RFID VS MAGNETIC CARDS: THE SWITCH IS NEAR?
Suppliers specializing in access control unanimously observe: RFID is becoming widespread. “Our forecasts underestimated the speed with which this technology would become popular. It should become the standard of tomorrow,” estimates Christian Hénon, president of Assa Abliy EMEA. The same is being heard at Kaba-Saflok where “a sign of the times is that we sold more RFID than magnetic card locks,” remarks Jean-Christian Samyn, president EMEA of the group. Philippe Serre, key accounts France manager at Onity, also observes that “the share of RFID has been growing for 2 years and now represents 20%. The shift toward RFID should continue to gradually renew the supply of locks.”The advantages of this contact-less technology are known: since the card doesn’t have to be inserted, the lock wears out more slowly; the cards are easier to code; the lock reads them faster... “It is one of the major advantages of RFID. Magnetic cards still leave leisure guests who don’t stay in hotels often a bit perplexed. If they cannot insert their cards correctly, they do not hesitate to go down to reception,” remarks Philippe Serre. “The strong points of “contact less” mostly reside in the comfort and ease of use for the client,” summarizes Emmanuel Gruber, manager of electronic access control and biometrics at Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies France, whose subsidiary Cisa commercializes the contact-less lock Wave Mode. To the aforementioned assets may also be added the possibility of coding key chains or bracelets that floor personnel and clients using the spa or swimming pool may easily keep on their person, in a more distant future these cards may also become a means of payment.Inversely, magnetic cards have more limited capacities. While it still dominates the market, this technology should not experience any more real changes. But this does not mean that its days are numbered... “The magnetic card will last. Our 760 lock still represents 45% of our market and many hotel groups are installing their supply with magnetic card locks. We must follow them. Recent progress includes the commercialization of an encoder with high coercivity that resolves 99% of demagnetization problems,” affirms Jean-Christian Samyn. “Nonetheless the change will be necessarily limited.”At this turning point, suppliers are producing their ranges using different technologies. This month Kaba will have the opportunity to reveal the first installation in Europe of its RT lock, following the takeover of Saflok, combining the technical savoir faire of Kaba – the RT is a descendent of the 790 model on a mechanical level – and the technological knowledge of ILCO. At Assa Abloy, after the upscale and design Signature lock, the Classic entry range model will also become available in a contact-less version. The HT and Advance models by Onity have a dual technology feature making them available in magnetic card versions, in dual mode and with proximity card capacity, with ISO 14 43 B standards for the HT or with a MiFare standard for the contact-less reader with the Advance. Nonetheless, for hoteliers that want RFID technology without investing massively in a new supply of locks, professionals expect to see kits for updating. This is true at Onity for the lock Advance and at Vingcard which will present an upgrade kit of the Classic lock at the Equip’Hôtel exhibition. Another development to watch for at Assa Abloy in the first quarter 2011: improved RFID locks with a new reader communicating with MiFare Plus technology.While RFID locks seem to have entered an inexorable growth trend, the major pitfall for its deployment is that the cards are five to six times more costly than their magnetic counterpart. But this obstacle looks is expected to soften in the years to come according to professionals. “The fact that these technologies are beginning to be used massively makes it possible to lower costs,” expects Emmanuel Gruber. And yet: the cost of these cards is not painless. To reduce it, Kaba and Vingcard suggest that hotel groups use a pre-existing, durable support: the loyalty card. “With this Remote Check-In system that Kaba will probably launch at the next Equip’Hôtel exhibition, upon arrival at the hotel, the faithful client will be able to go to a terminal to encode his magnetic card or RFID,” explains Philip Van Neer, Sales & Marketing manager. In the United States, Starwood has launched a pilot program called Smart Check In at the Aloft Hotel in Lexington in a partnership with Vingcard. Since last February, selected Starwood Preferred Guest members received a new RFID SPG/Aloft members card that gives them direct access to their room without going through reception.NFC: IMMINENT GROWTH OR A FESTIVE FUNERAL?No more reception… Plenty of clients dream of this. For economic imperatives as well as to improve the check in/check out process, hoteliers and suppliers are considering the different possibilities for skirting an essential procedure that is routine for frequent travelers. To offset this inconvenience, terminals have begun to appear in hotel lobbies. But today there is a new option that is perhaps more promising in use. The dream of smartphones becoming room keys has never seemed so close to becoming a reality.Whereas iPhone and Blackberry applications have become givens for the hotel reservation, the time is coming near for the entire process, from reservation to room key upon arrival at the hotel, to be able to be carried out via mobile telephone. Quicker than the hotel industry, the airline industry has already turned that page. At Air France, British Airways, Qantas and others, the telephone has been morphing into a boarding pass. No lost time at the check in counter or risk of losing a ticket: the plane-hopping businessman appreciates his new freedom.And in the hotel industry? On the suppliers’ side, the offer is ready and several upscale models are compatible with NFC technology allowing dialogue between telephones and locks: Advance by Onity, RT by Kaba, Wave Mode by Cisa or Signature by Vingcard… At the latter, the time has now come for the first real life tests. This month, a hotel in the Choice group in Stockholm will act as a pilot property, with a testing and break-in phase for the “Mobile Key