How Do Digital Room Keys Work? A Win-Win Solution For Hoteliers and Guests

High-tech digital keys bring better hotel security, a more convenient check-in/out process and greater hygiene safety. You no longer have to worry about losing your hotel key, as you can simply enter the room using your phone. As this functionality increases guest comfort and satisfaction, more and more hotels are venturing into the keyless game. However, many travelers and hoteliers wonder how digital keys work. In this article, we'll clear up this mystery.

What Is A Digital Room Key?

Digital keys — also known as mobile keys and mobile keyless entry — are a technology that allows hotel guests to access their rooms via a smartphone. This eliminates the need to carry around RFID door locks and RFID key cards, which can lose their magnetism over time. With keyless entry, guests can bypass the front desk and check in at a hotel with no physical contact. Nearly 62% of travelers opt for contactless self-service and mobile keys, avoiding direct communication with staff.  

The digital key is universal, meaning you can open any door with just one key on your phone, including:

  • Rooms
  • Elevators
  • Gym
  • Spa
  • Parking garage
  • Pool

How Does A Digital Key Work?

Of all hotel room openers, mobile keys are the most convenient and secure, fitting the hospitality model perfectly. They usually have Bluetooth technology or Near-Field Communication (NFC) built-in to enable guests to enter their rooms. Here's how this technology works.


Once guests check in via a hotel's self-service app, they receive a digital key on their phone. It contains their personal data, including room number and dates of stay. All the guest has to do is to turn on Bluetooth on their mobile device and press "unlock" on their phone screen to open a smart door lock.

Meanwhile, hotel personnel have access to all digital keys and assign them to guests. They're the ones who enter the guests' data into the keyless entry system. When a guest tries to open the door with the technology, the smart lock in the corresponding room reads its information and matches it with the hotel's server. When the system confirms that everything is correct, the door opens. For example, if guests want to use amenities in a hotel for which they have to pay extra, the digital key automatically charges them and sends an invoice.

How Do RFID Keys Differ from Digital Keys?

Basically, RFID keys, also called "fobs" and "tags," are devices that open doors with electromagnetic interrogation pulses. It transmits its token to a card reading system, which relays it to the controller to verify a resident's credentials.

This technology has a few significant flaws that decrease guest experience. Statistically, hotel residents accidentally demagnetize 15-20% of RFID cards. Also, these keys may not work during power outages, making it impossible to enter the room.

In terms of security, RFID tags are less secure than digital keys because hacking them is no big deal for someone who is tech-savvy. Besides, guests tend to lose their physical cards, leading to inconvenience and the risk of trespassing.

Why Are Digital Room Keys Safer Than RFID Keys?

Adopting digital keys instead of fobs is a way for hotels to think outside the box and ensure top security and hygiene. By replacing physical keys with digital ones, they eliminate passing plastic cards from hand to hand and allow guests to avoid any contact at the front desk. In this way, the hospitality industry can also reduce waste by minimizing the use of plastic cards.

Apart from that, there are other significant benefits of integrating digital keys into your hotel.

  • Time-Saving Check-in/out

The mobile key allows guests to bypass the front desk lines and go straight to their rooms upon arrival. This gives travelers more control over their hotel experience, as the hotel routine doesn't interfere with their plans.

  • Elevated Customer Experience

Thanks to the convenience of keyless entry, guests operate the hotel's app, which leads to more direct bookings. The freedom they get from technology encourages customer loyalty and motivates travelers to extend their visit and come back.

  • Security

The digital key on your phone is as secure as your credit card. It is encrypted for added security and not easily hacked because it is integrated into a larger system called PMS. Even if a guest loses their smartphone, they can ask hotel staff to disable the key immediately to prevent fraud attempts.

  • Cost Efficiency

With keyless entry, the hospitality industry saves money on the production and disinfection of plastic keys. On average, a 200-room hotel requires nearly 12,000 non-biodegradable cards, which are not good either for the business budget or the ecology. The more guests use digital keys, the more efficient the hotel’s workflow becomes, since it requires less staff and the front desk doesn't need to be monitored 24/7.

Digital keys are a promising solution that hotels should consider, as they provide security and increase guest satisfaction. They're easy and convenient to use and give travelers control over check-in and check-out, giving them the experience they deserve. This is a sustainable technology that enables the hospitality industry to streamline its operations while reducing the waste and health risks that physical cards bring.

Looking for a way to integrate digital room keys into your hotel's PMS? Make it happen with MyCONECT's two-way integration. Get in touch with us to learn more.