The previously popular sets of metal keys with a row of jagged teeth are becoming a thing of the past as most establishments strive to adopt the latest technologies in the door industry. The hotel industry has not been left behind in this advancement. Currently, most hotel door locks use key cards instead of the previously popular but fast fading traditional keys.
Those hotels keen on adapting this technology will generally have four types of key card systems to choose from. These include: bar code cards, magnetic strip key cards, hole cards and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards. Each type does offer easy and simple ways of securing the door even though some key systems tend to have more security features than the others.
Key card systems generally involve a close interaction between an electronic access control lock and a plastic card. Each plastic card is usually pre-programmed to respond to a certain key card reader, set of locks or a particular lock. Each plastic card is usually programmed individually and given a unique electronic signature. These signatures can be changed if the card is stolen.
Of all the key card systems, the hole card system was the first to be introduced way back in the 70s after being invented by Tor Sornes and can therefore be considered as the pioneer in this field. It generally involved punching 32 holes into a plastic card; the spacing and sizes of each hole were unique to a particular lock and all one did was to insert the card into a slot in the door and it would open. These hotel lock doors are no longer popular and apart from keeping such doors for historical and cultural reasons, they are no longer in use. Users found them quite fragile and there were also coding limitations which meant that advanced security features could not be incorporated.
Bar code cards were then introduced and were widely used. An individual bar code is developed so as to match with a particular lock and the code is then printed on the card. All one does is to hold the bar code under an electronic scanner and the corresponding door opens. It has since lost favor due to security concerns as bar codes can be forged and electronic scanners are quite easy to outwit.
Magnetic strip key cards are quite popular in the hotel door locks industry due to their advanced security capabilities. They look like credit cards with metallic strips at the back; they are usually swiped through a scanner and use a unique electronic signature to open a corresponding door. They do offer users a safe and fool proof way of securing doors in numerous hotel establishments all over the world.
The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards on the other hand are a more recent innovation which uses radio sensor chips that are embedded inside the cards. When the key is brought into close proximity with a corresponding reader the door unlocks. Because this key system incorporates both sensor chips and radio technology it is naturally considered as the most secure form of controlling access to a facility or room. It therefore enjoys a lot of popularity even though it is a tad more expensive than all the other key card security systems.