RFID for Industrial Laundries
Industrial laundries recognized the benefits of using RFID to manage large scale laundry operations many years ago. Commercial laundries process thousands of pieces each hour for multiple customers. It is estimated that there are more than 400 million uniforms and other garments that are rented in North America and Europe. 20% of workers wear rented uniforms and this number is growing by 15% annually. All these uniforms need cleaning. All these cleaned uniforms have to be returned to the right customer.
The Beginning of RFID for Laundry
When the industrial laundries began using RFID the only suitable and available technology was HF (13.56 MHz) RFID. Laundry operators created portals. An RFID portal is a read station made up of an RFID reader with an array of antennas. The RFID tags are usually sewn into the garment. To manage the flow of all uniforms and garments through a laundry facility every rfid laundry tag is read as each item passed through the different stages of the operation. Typically read stations would be located in receiving, sorting, cleaning and washing, drying, ironing, folding, sorting, shipping and delivery. The tags must withstand the chemicals used in the washing and cleaning process. The tags must also withstand the washing, drying and ironing temperatures and the tags must outlast the life of the garment.
UHF RFID is introduced for Laundry Security in Hotels
A new RFID standard was approved in December 2004: EPC Gen 2. The new standard has resulted in changes in RFID capabilities and price. The Gen 2 RFID tags cost less than HF tags and the read range of the tags has increased from what were centimeters to meters or inches to yards. Most new laundry implementations are taking advantage of this recent development in RFID technology.
Hotel linen includes hand towels, sheets, pillow and many other items. Some hotel guests are involved in taking up one or two of them back to their home. To some, theft of hotel towels is more pastime than petty crime. Hotels, on the other hand, apparently take it more seriously.
UHF RFID laundry tags can be sewn directly into towels, bathrobes or sheets, and can report whenever an item leaves a hotel's premises. The uhf rfid tag when read by strategically placed RFID readers can set off an alarm, usually silent, that will instantly alert the staff that a hotel item has 'grown legs'.
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