This week there were two major announcements about innovation in keyless technology. The products differ significantly in both technology and target: one is mobile-focused and has an obvious home in tourism; the other is electronic and aimed at single-family households. Given that keys as we know them have existed since time immemorial can both new technologies survive in the long run? And which one will make the breakthrough in multifamily?
Starwood Hotels announced the launch of its app-based keyless entry system for its hotel guests. All a guest has to do is check in ahead of time, receive a code, and walk straight to her room, bypassing the front desk altogether. The guest touches her smartphone to the reader above the handle, and, voilà, the door opens.
We believe this type of keyless entry can and will succeed in multifamily in the long-term, principally due to its emphasis on mobile. Smartphone usage is on the rise and people seem to lose keys more than they lose their phones. Additionally, when new tenants arrive we’ve heard property managers say they would love to press a button to re-set the locks instead of having to install new ones.
So it seems like mobile keyless entry can do for security what the iPhone did for telephony. But Google Wallet also seemed poised to revolutionize payments, and several years later Apple Pay is struggling (albeit early on) with the same goal. And while the trend is toward smartphone adoption, it is not yet universal.
Schlage Locks also launched (pdf) a new keyless entry system called Schlage Touch. The system is an electronic keypad and simply requires a four-digit code to enter. The target market is the residential space and the promotional video makes it seem like single family homes are the main target, though Schlage is targeting all types of dwellings.
The technology itself is not new (we visited an apartment in 2010 with this type of lock) but the company pushing it provides gravitas. Schlage’s press release offer nuggets from the research it conducted supporting the vision of a keyless society in the future. Nevertheless, none of the points cited discuss mobile technology and while Touch connects to home security systems, it’s unclear how mobile-friendly the user experience is.
The unknown at this early stage is if being optimized for mobile matters for winning in multifamily. There are plenty of other factors that may influence how keyless entry evolves, including the pervasiveness of the status quo. After all, changing a behavior and eliminating a tool that have been around for centuries is no small feat.