NFC is not a new fast food chain specializing in fried chicken. It is instead one of the buzzwords in the mobile phone industry at the moment. Near Field Communication, or NFC, is the ability to send small bits of data from a handset to a machine that is able to read that information, and process it. NFC is supported by hardware embedded in the latest generation of smart phones. It is estimated that by 2014 there will be around 300 million NFC-enabled devices in the world, about 20% of the total amount of smart phones.
One application of this technology is the transfer of money under the form of payments. In the USA and UK, Starbucks customers are already able to pay for their lattes by swiping their mobiles at the till. Forget fumbling with your wallet in search of the right card!
However, this is only one of the possibilities this radio technology discloses. Assa Abloy, the company better known as Yale for producing locks and composite doors, has now successfully concluded a trial with a Swedish hotel chain to allow hotel guests to use their smart phones to access their rooms. And solve a very common issue that annoys travelers of any sort: queues. People waiting in line are in fact a common sight at the checking counter in most hotels. However, at Clarion Hotel in Stockholm, this has become a thing of the past. Thanks to NFC technology, guests can instead check-in remotely. This is the first time in the world that mobile keys have been used in the hotel industry to access rooms. The hotel reservation is made as usual through the website of the hotel or through a travel agency. On the date of arrival, a welcome text message is sent from the hotel with a web address where customers can check in whenever they want. Once the check-in is confirmed through the company’s free app for smart phones, the room key is sent to the guest’s mobile phone. When arriving at the hotel, guests can pass the front desk and go directly to their room where the door is unlocked simply by holding the phone against the lock.
When leaving the hotel, it is possible to complete a self-checkout as well by simply touching the checkout point located next to the front desk and then touching a confirmation button. Because of that, the hotel can spend more time with the individual guests, enhancing the guest experience, instead of having to deal with all the hassle caused by check-ins and check-outs.
This new technology will soon be available for private use, allowing users to assign temporary mobile keys to whoever they want to. This probably means old nannies will have to buy state-of-the-art mobiles if they want to stay in business.