In Milwaukee today for the first time, though I think I passed through very briefly in 2011 on my Amtrak Empire Builder trip to Seattle.

In checking into my hotel in downtown Milwaukee I had a new experience, another example of the way daily life is changing even a decade after the iPhone’s introduction. That was Aloft/Starwoods’s “Keyless” feature.


What Aloft/Starwood and I know other hotels are doing isn’t just using the customer’s iPhone to replace the physical keycards during their hotel stay. What this actually does is totally reshape the hotel experience for the guest.

A few hours before my check-in time I received a notification on my iPhone that it was soon time to check-in. When I got into Milwaukee and was approaching the hotel, I was able to check-in through my phone. When I walked into the lobby, I was able to pull out my phone and simply swipe into the app to find my room number. Hop in the elevator, and head to the room.

This doesn’t just replace the key, in other words. It replaces the entire check-in process and provides an opportunity to rethink the nature and purpose of the hotel staff. It was a great experience.

One of those little things I like to take note of, to see how long it takes for this to seem totally normal and never worth having remarked on in the first place.