Technology

Towel tracking

Stolen hotel linen might be a thing of the past thanks to washable RFIDs.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips have been used to track everything from groceries to the family dog, and now the same technology might stop you from stuffing that big, fluffy hotel towel into your suitcase. Miami-based Linen Technology Tracking has introduced a washable RFID chip that can be sewn into towels, bathrobes and bed sheets, so hotels can monitor their linens.

The company’s executive vice-president, William Serbin, told The Daily Telegraph that in any given month, hotels lose between 5% and 20% of their towels, sheets and robes. The tracking system helps hotels adjust their stock accordingly, by giving improved inventory information and control as well as updated knowledge of losses. Serbin cited rising cotton prices as one significant reason high-end hotels are starting to pay more attention to disappearing linen. So far, just three unnamed hotels in New York, Miami and Honolulu are using the LTT system. Serbin claims the Honolulu hotel traditionally lost 4,000 pool towels every month (about 130 per day) but has reduced that number to 750, saving more than $16,000.

Knowing where your linens are is one thing, but chasing them down is quite another, and it remains to be seen how this added security measure can be enforced on a scalable level. And while it may work elsewhere, Canadian Hotel Association president Tony Pollard doubts the problem is big enough in Canada to warrant the real-time tracking of individual towels and robes. “Do towels disappear from hotels from time to time? Yes,” said Pollard. “But it’s not a significant problem here. It used to be ashtrays, but that doesn’t happen anymore.”