The hotel industry is lagging behind in digitization. Airlines, banking, e-commerce, mobility providers – all are further ahead than the hotel and hospitality industry when it comes to digital authentication of their customers. The complaints are well known – the facts that the complaints are justified are also excellently documented in a large number of benchmark studies and cannot be explained away. …

 … However, if you look at the possible reasons, it becomes interesting: Because it is clear that especially the authentication systems, which are already used today in other industries with very high daily customer throughput, contain extremely high technical and financial entry barriers for many hoteliers or hosts. If you are looking for a data-secure digital solution for the completely automated authentication of a person that complies with the registration law, you have so far encountered predominantly hardware-based systems that would require high initial investments and are simply not worthwhile for low-frequency applications and smaller technology budgets:

  • Airlines use highly secure hardware up to and including facial scanning for passport matching.
  • Banks rely on video identification, where a third employee in a certified call center becomes active online.
  • In e-commerce, two-factor authentication has been mandatory since the beginning of this year – but no personal identification, which does not meet the concern of the hotel reporting act.
  • Mobility providers such as car-sharing companies also rely on high-security scanners, e.g. for driver’s license verification for car-sharing including driver’s license security feature verification, which are correspondingly expensive.

Software-based Authentication Solutions are Lacking

For a hotel with a few dozen or even a few hundred beds, this is an immense expense that is a deterrent; it is therefore worth looking here at solutions in which the security functions can be handled in the software instead of in the expensive hardware, and in which standard hardware is required at most. At the same time, the reception desk, where the legally required notification and authentication of the guest currently takes place, is a key position in the hotel’s organization that ties up an extremely large number of personnel and generates high costs. In other words, for digitization in the hotel to really unleash its full simplification potential, a fully automated check-in including a fully automated reporting system is urgently needed.

There is a lot going on here at the moment. <<The blame for this>> is the Bureaucracy Relief Act. Because since 01.01.2020, it has been permitted for the first time to check-in online without signing a registration form. Initially, three forms of identification were approved:

  • Identification via Strong-Customer-Authentification (SCA) i.e. credit card
  • eID on the identity card of all EU / EEA countries
  • Readout devices for identity cards with photo comparison

Some weaknesses have already been mentioned: With the credit card, there is no real control of the person; theoretically, any other person could also use the card via two-factor authentication – at least if the holder agrees or the alternative user has all the required data or devices of the holder. All other solutions nevertheless again require the involvement of third parties (Video-Ident) or complex and expensive hardware. It must also be taken into account that the eID has so far only been rolled out to around six percent of all ID cards – not to mention international ID cards for guests outside Europe.

Using the Federal Government’s “Experimentation Clause” for Digital Proof of Identity

A flexible, cost-effective, software-based solution on the user’s own end device was still missing. But the government was persuaded to additionally add a technology-open “experimentation clause”, which now also enables such approaches since 11.02.2021.

In the western world, the so-called “self-sovereign identity” – SSI for short – is favored in this regard. This is distinguished from the classic “digital identity” currently used in China, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Brazil, for example. The difference: in the “western” SSI variant, the user retains full rights in dealing with his personal data. Ultimately, it represents a mix of digital identity and ID card: the issuing authority authorizes it as a means of identification – but can then no longer track where and for what it is used. The user retains full data sovereignty.

The authority remains the issuer. However, it deposits in the network of the Blockchain – NOT THE CONTENT of the proof i.e. the data of the user, but only the information

  • that the credential exists
  • that it is valid
  • how long it is valid.

The user stores the proof and the specific data in a wallet app on his or her personal device. The wallet app is device-bound; anyone who wants to change devices must have new proofs issued. The verifier of the data, in turn, recognizes immediately, by recourse to the data stored by the issuing authority in the blockchain network, whether the proof exists and is valid. The user decides which data he is shown. This is to be used, among other things, in the healthcare sector, driving licenses, education (educational certificates) and a few other areas of application.

The Hotelbird Platform Will Include SSI in the Future

The team of digital guest journey experts at Munich-based Hotelbird, who summarized this authentication update for this blog post, is currently participating in the official international project team of the federal government that aims to make SSI usable for a wide variety of areas in the European badge ecosystem. 

The technical solution for the hotel reporting system, which Hotelbird is currently preparing and already programming for 2022 on this technical basis, will then be easy to use for a large number of hotels.

An Automated Digital Vaccination Proof is also in Preparation

The entire SSI-based digital registration form solution will – as soon as available in 2022 – be included in Hotelbird’s Free-Package for hotels and hosts. Also the automatic co-retrieval of the forgery-proof digital vaccination proof will be integrated as soon as available from the official side.

This means that a fully automated – flexible and cost-effective – software-based digital authentication solution for hotels and hosts will be ready for use as early as 2022. This will incorporate the already successful digital functions such as guest data, check whether the room is ready for occupancy and perfectly round off the digital handover of keys. If you want to see what else is hidden in the Hotelbird Free-Package for an easy start into hotel digitization :CLICK HERE


Author: Meike Schmid, Strategic Partner Manager, Hotelbird GmbH

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