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Guest Security at Your Hotel. A Thing of the Present.

A room key that is as unique as your fingerprint? Not the future of hotel room security, but the past, since the Hilton Garden Inn implemented this technology when it debuted almost four years ago in Los Angeles, California. Containing a room safe with the same biometric fingerprint security access, this room has all of the latest bells and whistles that most travelers covet.

If you don’t see yourself opening your hotel room door with your thumbprint, then perhaps a unique “Smart Card” similar to the ones American Express has with the little gold square that contains a microchip in it may be something that the hotel could hand you. In a recent trip to San Francisco, I stayed at the Travelodge near Fisherman’s Wharf. Upon arrival, I was presented with an almost disposable feeling room entry card that had a “magstripe” on one side, and was magnetically programmed at the front desk in a blink. Some of the cards even look like the parking access control cards for the local garage we use for work. “Bio-metric identifiers will allow management to track who enters guestrooms, how often they enter, when they enter, and how long they stay.”

This information is for clearly establishing an audit trail to determine times of occupancy should the hotel management need to narrow down when the room was occupied to focus on when a crime may have occurred, and possibly who had access. The phrase “inside job,” while clichéd, is still very much a focus of law enforcement when they are looking for suspects. No amount of background checks are going to reveal an employee who has never been caught, yet still continues to commit the acts of burglary and larceny.

Guest security has always been a focus of the hospitality industry, and in the last 10 years, the way hotels, motels, and even the cruise line industry secure your room to promote guest safety has grown with quantum leaps and bounds. Most rooms are equipped with a solid-core wood or metal door for best protection and safety of the occupants, and the locking mechanisms being installed are designed to replace the key in lock set of years ago with the newer bio-metric, or magnetic locks. The purpose is to insure that every guest has their own new, and unique, “key” with a combination that has a one in a billion chance of duplication. According to Terence Ronson, “Biometrics is a term used to describe a measurement of uniqueness of a human being such as voice, hand print, or facial characteristics.”

Many people consider this new technology “expensive” and potentially cost prohibitive; but when compared to the alternative of bad press, legal action should the guest be injured, or worse, most proprietors are looking at what else the technology can do for them. Many of the new hardware and software packages being offered to hotels include guest check-out and monitoring of the mini bar as well. The future is being embraced, and packaging of services is designed to reduce the hotelier’s liability, and increase in their productivity.

Even with all the security technology out there, some common sense precautions go a long way to adding to your safety. Leaving the “Do-Not-Disturb” sign on the doorknob when you are away, and turning on the television just loud enough to hear through the door to anyone giving thought to making you a target; will make them think twice. If you expect to return to your room after dark, leave a light on inside the room. This will make people think twice about entering, and will give you a clear view of anyone that may be trying to hide in the room.

With all of the high-tech approaches out there, Dr. Peter E. Tarlow , a security expert interviewed in USA Today, recommended “dressing down” and toting old, beat up luggage. "When you travel you are judged from a security perspective on how good or bad you look." Why draw attention to yourself when simple things like this would cause most people to overlook you, rather than focusing on you as a “target.”

The author is a former state and federal law enforcement officer in Florida. He is also a former member of the American Society for Industrial Security and a Microsoft Certified Professional consulting in the hospitality industry with an emphasis on computer security and network management. His contact information can be found below.

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About the Author

Robert Sietz, My Support Services Group
Corona, CA 92879

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