Hilton to roll out digital check-ins, smartphone room keys in new tech push

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Hilton Worldwide on Monday announced plans to roll out an aggressive overhaul of its tech infrastructure that will let guests use their mobile devices as hotel room keys, choose rooms from a floor plan map and check-in to properties around the world.

According to Hilton, the digital check-in and room selection service will be available through integration with the company's Hilton HHonors iOS app at more than 4,000 properties by the end of 2014.

In addition to choosing exact rooms by looking at a digital hotel floor plan, guests will be able use their iPhone or iPad to purchase upgrades and make special requests like delivery of amenities prior to arrival. The enhancements are slated for a staged launch, with new technology and services becoming available every six to eight weeks.

The first stage — check-in and room selection — is scheduled to roll out by the end of this summer at domestic Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites. DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels in the U.S. will gain compatibility later this fall, while worldwide availability is pegged for the end of 2014.

As for the smartphone-as-room key initiative, Hilton is looking to introduce the technology at certain U.S. hotels starting next year, but expects a majority of its properties to boast the functionality by the end of 2016.

"Travelers can use their smartphones as boarding passes to get to their seats on an airplane, so it is only natural that they will want to use them as a way to enter their hotel rooms," said Hilton Worldwide President and CEO Christopher J. Nassetta. "We have spent the past few years testing a number of different options to make this vision a reality, and we are developing proprietary technology that is safe and reliable for our guests to use, and cost-effective for our hotels to install."

Starwood Hotels already piloted an iPhone-based room key program in January that relies on Bluetooth proximity technology. The tech Hilton is using for its digital room key deployment is not known, though it can be assumed a similar Bluetooth-based model will be adopted given the wireless protocol's ubiquity.