetooth 4.0 technology during the first quarter of 2014. Starwood has plans to roll out the system at all of its locations by the end of 2015 should the pilot program be successful.