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Hotel Keeps Uniform Inventory With RFID

A Buenos Aires luxury hotel is using RFID to make sure employees always have a clean, crisp uniform ready when they show up at work.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 01, 2008At the Alvear Palace, a luxury hotel located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, it's important that staff members are always polite and never out of uniform. Radio frequency identification can not help with the former, but the hotel is utilizing the technology to ensure the latter by tracking and managing the lifecycle of its employees' uniforms.

The system, dubbed SuRF by its developer, Argentinean systems developer Del Pino Consultores de Empresas , employs 13.56 MHz passive tags and interrogators compliant with the ISO 15693 air interface protocol. This replaces an older, manual system that often resulted in misplaced uniforms, says company principal Sergio Del Pino, and sometimes led to inadequate supplies of clean uniforms for workers clocking in at the start of a shift.

An employee uses the system to read an RFID tag (not visible) sewn into a uniform.

The occasional short supply of clean uniforms was a big issue for the hotel, Del Pino says, because many uniforms are imported from Europe and, therefore, could not be quickly replaced. What's more, employees were sometimes forced to wear ill-fitting garments while awaiting replacements for lost uniforms, which reflected poorly on the luxury hotel.

Del Pino worked with the hotel to attach a small RFID tag—an I-Code tag, manufactured by Sokymat—to every jacket, shirt, pair of pants and other article of clothing in its uniform inventory. At the beginning of a shift, an employee reports to a uniform depot and is issued a set of garments making up that person's uniform. The I-Code tag attached to each garment is read using a desktop RFID interrogator, which captures the IDs encoded to the tags and transmits them to a database, where each tag ID is associated with the ID number of the employee receiving that garment.

At the end of the shift, the employee returns the full uniform to the hotel's uniform drop, within the depot. There, the pieces are sorted and placed next to another RFID reader. The tags are read before the garments are sorted, then sent to the appropriate laundry or dry-cleaning service in the hotel, and the software checks each garment back into inventory.

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