Unmanned Hotels Project By Itochu/Orico

"Unmanned hotels" - hotels with RFID-enabled devices that eliminate the need for front desk staff - are under development by Japanese trading company Itochu and consumer credit provider Orico.

Guests would first reserve their rooms online; their credit card would become the "key" to the room. Upon arrival, they would walk right past the front desk, and present their RFID-enabled contactless smart card to their assigned room.


(RFID-enabled )

The doorlock would recognize the IC chip embedded in the credit card, opening the door for the guest.

Since Japanese law requires hotels to maintain staffed front desks, it is assumed that this measure will allow hotels to cut staff. In other places, this could effectively make the staffed front desk a thing of the past.

In his excellent 2003 novel Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan writes about the Hotel Hendrix:

The lobby was deserted, but there was a faint glow coming from a counter on the far wall... I found a recessed monitor screen swarming with the random snow of disconnection. In one corner, a command pulsed on and off in English, Spanish and kanji characters.
SPEAK
I looked around and back at the screen. No one. I cleared my throat.
The characters blurred and shifted. SELECT LANGUAGE.
"I'm looking for a room," I tried, in Japanese out of pure curiosity.
The screen jumped into life so damatically that I took a step backwards. From whirling, multicolored fragments it rapidly assembled a tanned Asian face above a dark collar and tie...
"Good day, sir. Welcome to the Hotel Hendrix, establishhed 2087 and still here today. How may we serve you..."
(Read more about the automatic hotel

Udpate 01-Nov-2006: A reader has pointed out that Omena Hotels, a new hotel chain in Finland, is already running hotels with no front desk personnel whatsoever. This reader remarks "You reserve your room at their website and get a keycode that opens the main door and the room door. There is a 24-hour hotline in case of problems. In case of vandalism etc. they'll dispatch a guard from a local security company. They've also arranged that you can get food and drinks delivered to your room from a local pizza joint. Room cleaning is also entirely outsourced. The only reason I don't use them frequently is that I don't like the plasticky feeling of the interior of their rooms." Here's the hotel ad copy version:

What is new in Omena's way of operating is that the hotels have neither reception personnel nor a reception desk, and thus no check-in or check-out procedures. All possible work tasks have been completely automated using IT. The company has no sales offices. Instead, all customers book and pay for their rooms on the Internet. Having completed a booking, the customer receives a booking confirmation, which includes the room number and a personal door code that is valid throughout his stay.
(From Omena Hotel website)

It is expected that the first ten Itochu/Orico unmanned hotels will open in Japan in 2008. Thanks to Pink Tentacle for the story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/1/2006)

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Index of related articles:

What is RFID?
How RFID Works
How is RFID used inside a living body?
What can RFID be used for?
Is RFID Technology Secure and Private?
Are There Concerns About How RFID Will Be Used? (Update)
Next-Generation Uses of RFID?
What Are Zombie RFID Tags?
Problems With RFID
RFID Information Technology Articles
Advantages of RFID Versus Barcodes
RFID Glossary
Contactless Credit Card Advantages
Contactless Credit Card Disadvantages

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