Smart Takes

Washable RFID tags track hotel towels, sheets, robes

Posting in Design

Miami-based Linen Technology Tracking is using RFID tags to track towels, sheets and bathrobes. Why? Because cotton is expensive.

That plush white bathrobe you wore at your last hotel stay was the epitome of luxury, wasn't it? Maybe next time you'll just accidentally pack it in your suitcase and bring it home to relive the experience.

Or not. A Miami company has patented a washable radio frequency identification, or RFID, chip that's designed to track towels, robes and even bed sheets.

The system is the product of (the aptly named) Linen Technology Tracking and software specialist Fluensee. The intelligence of the product, called "Linentracker," uses LTT's SMARTtags and runs on Fluensee's supply chain management platform.

Why the Big Brother approach? Simple: in the hospitality industry, one of the largest expenses of room occupancy is the growing cost of linen supplies -- but until now, hotels are in the dark with regard to where those assets are, both when they're in the hands of customers and when they're being laundered by outside vendors.

Here's how it works: each asset is scanned and monitored to and from the laundry, in and out of linen closets, at various check-in or check-out stations, down laundry chutes and even at pool and beach kiosks. AssetTrack monitors everything in real time, then offers insights via its reporting and analytics engine.

It's not just preventing theft, either. The real-time aspect allows hotels to make their workflow more efficient, the companies say.

Benefits include, according to the companies:

  • Reduction in inventory time and labor.
  • More efficient management of linen purchases.
  • Improved control and savings within the laundry process.
  • Increased life of linens and towels.
  • Improved control over check-in and check-out process.
  • Reduction in linen and towel theft and shrinkage.
  • Improved customer service.

So far, three hotels — in Honolulu, Miami and Manhattan — are using the chip, according to a New York Times brief on the company.

And it's real dollars we're talking about here. To wit:

The Honolulu property, which introduced the technology last summer, has reduced theft of its pool towels from 4,000 a month to just 750, saving more than $16,000 a month, Mr. Serbin said.

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure