NFC technology: handsets to replace room keys; NFC iPhone could be digital credentials

TeliaSonera has joined with four other firms to trial replacing hotel room keys with NFC-enabled handsets. The trial, the world's first, will take place at the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm for four months, using a new mobile key solution developed by Assa Abloy.

The objective of the trial is to discover how well guests and hotel employees take to the idea of using NFC for a variety of hotel services. When making a hotel reservation, selected guests (who will have been provided with an NFC-enabled Samsung S5230 mobile phone) will then receive confirmation of the booking on the handset.

Ahead of their arrival at the hotel, the guest will receive a message reminding them to check into their room via their mobile phone. Upon arrival, their hotel room key is sent to the phone over-the-air, enabling them to go straight to their room without checking in at reception.

When they have completed their stay, guests will also check out using their NFC phone by touching it to RFID tags located around the hotel or via the 'mobile key' app on their handset. The digital hotel room key stored in the phone is then automatically deactivated.

In addition to TeliaSonera and Assa Abloy, the trial involves Choice Hotels Scandinavia, VingCard Elsafe and Giesecke & Devrient.

While this trial of NFC-enabled handset gets underway, more rumours are doing the rounds that Apple has NFC plans for next year's iPhone.

However, insiders claim that Apple intends to use the technology for things other than ticketing and the like. Claims suggest they will use the iPhone as an identity token to access cloud-based computing services though integration with OS X Lion.

The thinking is that an NFC-enabled iPhone would store passwords, bookmarks. etc., and share those with a Lion-equipped Mac when brought within the 10cm range over which NFC technology can communicate. The user can then interact with the Mac as though it were their own desktop, with their security details disappearing once the iPhone is taken out of range.

While Apple refuses to comment on the NFC rumours, it has recently recruited a number of NFC experts to its engineering ranks, and is said to be considering the acquisition of Vivotech, a company that specialises in contactless payment and NFC technology.

For more:
- see this NFC World article
- see this The Register article

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