By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY   

IHG has become the first hotel company to test technology that lets you use your Apple iPhone, BlackBerry or Android smartphone as a room key. The company launched a pilot program at two hotels that will last through December.

Two Holiday Inn properties have officially started letting guests use their Apple iPhone, Blackberry or Android smart phone as a 21st-Century room key, enabling customers to bypass the front desk.   

You can participate in the pilot at the Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., and the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Houston. This is the same pilot program that we discussed in May. Sherry Telford, a spokeswoman for parent company InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), tells Hotel Check-In that the hotels started prepping for the pilots this summer, which involved outfitting the guestroom-door locks.  

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The pilots officially started this month and will last through December.

If you opt to participate in the pilot, you’ll have to enroll through an email that you will receive prior to check-in date or at the front desk. 

On the day of your arrival, you’ll receive a text message that contains both your room number and a secured link that will be used to unlock the door. You won’t need to stop at the front desk to retrieve a plastic keycard. 

IHG has been wanting to test the “MobileKey” program because of the enormous growth in the use of mobile technology, and because many customers – mainly business travelers – like the ease of bypassing the front desk. 

To get visualize how the technology works, check out the video demonstration of the technology posted on IHG’s innovation website. There, you can also ask IHG questions about the technology. Some readers leery of the technology If you prefer to stick with old-fashioned, plastic keycard, for whatever reason, that won’t be a problem. Even if IHG ultimately decides to bring this technology to more hotels, it will always be an option for guests rather than a replacement for all keycards, execs have told Hotel Check-In. And that’s good to hear, since several Hotel Check-In readers back in May voiced reluctance about the technology. Some of you, for instance, wondered what would happen if the technology didn’t work for whatever reason (your phone ran out of power, you lost your phone or the text message failed), leaving you stranded outside your locked hotel room door at an inconvenient hour. Answer: You’d have to go to the front desk and ask for a plastic keycard. Others wondered about whether hackers could retrieve the encrypted room info. Technology provider Open Ways addressed several of your concerns in a follow-up post. Customers who participate in the pilot program can get a $10 gift card by filling out a survey about their experience.  


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