division of our group Assa Abloy which has been working for 18 months on NFC applications for access control together with a telephone operator that will make NFC telephones available to loyal customers,” explains Christian Hénon.That a telephone operator should be associated with this test is not insignificant. It remains a relevant problem with respect to this promising technology. Its widespread deployment depends on the having telephones on the market that are compatible with the NFC standard, but this development seems to be constantly postponed. Today, smartphones models outfitted with NFC chips are rare. “Who is getting in the way of its development? Telephone manufacturers, telecommunications operators, the bank card groups just when the telephone has a chance to become a means of payment?” asks Christian Hénon. “Whatever the cause, I still foresee a global and worldwide development of NFC. We are heading towards a use of the mobile telephone in ET access control with this technology.” And yet, there is some disagreement. According to Jean-Christian Samyn, “this futuristic solution is already obsolete. Its business model has not been established.” Pascal Métivier, founder of OpenWays (see later), agrees: “telephone operators imposed a new standard in 2008 making it necessary to go through them in order to download an application and implicating a fee. This economic model no longer holds. The operators won the battle, but they killed the hen for its golden eggs.” Nonetheless, several elements make it possible to hope for a happy ending. In Asia, Korean operators SK Telecom and Japanese KDDI and Softbank Mobile have just agreed to adopt the NFC standard and abandon Sony’s contact-less technology Felica. The solution, launched by the rival NTT Docomo, approached by the aforementioned operators, lies at the origin of the massive development in Japan of contact-less payment via mobile telephone. Visa also revealed a contact-less NFC payment system developed in a partnership with DeviceFidelity that will become available to clients of the Turkish bank Akbank. Nokia, meanwhile, announced the presence of NFC in several of its new smartphones starting in 2011. The technology is beginning to simmer…FROM COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LOCKS TO ENERGY MANAGEMENT AT HOTELS...Through the Zigbee platform, locks talk to other locks. Assa Abloy will present its new Visionline software that uses this platform to connect its locks and safes with the hotel’s LAN at Equip’Hôtel. This makes it possible to change access remotely and know movement information in real time. This modular software also includes different options to optimize maintenance, alert security if the door has been improperly closed and unlock all doors mechanism in case of fire. Kaba-Saflok has also launched the third version of its online Messenger solution that now integrates LENS (Lock Event Notification System). Battery status, information about opening and closing: the information is directly relayed to the PDA of the technician responsible for maintenance or the security manager if a “errant intruder” is wandering the halls. Last utility: the option for interfacing LENS with the property’s energy management system.Putting locks online opens the way to a new business for access control specialists: Energy Management. “Onity is getting involved,” affirms Philippe Serre who explains how the system works: “Onity will allow the hotelier to manage the temperature of rooms. The hotelier may set the temperature in unsold rooms at 26°; while unoccupied rooms will be at 22° the client has free control when he is in the room, and may then lower it to 19° if he so wishes. When the client leaves, the temperature switches to 22° just 5 to 10 minutes after he goes out. Nonetheless, thanks to the presence sensors, if someone is still sleeping in the room, the temperature will remain 19°.” Assa Abloy has also developed its own energy management system. The product Orion, which is already available on the American market and will arrive in Europe with Equip Hotel, can enable “energy savings of 20% to 40%,” according to Christian Hénon, “even rented, a hotel room remains unoccupied 65% of the time.” Orion is expected to change in 2011 with the addition of more precise management functions for the room. “For example, in the summer, shutters may be kept closed during the daytime. But as this is not the best way to welcome a client, the hotel can program them to open automatically when he opens the door of his room.”OPENWAYS: A VIABLE INTERMEDIARY SOLUTION?NFC is slow to come… Never mind! Pascal Métivier, who focused a great deal on this technology when he was still president of Assa Abloy Hospitality EMEA, found an alternative to make up for the delay in start-up: OpenWays, a solution using sound to transmit data, the way fax machines and the first modems did. “We often forget, but telephones were originally made for talking! And thus to transmit sound. OpenWays associates this old technology with modern security/safety techniques used by banks with their OTP (One Time Password)”.The advantage of this solution: hoteliers do not need to wait for the telephone supply to be updated to offer their clients a mobile key. “The hotelier can do a virtual check-in and give the client a room. The PMS then sends the information to the Openways server which sends an SMS to the client with his room number. If the client does not have a smartphone, he calls a free-phone number that automatically delivers a crypto-acoustic credential key. With a smartphone, it is enough to download an application,” explains Pascal Métivier.But some questions remain that the competition are raising: less security with this solution, the hotelier’s obligation to change all his locks so they can read the acoustic signal, which, even if it is weak, may disturb clientele. Despite this criticism, the OpenWays solution was integrated into the MyStayManager application of PMS Opera by Micros Fidelio. And the technology is entering a test phase at two IHG properties in the United States. “We are also working on a casino project at Las Vegas and with two or three chains in Europe. Forthcoming announcements are expected,” forecasts the founder.
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