RFID Technology Boosting Efficiency at Resorts

It’s most common use is to assign a unique number that identifies a person, object or various information, and record it to a microchip. Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, utilizes a chip and antenna together called an RFID transponder, or RFID tag.

The chip’s antenna transmits the identification information to a reader that converts the radio waves into digital information that’s sent to computers. This technology isn’t new. RFID has been in use since the 1970s. In its infancy, it was limited and expensive, but that has changed over time. Radio waves can be transmitted using most non-metallic materials, and RFID tags can be packaged to be weatherproofed and extremely durable.

Making this story even more significant is that, in this case, RFID technology is combined with solving multiple issues associated with towel service, such as decreasing towel use, conserving energy and water, minimizing housekeeping and preventing towel theft.

Steven Molewyk, inventor of Towel Tracker, worked closely with customers to create and develop a towel management system that assigns towels to users, tracks their return, monitors available inventory, and creates a potential profit center.

“Towel service depletes environmental and financial resources, but I thought there must be a more holistic solution,” said Molewyk.

The Towel Tracker has two components: the Clean Towel Unit and the Towel Return Unit. Each is about the size of a vending machine. Enclosed in the Clean Towel Unit is a cart with hundreds of towels users can access. The Towel Return Unit contains a removable cart that collects used towels, eliminating them from sight.

Users access towels by swiping their room key through the reader to open the door. Each towel is embedded with a RFID tag that provides the towel with a unique identification number. Users take the towels they want and close the door. Within half a second, a scanning system reads the RFID tags in the towels and assigns them to the user. As used towels are placed into the return receptacle, the system scans the RFID tags again to track their return. This information is relayed to the facility’s computer using Wi-Fi providing the ability to track every towel used.

Molewyk was aware of the frustration over stolen towels and the amount of time staff spends collecting, cleaning, folding and distributing towels. “I set out to reinvent how towels are managed. To stay profitable in today’s tough economy, businesses need to cut costs wherever they can and proactively addressing towel service is a simple way to do just that.”

Maintaining towel inventory is essential to strengthening a business’ bottom line. To overcome the negative side effects of towel loss, Towel Tracker can be used to implement various payment policies for towel service: no-charge, charge-per-towel or charge-per-unreturned-towel. For instance, if the Towel Tracker doesn’t indicate a towel’s return, management can charge the user for the towel. This helps to maintain towel inventory by creating an accountability factor that ensures more towels will be returned. Charging for towel use or theft also can turn towel service a new profit center.

Utility costs – electricity, gas and water – also affect the bottom line. Responsible towel usage translates into responsible energy use. With fewer towels to launder, water and energy consumption decrease and costs savings are realized.

By encouraging responsible towel usage, users are less likely to leave dirty towels lying around for employees to clean up. Towel Tracker’s scanning system alerts staff when towel inventory is low or the towel return is full to ensure users’ towel needs are met. This reduces the staff’s housekeeping efforts, enhances the appearance of the facility and improves sanitation.

“When the guests see the name Towel Tracker they take only as many towels as they need, as opposed to when they used to take them from me personally, when they would take a lot more than they actually needed,” said Ean Liss, pool concierge for Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, Disney World in Orlando.

“I find that the guests like it a lot better than the way we used to do it manually. They don’t have to wait for the towels from me like they used to. Before, I had to go and get towels for them while they were waiting for the laundry. Now with Towel Tracker, we have a full rack of towels here and a full rack ready to go, so towels are always ready for our guests.”

“Initially I was skeptical, I thought that the Towel Tracker would be difficult for the guests. It’s been a total no-brainer – very, very easy to use,” said Lynn Dale, Director of Housekeeping for Wyndham, Disney World. “I have even had guests, as they were checking out, they remember to bring the towels back and return them – we’ve never had that before.”