Hotel Security Measures Advance with Technology, but So Do Criminals

Article excerpt

Smaller and cheaper cameras, smarter key card systems and communication among hotels have increased security, while criminals are also using new technology to foil security measures.

At a poker tournament in Barcelona, Spain, last September, Jens Kyllonen, a professional player, said that his room at Hotel Arts was broken into and malware was installed on his computer to transmit anything he saw on his screen as he played. Despite video camera systems and electronic key card entry logs, no one was caught.

Although he said he discovered the malware in time, he says he is much more careful now about where he stores his belongings and secures his computer. Hotel Arts declined to comment, saying it was a private matter.

His case is just one in what has become a technological cat-and- mouse game between hotels and criminals.

Smaller and cheaper cameras, smarter key card systems and communication among hotels add up to a more closely watched environment than in the past. Criminals are also using new technology to foil security measures and execute scams.

Cameras are typically installed in public spaces like lobbies and hallways, said H. Skip Brandt, executive director of the International Lodging Safety and Security Association in Boston, and director of security at a hotel in downtown Boston. The numbers of those monitored public spaces are multiplying as video cameras and systems come down in price and increase in power.

Advanced closed-circuit video systems provide "low-light vision, facial recognition, and movement and color recognition analysis software," said Tom McElroy, a partner at the Hospitality Security Consulting Group in Reno, Nev. Panoramic lenses can be attached to some existing video surveillance cameras for a 360-degree view.

Larger cameras used to be mounted primarily in ceilings to get the best view and so they would be less likely to be tampered with, said Tom Waithe, regional director of operations for Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest. The new equipment, smaller and unobtrusive, is being installed at eye level now, he said, so faces are more visible to the police and hotel employees.

Videos can protect hotels as well.

"If a guest says their laptop was stolen from the dining room at a certain time, we review the tapes," to see what the circumstances were, Mr. Waithe said. "If someone says their car was dented in our parking lot, we can see if that was the case or not."

The advancements are not contained to video. New card key systems have become increasingly sophisticated and their uses have expanded beyond opening the guest room door. In some newer systems, Mr. Brandt said, "management can be notified if a key has been tried unsuccessfully multiple times or in multiple rooms, or if a door has been left ajar."

Employees' key cards can record which housekeeper, security or maintenance employee has entered a guest room. Hotels like Kimpton's Hotel Monaco in Seattle require guests to insert their keys into hotel elevators. …