Smartphones are the modern day Swiss Army Knife, and the latest functionality that could be folded into these devices is the ability to double as a wireless, electronic door key. That capability is enabled by a technology called near-field communication, or NFC. NFC isn't new, but using it to speed up and simplify the hotel check-in process for weary travelers sure is. This application being developed in the Foundry would allow the user to check in to his hotel on his phone, and have the code for his door key sent automatically to his device, bypassing the need to stop at the registration desk. Just walk in the front door and up to your room.

How did the Idea Hatch?

In the summer of 2011, AT&T Business Solutions (ABS) began looking at applications for NFC outside of mobile payment. ABS decided that one of the most promising applications was for hotel room access. This would be convenient for hotel guests and staff, and reduce costs for the hotel operator. In order to develop a prototype and proof-of-concept as quickly as possible, ABS then brought this project to the AT&T Foundry. The goal for the Foundry is not to create a commercial product, but to prove the feasibility of a future AT&T NFC — OTA platform. The solution provided by the NFC — OTA platform has far greater implications than just hotel cost savings and will change the way we use our mobile devices on a daily basis.

About the Project

This project was introduced to the AT&T Foundry in Plano in October 2011 by the AT&T Business Solutions division. Lead researcher Adam Lotia, working closely with Kevin D. Bailey from ABS and Alex Cherones in the AT&T Foundry, worked in a rapid development cycle to create the NFC solution. Since then, the AT&T Foundry team has created a prototype and is in the process of moving the platform from a proof-of-concept to a market-facing trial system with a working network OTA (over-the-air) component. The next step is development of handsets and consumer-facing applications. The AT&T Foundry is looking to open up the trial platform to an Alpha Developer Community in the late spring/early summer period for feedback and to build a knowledge base.

The Future

Beyond hotel keys, there are a multitude of possible applications for NFC technology. Some of the opportunities:

  • Using your phone as a ticket for public transportation
  • Having your phone function as a ticketing device for concerts, sporting events and other public gathering
  • Replacing the standard, swipeable employee ID badge

Juniper Research has predicted that, by 2014, one in five smartphones will have NFC technology, which means this is a fertile area for creating new applications.

About the Researcher

Adam Lotia joined the foundry in 2011 shortly after finishing mobile research at the University of Texas at Dallas. Adam as an innovator brings an alternate view of things from a traditional film and arts background instead of a developer background. Having worked on creating an LTE-connected camera and mobile broadcasting, the next evolutionary step was to join the AT&T Foundry and bring a new perspective to the work at AT&T.

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