By Steve Dunn May 2020 

Our company Digital Keys has been building smart lock features and working with lock manufacturers for many years. In 2016, our company worked with a German company called SAG with over 180 years’ experience in manufacturing locks to make their existing keycards locks “smart”.

We worked together with SAG to implement our Software Development Kit (SDK) which comprised of circuit board firmware source code, web-based platforms, and smartphone apps. Traditional lock manufacturers are often good at making hardware, but when it comes to software it is a different story. The culture of traditional lock manufacturing companies, and their skillset of their employees has mostly been skewed towards making hardware, not software. Often these traditional lock manufacturers outsource software development and electronic engineering to specialty IT companies.  


Our company Digital Keys identified these ‘software gaps’ with traditional lock manufacturers and we spent around 2 years developing our SDK before we worked with SAG to implement it. Our SDK comprised of technologies including cloud computing, One Time Password (OTP) technology, smartphone apps, and Near Field Communication technology (NFC).


Our SDK also comprised of an Application Programming Interface(API), which was software source code that enabled integrations with Property Management Software, Booking Channel Manager software and Online Travel Agency software. These integrations meant that hotels could offer online self-check-in to guests like an onsite check-in kiosk – but of course without the big bulky ATM-like machines your may have seen in a hotel wall or bolted to the floor in hotel reception areas.


With our system, a guest could book online for accommodation and have their digital key immediately emailed to their phone after their booking, and use that digital key to unlock their hotel door for the duration of their stay. There was no need to check-in at a desk and speak to staff, saving the hotel owners time and money – especially for the smaller hotels that could not afford to staff reception desks 24 hours a day. And especially in regions and small cities where flights often come in after hours.


The API integrations also meant existing property management software could be used and automated, and there was no need to log into separate software, or introduce new software to make the digital keys or keycards. Instead of hotel staff having to log into separate key generating software every time a guest checked-in, clicking buttons and entering details, for a few minutes, they could simply click one button to generate the key and send it to the guest in the property management software they were familiar with.


The implementation of our SDK was successful and the German lock manufacturers improved their sales by over 50% in the next quarter with the new “smart lock features” appealing to many small to medium hotels in Germany.


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