Fixing Hotel Locks Will Cost Tens of Millions, Who is Paying?

In July, a few talented people demonstrated that Onity’s guest room door locks, found in over 22,000 hotels, could be opened using a tool disguised like a dry erase marker. But what are the costs of fixing the problem and who will pay the hotels or Onity?

News of the hack has caused a stir in the industry especially after last New Year’s Eve hotel maintenance nightmare. It seems like hotel locks are having a bad year which could result in some very expensive unanticipated expenses.

Why Hotels Locks are a Target

The hotel and lodging industry faces unique challenges because of the way its facilities are sectioned off and used. No other industry has as many locked doors. On top of this the locks are continually used and many reprogrammed after each guest checks out.

As a result, thieves searching for numerous, easy and quick targets only need to find a common weakness in the locks to search for bounty.

“STR Global estimates that there are 187,000 hotels, offering 17.5 million guest rooms, around the globe.”

Source: Tnooz

A Common Weakness of Hotel Locks

Not all hotels have the same locks: however, each hotel normally uses the same locking system for guest rooms. The hackers mentioned above found a weakness in Onity locks that could be exploited. The scary part is the parts used for this are not difficult to come by.

The hacking device actually consists of an Arduino (open source single board microcontroller), a barrel (dry erase marker) a couple of resistors, some wire and a battery. Fortunately, these guys are not evil and demonstrated how it worked to hotel managers.

The Hotel Lock Fix

Naturally the next questions are how to fix the problem and who is going to pay for it. The good news is Onity took immediate action and is implementing a two tiered approach.

“The first approach will include providing a mechanical cap, free of charge, to our customers, who have the Onity HT series locks…..The second solution Onity will offer to our customers, if they choose to use this option, is to upgrade the firmware of the HT and ADVANCE series locks.”

Source: Onity

Although it sounds good, Onity’s solution is not ideal. Their first approach only covers adding a small piece of hardware to cover the exposed part and adding an extra screw. However the cost of fixing each lock will be the responsibility of the hotel owner.

My math says that if it takes 15 minutes per lock (not including administrative and hotel maintenance management time) at $25 dollars per hour times 5 million locks then it would cost hotels approximately $31 million and maybe twice that if the actual number of locks to be replaced is closer to 10 million.

How many hotel chains are willing to take this financial heat versus hoping that consumers are unaware of the problem?

But wait, it gets better. Onity solution number two requires a hardware and software change. Again, shipping, handling and installation are the responsibility of the lock owner on top of a nominal upgrade fee. My opinion is that Onity needs to step up and own the situation. Customer service must always exceed customer expectations. Without it, as technology changes and the next evolution of locks comes around, Onity will not have many returning customers.

How a Hotel CMMS can Help

It does not matter if a hotel has 25 locks or 125 locks. The object is to take care of the problem as soon as possible. This is best done by being organized, methodical and efficient. A hotel CMMS system helps this become reality by making sure that every lock is accounted for and then scheduling the maintenance on it.

CMMS continues to work for you even after the work order is completed. This occurs because each work order should be completed with details such as time spent, materials used, tools needed and cost.

As the work orders are finished on mobile handheld devices, the information is automatically passed on to the central database. With the collected information, hotel management always knows the condition of each asset or the status of an open work order.

No one can tell for sure how Onity is going to finish handling this issue. However getting back the labor costs associated with making the changes is bound to be difficult. Therefore the goal becomes to minimize the labor associated with fixing the affected locks. Hotel maintenance software is ideal for this.

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