Keeping Tabs

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is not a new technology. It’s been around in the manufacturing and electronics industries for quite some time. Recently, however, the technology has been making in-roads into the hospitality industry. The technology uses active tags that are wirelessly read to track where the tag has been. It is also used in the shipping industry.

RFID is a tracking technology that allows companies to more cost-efficiently track goods, and sometimes even services. “There are a few areas where RFID has benefited the hotel industry,” says Gary Randall, vice president of solutions marketing at Phoenix, Ariz.-based American Barcode, a manufacturer of RFID solutions. “There are people tracking costumes and uniforms. Some of the larger hotels and casinos are using it to track their garments.”

One of the bigger successes has been in uniform tracking. Large properties are using RFID to track when employees pick up uniforms and when they are returned. They are tracking how many are in the laundry and how many are available.

But that’s not the only area hotels are taking advantage of RFID. Many are beginning to track linens, such as towels, to not only protect against theft, but also to track inventory. “People are also using it for asset management, such as tracking computers, TVs, and things like that. They are able to trigger whether there events, such as read or non-read,” Randall says. In that case, RFID allows hotels to track whether guests are using certain amenities or responding to certain collateral in the rooms.


“Historically, the bigger returns on the investment when it comes to RFID have been on the bigger items, such as expensive wine bottles and things like that,” Randall says. “You’re able to take faster inventories on products.”

The holy grail of RFID in hotels, according to Randall, is tracking habits of guests. “We deal a lot with casinos and there’s always the question of tracking the high-roller. Is there a way of tracking their movement through a casino,” he asks. “They’d like to know what games they play. It would be a case of the guest putting their card into a machine to play and they can track them.”

Randall says that’s been the biggest dream for hoteliers. There are different ways to accomplish it. “If they can talk someone into carrying an active tag, then you can identify where they’ve been,” Randall says. “It’s a way of improving customer service.”

Randall says the main consideration with adopting RFID is the ROI. “Will they truly gain the value of what they are using it for,” he says. “However, there’s also the consideration of value in preventing theft—even internally. It’s not just customers walking off with things; employees can too.”

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