3 reasons hotels are switching to NFC

Hotels around the world have, for decades, used cards with magnetic stripes as room keys. They’re inexpensive and easy to issue, but they have serious limitations when it comes to security, interoperability, and ease of use. They can be erased, leaving guests locked out, and are vulnerable to being copied or forged, which can lead to unwanted consequences.

Two newcomers to the field – Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – give hotels an alternative to mag-stripes and, at the same time, make it easier to meet guest demand to use smartphones and other devices as access credentials. NFC and BLE offer the benefits of mobile integration and an enhanced guest experience, with greater convenience and security, and also enable new services.

NFC and BLE are compatible technologies that can coexist in the same components, so implementations can be very flexible. For the time being, BLE is supported by more mobile devices, but this is changing. NFC, which is based on widespread contactless smartcard technology, is on the rise. It’s designed for higher security and uses protocols that are form-factor independent. Also, since NFC is the predominant technology for public transport, shared mobility, and various other applications, it offers options for extending the capabilities of hotel keys.

What this adds up to, is increased use of NFC for hotel cards, driven by three things:

  1. Multi-application support

NFC is designed to support multiple applications in one card or device, so a single card or device can be used to open doors, make payments, earn loyalty points, rent a bike, access a rental car, access local public transportation, and more. Hotels can enhance guest experiences through more services, and can pursue cross-branding opportunities to expand their offering. Since NFC-based cards and devices can be configured multiple times, for different purposes, add-ons can be earned through rewards programs or paid subscription, and the card system itself can accommodate new features and functions over time.

  1. Form-factor independence

NFC cards, smartphones and wearables can all be processed by infrastructure devices, such as locks, in the same way. This facilitates the co-existence of different form factors, making the integration of a loyalty card or a mobile device much simpler. Instead of dealing with multiple technologies, solution providers and hotel operators can focus on their main objective — guest satisfaction. The wristband or smartphone app can be configured for partner services, for discounts at local restaurants, shops, museums, amusement parks, sporting venues, and other attractions. Location services can be added, too, so families and groups don’t get lost, even in large resorts.

  1. Higher security

Because NFC is based on contactless smartcard technology, it’s designed for scalable security. NFC cards and devices support a wide range of globally accepted countermeasures against common attacks:

  • Mutual Authentication is used to establish a trusted communication channel between the lock and the card or device.
  • Message Authentication Code protects each message in a communication.
  • Data Encryption is used to protect data on the contactless interface from eavesdropping.

Through the support of state-of-the-art cryptographic algorithms, like 3DES and AES, guests and their valuables are protected with the same high level of security that banks use to protect financial transactions.

The NXP approach

As the global innovation leader for secure connections, NXP supports both technologies – NFC and BLE – and supports secure, convenient, and cost-effective usage of both technologies. For example, our MIFARE family, which is fully compatible with NFC, offers best-in-class solutions for guest cards and loyalty cards.

MIFARE options

MIFARE Ultralight EV1 The most cost-effective solution for limited-use applications.
MIFRAE Ultralight C Designed as a limited-use, high-volume IC, it uses the open 3DES cryptographic standard for chip authentication and data access, and provides entry-level security for key storage and authentication.
MIFARE Plus SE This latest version of MIFARE, which is a competitive alternative for existing MIFARE Classic systems, makes it possible to increase security in systems that are already in use.
MIFARE DESFire EV1 256B MIFARE DESFire EV1 is the global benchmark for multi-application solutions, and this upcoming entry-level version offers a wide range of available applications, including integration with banking cards and mobile cards.

Contactless infrastructure

Our extensive portfolio of NFC-compliant devices enables migration to newer technologies. We support standardized, generic data structures and protocols. The products most often used in hospitality are the PN512, CLRC663, and CLRC630, as described here.

BLE integration

With the family, NXP has a competitive offering for BLE integration. Targeting applications like wearables, IoT and smart home, QN9000 devices are designed for ultra-low power consumption and high sensitivity, and use a system-on-chip (SoC) design to enable high levels of integration.

Join the conversation

Have you stayed in a hotel that uses NFC-based room keys? Where do you think NFC will take hotel access? And how might you use NFC to make hotel stays better?

Related links

Explore the world of MIFARE


NXP’s NFC Everywhere TechZone

NXP high-performance MIFARE reader solution MFRC630

NXP full NFC Forum-compliant solution PN512

Smartcard Alliance


Cristina Ardila
Cristina Ardila
What Cristina Ardila loves most about NFC is that is opens doors to complete new worlds. As Senior Marketing Manager for Security and Connectivity at NXP, she builds on nearly 10 years of industry experience in access management, eGovernment, transportation, and metering. She holds an MBA from Instituto de Empresa / UniAndes, has lived in several countries, and speaks fluent German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

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