Many moons ago, it used to be that once you checked into a hotel, you would get a tagged metal key to your room. The tag in most cases had your room number engraved or printed on it.
Today, that system has been replaced by a computer-based electronic key system – the electronic key card. The key card, found usually in large hotels, is safer than the metal key. Not to mention, more convenient.
Once a guest checks-out of a room the key ceases to work in that room or anywhere else and becomes just another card. If someone with some unconstitutional motives comes about such a misplaced key, they would not be able to do much with it.
The promise of enhanced security this new revolutionary technology offered quickly made it a darling of the hospitality industry, especially among the star-rated outfits, where its adoption spread like wild fire.
Over the last decade though, I began to notice something funny with this technology wherever I had a chance to use it – the key card kept losing its data. This necessitated numerous visits to the front desk to get it ‘sorted out’. I guess even the innovators had not seen this one coming.
The electronic key card, like a debit or credit card, relies on a magnetic strip to transmit signals to a central computer which then determines your access or lack of, to your purchased hotel room.
Like all magnetic strips, the key has a tendency to keep being deactivated if it comes into contact with other magnetic gadgets such as your cell phone or credit card and this can become a nuisance when you get locked out of your own room, and the only way to gain access is to visit the front desk to get them to reactivate your card.
This often requires proof of identity and if you left that in the room for safekeeping, woe unto you! Of course they will have a way around that but I imagine it would be a long and tedious process which will only eat into your precious exploration time at the end of the day.
This inconvenience may not appear too much of a bother until you stay in one of those massive hotels at the Kenya Coast where the distance between your room and the front desk takes what feels like an eternity to cover as you wade through blocks of other rooms, a garden or 2, a number of restaurants, 2 or more swimming pools and a shopping arcade and then back the same way – then repeat this like 5 times in a day!
While the electronic key card offers the promise of higher levels of security and the convenience of carrying a lightweight card instead of that heavy, bulky, metal key, a way will need to be found to reduce chances of it being demagnetised every time it comes into contact with other magnetic devices around it.
If this issue is not addressed, then I am afraid I foresee a bleak future for the electronic key card.