Disruptive E-Lock Innovation

Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, Design & Innovation Strategy, Design Research, Technology-Based Innovation, Engineering Analysis & Optimization

Activating the electronic lock on a hotel room door should be an easy victory. The Elite OS made it so.

Bresslergroup and Onity unlocked the insights needed to create a product strategy and technical solutions to better travelers’ experience.

The experience for every end user — hotelier, interior designer, hotel guest — is everything.

Working with Onity, a global leader in electronic hotel locks, we recognized two huge problems in the category: hotel locks look like hardware, not décor, and they almost never work on the first try. 

Card-based lock systems offer enough advantages that hoteliers are willing to put up with a little clunkiness and inconvenience. Onity’s perspective was: why should they have to?

Bresslergroup interviewed hoteliers, architects and designers, and security experts to understand their needs for a new lock system; and hotel guests to learn about their frustrations with current ones. Further investigation of the hotel lock category led to an understanding of current options and of trends driving hotel design in the coming decade. Observing hotel guests from around the world revealed how difficult it is to get an electronic lock to work on the first try.

Most of these problems stemmed from the lock’s monolithic design and very limited visual instruction on how to get the card reader to work right the first time. The most common configuration was a single, blocky unit that combined card reader, door handle and locking mechanism, all mounted awkwardly to the face of the door.

And while this solution was sturdy and relatively easy to install, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel interior where it looks at home. It also tied the designer’s hands, offering a one-size-fits-all solution in what should be a hospitable, considered space. Our research revealed a huge demand for flexibility and clarity, and led us toward a redesign that separates the card reader and handle into two parts.

This allows the card reader to be mounted vertically or horizontally, useful on the narrower doors in many European hotels.

Research also revealed that guests need clearer indications of how to activate the lock. The last thing anyone wants after a long journey and check-in is to spend five minutes fiddling with an unfamiliar door. We redesigned the user graphics to make this simple on the card reader as well as the keycard itself. Each bears a bold, geometric icon indicating proper orientation; align them with each other, and you’re good to go. The result is a lock that’s entirely new but completely unobtrusive, and does its job without a second thought.


Besides prototyping, testing and refining this new configuration, our engineers worked to make the mechanism mount inside the door, rather than on the surface, giving interior designers the more elegant, integrated look they’d been asking for.

The resulting lock, called Elite OS, also features an updated wing-style door handle that works with most hotel décors, and customizable cover plates that give designers a range of finish options, from comfortably antique to achingly modern.

The Elite OS opened new doors for Onity with higher-end hotel chains who truly appreciate its aesthetic flexibility, improved functionality, and basic elegance. The lock won an Excellence in Design award from Appliance Design.

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