Washable RFID Tags Help Catch Hotel Towel Thieves

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Plush terrycloth bathrobes, 800-thread-count sheets and fluffy, freshly laundered towels can tempt even the most law-abiding hotel guest to take up a life of suitcase-stuffing crime.

Irresistible as they may be, petty theft of these luxurious (and free!) linens are gouging the hotel industry to the rude wake-up call of approximately $100 million a year.

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Sticky-fingers everywhere, consider this a warning! Some hotels are reinforcing their defences against pilfering patrons like yourself and they're using radio frequency identification (RFID) to catch you in the act.

Three hotels in Honolulu, Miami and New York City have begun using towels, sheets and bathrobes equipped with washable RFID tags to keep guests from snagging the coveted items. Just to keep you guessing, the hotels have chosen to remain anonymous.

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Linen Technology Tracking has partnered with Fluensee AssetTrack to optimize and oversee the implementation of this linen-tracking initiative.

“Our relationship with Fluensee allows us to easily scale our capability to serve the growing needs of our customers,” Executive Vice President at Linen Technology Tracking, William Serbin said in a press release. “Through the utilization of RFID technology we are providing companies with the unique ability to better control their operating costs and investment in assets critical to satisfying the needs of the hotel guests.”

Besides reducing theft, the washable RFID tags will also help hotels keep track of linens in real time, so they know when to order more.

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The anonymous Honolulu hotel says that before employing the RFID tags, they were losing 4,000 towels per month. They've now reduced that number to 750, saving around $16,000 a month.

No word yet on what other hotel items might be equipped with RFID tags. Toilet paper rolls, miniature soaps, ash trays and unattended maid carts are potentially still up for grabs.

Credit: Jack Hollingsworth/Corbis