Facilitating remarkable experiences by utilizing NFC with the Mews POS system

Software Engineer

Introduction

Imagine you’re at a hotel, enjoying a delicious breakfast. When it’s time to pay, you realize you forgot to bring your wallet, so you decide it would be easiest to charge the meal to your room. The waiter politely asks for your name to find you in the system, but due to a language barrier, they have trouble spelling it correctly.

“No problem,” you think, “I’ll just specify my room number.” But wait, what is it again? You have your key card, but the room number isn’t specified on it.

Wouldn’t it be great if the waiter could just scan your key card with their mobile device, similar to how you use it to unlock your room?

This is now possible with the Mews POS system! Here’s how it works, in conjunction with the Mews PMS.

Workflow

Many hotels today use electronic key cards for room access, powered by protocols enabling near-field communication (NFC) between devices. The hotel staff employs a key cutter device controlled via computer software to program your key card. In the Mews PMS, staff generate a key—essentially a long string of symbols. This key is transmitted to the key cutter control software through a system called Mews Connector, which integrates the PMS with the outside world.

Once successfully encoded, the control software sends the key card’s serial number back via Mews Connector. This step establishes the serial number as a resource access token (in this case, your reservation information), enabling later identification when your key card is scanned by a waiter.

When you want to charge your order to your room, the waiter selects the “Charge to Room” option in the Mews POS app. The app activates its NFC reader, prompting the waiter to scan your key card by simply tapping it against the device. The app reads the key card’s serial number, which is then sent to the PMS for retrieval of your reservation information. Using this information, the waiter can proceed to charge your order.

Would you like to roll up your sleeves and get to work?

Take a look at our open positions.

Technical implementation

For the more technical readers, here’s a brief explanation of how this feature is implemented:

The key card contains an NFC tag, a passive data store that can be read. The Mews POS app, running on Android, utilizes the NFC API to scan and retrieve data from the NFC tag.

In Android, an interactive component of an app is called an Activity. An Activity communicates with the rest of the system through Intent objects, which describe operations to be performed and may include additional data known as extras.

Every Android app includes a file named AndroidManifest.xml, which provides essential information about the app to the Android OS. To handle NFC events, the app can define Intent filters for its Activity, targeting actions such as ACTION_NDEF_DISCOVERED, ACTION_TECH_DISCOVERED, or ACTION_TAG_DISCOVERED.

When an NFC communication attempt is detected, the Android OS sends an NFC Intent to the foreground Activity or any Activity capable of handling such Intents as declared in the app’s AndroidManifest.xml. The receiving application captures the NFC Intent and retrieves a Tag object from the Intent’s extras. This Tag object contains raw data from the NFC tag, including its unique identifier and supported technologies.

Conclusion

In the grand scheme of things, this feature may not seem crucial. Entering a guest’s name or room number manually isn’t particularly difficult for the waiter. If faced with a language barrier or similar issue as described earlier, the guest could simply type their name or retrieve their wallet from their room. It’s a minor inconvenience that doesn’t ruin the overall experience.

However, the payment process can be a point of friction, so the smoother it runs, the better. Simplifying room charges to the tap of a card, equivalent to a regular card payment, eliminates this friction. This improvement benefits not only the guest experience but also streamlines operations for the staff by eliminating manual data entry and verification.

Guests appreciate those moments when staff effortlessly resolve what might seem like a unique situation. These small enhancements add up, contributing to a higher quality of experience that distinguishes between a good and a remarkable stay. 

This focus on enhancing guest experiences embodies what Mews is all about.

References

https://developer.android.com/develop/connectivity/nfc/nfc 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-field_communication 

https://developer.android.com/guide/components/activities/intro-activities 

https://developer.android.com/reference/android/content/Intent 

https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/manifest/manifest-intro 

Share:

More About