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Health Clubs Halt Towel Loss With RFID

Russian fitness centers have reduced the number of lost towels from 150 per month down to only five or 10 in three months, thanks to an RFID-based solution from ISBC Group.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 24, 2018

Approximately a dozen health and fitness centers have launched a passive UHF RFID-based solution from Russia's ISBC Group that aims to manage and prevent the loss of towels. The system, which was developed about six months ago, provides shrinkage prevention for towels, says Olga Anisimova, ISBC Group's manager, while also enabling the fitness centers to manage when the towels are used, when they are returned soiled and when they require laundering or replenishment. While the system is being used by health clubs, she notes, it also works for other vertical markets, such as hotels and health-care facilities.

The average fitness center incurs a recurring expense regarding the replacement of missing towels. In fact, the company's prospective customers have indicated that a typical-sized club may replace as many as 150 towels monthly. The towels might make their way home in a gym bag, mixed with a member's clothing and other supplies, and often inadvertently. Prior to installing the RFID system, the facilities lacked a reliable way to prevent such removals from happening. Any kind of electronic article surveillance (EAS) tag, for instance, would not survive the laundering process that towels undergo, and manually tracking towels as they leave the premises would not be feasible.

When a person takes a towel, its ID number will no longer be read by the reader antennas, and the system will associate that towel with that individual.
ISBC developed its RFID system as a solution that could track towels and other frequently laundered and hard-to-manage items, such as uniforms and specialty clothing, Anisimova explains. The company was launched approximately 15 years ago as a provider of smart cards, ticketing solutions and RFID for transportation, hospitals and other customers. "The main business directions are people ID, object ID and livestock ID," says Dmitry Kornienko, ISBC's marketing director.

Users of the Moscow and St. Petersburg underground rail, for instance, are employing ISBC's contactless card system each time they board a train. The firm's solutions—which are installed throughout Russia and 22 countries around the world—also include truck-weighing, laundromat-management, jewelry-management, fur-tracking and smart-warehouse systems. Altogether, Kornienko says, ISBC Group has implemented more than 5,000 projects throughout more than 300 cities. "Today, more than 50 million customers are using ISBC products daily."

In recent years, however, the company has expanded beyond tickets and access control. ISBC also offers systems for vehicle weigh stations, toll collection and yard management. It initially began working with a Moscow health club known as Fitness Club Zebra, and has since installed the system at other centers, such as World Class Fitness and Orange Fitness.

The fitness centers can either apply the UHF RFID tags themselves, or have a third-party laundry service attach them. ISBC provides Datamars passive UHF RFID tags, which can be applied as a customer requires, such as being sewn to towels or adhered via an adhesive, for example.

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