Payments in the Cloud
Regaining Control of the Guest Experience
By Ted Fifelski President and Co-Founder, SimplyTapp | November 29, 2015
For the hospitality industry in particular, using technologies like HCE is an opportunity to finally connect every point of the traveler's experience beyond just payments. Organizations can accommodate guests even after they have shut their room door with a cloud-based program to accompany them throughout their stay - from beginning to end and everything in-between. Together with cloud connectivity and a virtual secure element, HCE can round out a hotel's approach to more intuitive guest interactions and satisfaction.
Understanding Host Card Emulation
Before exploring how HCE can mobilize the hotel experience, it is important to understand just how the technology works. Host card emulation is the term that describes the software that stores a virtual version of a card on a phone, and the overarching communication mechanism that links a phone to the payment credentials that are housed within a remotely secured cloud server.
Think of a contactless, NFC reader at the point of sale. When a consumer approaches a typical retail checkout counter and taps to pay with their phone, the payment terminal requests the necessary card credentials from the mobile phone application just like it would from a traditional plastic NFC payment card. The mobile phone application responds with the appropriate payment card credentials and the transaction is complete. Instead of storing the payment card credentials in a physical hardware element that cannot as easily be managed, the cards are virtualized and stored in a remote server. This architecture allows the card issuer to manage and govern the payment cards directly and without interacting with the phone hardware itself. As a result, the payment card credentials are downloaded into the mobile phone application prior to or at any time before, during or after the consumer taps their phone to make a payment.
With consumer information hosted in the cloud, instead of on a physical secure element within the phone as was once the norm, HCE can facilitate the ability for businesses to exclusively manage the full customer experience - reducing many third party dependencies. This form factor agnostic quality offers a unifying approach to proximity transactions and opens it up for other applications beyond payments. That's where the hotel industry comes in.
Take the scenario above and put it in the hotel lobby, parking lot, pool, meeting spaces, lounge and at room doors. Guests can check in almost instantly by tapping their phone against the NFC terminal at the front desk to transfer payment and identification information. Hotels can also transfer room key credentials to patrons' mobile devices and grant them access to their accommodations in the same manner. Not only does this eliminate the need to carry or issue physical room key cards, but it also provides a more secure approach, significantly minimizes the risk of guests losing their keys and establishes an avenue for hotels to offer a whole new array of targeted experiences during guest stays.