Holiday Inn Testing Smartphones To Unlock Guest Rooms

As retailers evaluate practical ways to use mobile payments in-store, they have a new pioneer ally: Holiday Inn. The hotel chain is trialing a program at two Holiday Inns—in Chicago and Houston—where visitors are allowed to use their own smartphones to open their rooms. Hotel guests go to the Web and download an app the chain calls Open Ways. "Guests ultimately will call up the confirmation E-mail on their smartphone and hold it up to a sensor on the door to unlock it," a USA Today story said.

The advantages are the elimination of going to the front desk to pick up and return the key, plus the convenience of not having to carry anything else. This trial could be key—pun not intended—to helping retailers eventually use the smartphones for authentication and payment. The more consumers get used to the idea of phones for authentication, but not necessarily for payment (door access at a hotel, to borrow books at the local library, to access a private gym, to pick up a package at the Post Office, etc.), the easier it will be to get them to use the phones for payment.