Work With Us


Disruptive E-Lock Innovation

Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, Design & Innovation Strategy, Design & User 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 revolutionize an industry with this first of its kind e-lock.

The experience of opening a hotel room makes an important first impression on every hotel guest. 

But while this end user is important, others’ experiences — the hotelier, architect, interior designer, and installer — are essential, too. 

Working with Onity, a global leader in electronic hotel locks, Bresslergroup conducted extensive, worldwide research with a spectrum of stakeholders and surfaced two major problems with the electronic locking system market: hotel locks look like hardware, not décor, and they hardly ever work on the first try. 

Card-based lock systems offered enough advantages that hoteliers were willing to put up with the clunkiness and inconvenience. Onity’s perspective was: why should they have to? Architects and designers needed more aesthetic flexibility while choosing locks for hotel rooms. And users needed better odds for accessing their rooms.

By investing in a rigorous research and development effort, Onity and Bresslergroup were able to revolutionize the industry with a new standard in locking systems based on the wants and needs of all users.

Bresslergroup began by conducting generative research, interviewing hoteliers, architects, designers, security experts, and hotel guests to understand their frustrations with current lock systems. Further investigation of the hotel lock category led to an understanding of options. The research team created style boards to garner feedback from architects and designers during in-depth, one-on-one interviews that revealed essential insights about the trends driving hotel design in the coming decade. 

Observing hotel guests around the world during extensive consumer field research 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 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.

While this common 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 ties the designer’s hands by 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.

Our research revealed a huge demand for flexibility and clarity.

This allows the card reader to be mounted either vertically or horizontally, a useful option for European hotels whose doors tend to be narrow.

Research also revealed that guests need clearer indications of how to activate the lock. No one wants to spend five minutes fiddling with an unfamiliar door at the end of a long journey. Good design, as they say, becomes invisible when it’s done well. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it!

Bresslergroup’s team built different configurations for empirical human factors testing. These models allowed for testing multiple combinations of swiping versus inserting, horizontal versus vertical, card up versus card down, plus light feedback and other design cues to indicate to users where the magnetic stripe should be oriented. 

This testing led Bresslergroup to redesign the user graphics on the card reader and keycard to be simpler and easy to follow. Each bears a bold, geometric icon indicating proper orientation — line them up, and you are guaranteed to insert the key card correctly every time. This is the defining feature of the ergonomically correct “Groove and Arrow” concept patented by Onity as a result of this research. The outcome is a lock that’s so easy to use, it’s hardly noticeable. 

Besides prototyping, testing, and refining this new configuration, our engineers also worked to make a mechanism that mounts inside the door instead of on the surface to give interior designers the more elegant, integrated look they’d been asking for.

As a result of this human factors testing, Onity patented the highly usable “Groove and Arrow” concept.

The resulting lock, called Elite OS, also features an updated wing-style door handle that works with most hotel décor. Customizable cover plates give designers a range of finish options, from comfortably antique to achingly modern, to accommodate design preferences by hotel segment.

The Elite OS changed the industry and opened new doors for Onity with higher-end hotel chains who truly appreciate its aesthetic flexibility, improved functionality, and basic elegance. The design was honored with an Excellence in Design Award from appliance Design.

Like what you see? Drop us a line.

Work With Us