1102 days ago

When pilfered hotel towels become tracking devices

If you are in the habit of checking out of your room with a hotel towel or two stealthily tucked into your luggage, you may have to, well, throw in the towel.

It turns out that three unidentified hotels in Manhattan, Miami and Honolulu have sewn water-proof RFID chips into their towels, bathrobes and sheets to track the kleptomaniacs among their guests, The New York Times In Transit blog reports.

Apparently these hoteliers just can’t cotton to these thefts anymore.

Here’s how the supplier of the chips, Linen Technology Tracking, describes its technology:

The company has developed a proprietary patented solution that integrates passive UHF Radio Frequency Identification with high performance SMARTtags and antennas which meet the new standard for sensitivity for read performance (Gen 2). Improved asset visibility, combined with a powerful reporting and analytics capability, provides hotel management with the knowledge necessary to identify asset loss, manage inventory life cycles and maintain up to date inventory counts.

There you have it: Not only do the chips track towels and sheets on the run, but there are also reporting and analytical tools, as well.

Almost sounds like a travel management solution.

Of course, it turns out that hotels lose a lot of money on stolen linens and rising cotton prices don’t help, either.

The RFID SMARTtags also facilitate an inventory control system, enabling hotelier to track the towels not only in hotel rooms, but also in the laundry and poolside.

The Honolulu hotel using the tracking technology has managed to reduce its linen losses by more than $16,000 per month, according to In Transit.

Presumably the hotel can charge your credit card for stolen towels if they find you’ve absconded with their linens.

Either that, or the police may wrap up the investigation by knocking on your door with a towel warrant.

Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  1. Josh

    Ok, is it just me or are the RFID tags in towels a waste of time & money? I work for a hotel supplier and as you can see from the link, the cost for towes is so cheap that I can’t see how it’s profitable to bother with the RFIDs. Perhaps companies who are worried about theft could just state they have RFID tags – but not actually use them. The goal is to reduce theft, and if people believe there are RFIDs then they may pass next time they consider stealing a towel. I’d love to know what this technology actually costs, and how often the RFIDs are used when towels are stolen.

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  4. Ella

    Those were distributed via a fixed dispenser on the wall. I´d be more concerned about the steak knives from the restaurant! ;)

  5. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Ella: Is there an RFID chip for bars of soap and shampoo?:)

  6. Ella

    Seven years ago, a certain hotel in the Canary Islands was using the same security technology that we see in supermarkets and stores, to stop guests from leaving with towels from the rooms. Imagine the sight of scanners at each side of the main entrance, just like you see in Asda/Walmart!

  7. Dennis Schaal

    Dennis Schaal

    Robert: Linen Technology Tracking partnered with Fluensee http://www.fluensee.com/pr_linentracker.html to offer a tracking solution. While inventory control may be the prime motivator, Fluensee says the solution provides “Improved control over check-in and check-out process” and “Reduction in linen and towel theft and shrinkage.”

  8. RobertKCole

    Sorry to throw a wet blanket on the story, but to my knowledge, hotels won’t be scanning towels in and out of the guest rooms.

    The principal focus is inventory control for all linens – sheets & bathrobes as well. A key area will be laundry pickups & deliveries, but also to monitor quantities in linen closets and beach/pool stations.

    Sorry to say the focus is reducing back of the house “inventory shrinkage” as opposed to targeting the guests. However, the good news for the hotel industry is if guests think the towels are being monitored, they might be less inclined to take a few souvenirs.

    That said, I am sure at some point some enterprising hotelier who does not want room towels taken to the pool could set up RFID readers around the pool perimeter or a real draconian GM can set them up at the entrance and make guests empty their luggage when the alarm sounds…



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