Hilton Worldwide is giving its mobile apps a major upgrade.
By end of this summer, Hilton will enable guests at several of its hotel brands to pick their room after they check in via an app.
Starting next year, Hilton-branded apps will also do double-duty as room keys. Guests will be able to bypass the front desk and use their mobile devices to unlock their room doors wirelessly.
It will take until 2016 for the compatible technology to be installed in the doors of all of the corporation's 4,200 hotels globally.
Hilton will be the biggest global chain to adopt mobile room key technology. A few weeks ago, Starwood's Aloft brand said it was experimenting with a similar mobile key service at two of its US properties.
Startups such as HotelTonight have previously discussed the implications of the keyless room trend.
While industry talk is generally optimistic, it's unclear how many guests will bypass the mobile option and insist on speaking with a hotel clerk, who -- unlike an app -- has the power to give complimentary upgrades or answer any questions.
Hilton's apps will aim to address that issue by letting consumers purchase upgrades on their devices as well as place special requests, such as for room service.
Gradual roll out
The room selection feature will work first for members of Hilton's loyalty program HHonors at a half-dozen Hilton brands: Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, and Home2 Suites.
Room selection by mobile will be available at all brands by the end of 2014. The process will be like what airlines offer passengers in picking seats from seat maps.
The premise of selecting rooms online was one first attempted by the startup Room 77, which was ahead of its time.
To accompany today's announcement, Hilton released an infographic with survey results that highlight the trends in mobile travel: