Comparison of hotel locks

Key, card and Bluetooth: We compare hotel locks

Metal key, proximity card or Bluetooth technology? We explore the pros and cons of each

Key, card and Bluetooth: We compare hotel locks

The tourism sector has continued developing over recent decades. Similarly, so have hotel access control systems; with conventional locks giving way to electronic locks, leaving metal keys as a thing of the past.

In this article, we review the milestones that the introduction of each of these technologies has meant both for hotels and other tourist accommodation types (e.g. apartments, holiday homes and hostels), as well as residential accommodation.

The problems of a conventional lock

Managing a hotel with classic locks has two major problems: security against loss or theft and the inconvenience of metal keys. Hotel keys of the past typically had a large fob with the room number printed on it. If the guest did not leave it at the reception and then lost it, the resultant security problem had only one solution: changing the lock. Also, keys can be easily copied.

Also, as well as not being the most convenient system, in the current climate, re-used keys have to be disinfected or several copies provided for the same room. And, if more are needed copies cannot be made straight away.

The arrival of the proximity card: a revolution in electronic locks

One of the main standard bearers in this technological innovation was undoubtedly the proximity card, which marked a turning point in hotel security.


If the guest loses the card or it is stolen, it can be deactivated immediately at the hotel Reception, so it can no longer be used.


This technology also means "copies" can be made immediately at the hotel itself, for as many guests as necessary, so that several people do not have to rely on a single key.


Visitors can access common areas in the hotel without having to ask for an extra key. For example, to go into a gym, all you need is a card with the permissions allowed. Similarly, with a spa: if a session is booked, access to these facilities is easily allowed.


This system has been operating for decades in thousands of hotels around the world, while others are being converted with the installation of electronic key locks, as their use is so simple. The investment is not high and the system is now widely known by users, and easy to use. In addition to a card, wristbands are another common opening device, especially in “all-inclusive” resorts.


Proximity cards are usually installed together with the classic, energy saving key card switch, so that the guest leaves the card in the switch in the room when entering, and removes it when leaving. Thus, you can optimise energy based on occupancy.

Bluetooth lock: natural progression for the modern guest

While many large hotels had already introduced the proximity card system, digital technology continued to advance and the guest profile increasingly changed with it. Practically no one travels without their mobile phone, which uses Bluetooth technology, and now locks can be opened and managed via a smartphone, using a completely secure mobile app.

Combined technology

Bluetooth technology is usually combined in an electronic lock with the MiFare proximity card and or a numeric code system, so access is also possible without needing a mobile phone.

Remote check-in – bypassing Reception

Use of these digital keys now means that guests can access their room without having to go through Reception, once the permission is activated on their app. This is especially useful when arriving late-at night at hotels that do not have a 24-hour reception; or for those travellers who commonly use hotels, or if there is a massive arrival of guests at Reception. In all these cases, the guest can go to Reception later, improving their experience and avoiding the inconvenience of waiting to check in.

Maximum security

Copies of room keys disappear. Using this system, permissions can be turned on or off both for guests (the time of their stay) and staff (e.g. for a cleaning shift). In addition, they incorporate systems to record entry details, such as date and time of entry and the user's name.

Remote management and maintenance

Installing a Gateway turns electronic locks and Bluetooth access controls into online devices. In other words, administrators can remotely manage and maintain electronic locks from a Reception computer or even a smartphone. This feature has become especially popular in the example of remotely managed country house rentals.

Comparison of the devices used most in hotels






Mechanical opening with conventional key

Low, due to loss or theft

Low investment.

No technological barriers.

Proximity card

MIFARE 13.56 MHz proximity opening system.

Cards, all-inclusive bracelets, key rings ...

High against loss and theft

Moderate investment

Easy to use

Works with energy saving switch cards too


Opening with Smartphone via Bluetooth

Very high

Allows remote check-in.

Saves on the cost of physical cards.

Remote management with a Gateway.

This concludes our brief review of opening devices in hotels and hotel accommodation. If you have any questions about these products and the advantages of the different types of electronic locks, please feel free to contact the Omnitec team.