Imagine being able to skip the check-in process the next time you stay at a hotel. That could be a reality if you have plans to travel to Amsterdam, where hotel chain citizenM will introduce an RFID-enabled hotel service early next year.
The benefits of RFID go far beyond eliminating lines at the reception desk. The same personal RFID card that allows guests to check themselves into the hotel will also store a host of personal information, allowing consumers to fine-tune their hotel room to their preferences. Royal Philips Electronics, which designed the system for the hotel chain, says that a portable interface called the Moodpad serves as the system's brain, controlling things like ambient lighting so that guests can adjust their room to their liking. At the touch of a button, guests can switch from warm colors, closed blinds, background music, and cozy temperatures to more functional lighting and a more businesslike atmosphere.
Personal preferences are stored on a central server and a personal RFID card, which allows guests to pre-program the room's settings. Flat screen TVs offer free access to theme channels, movies, and online content.
The system will go far beyond benefiting hotel visitors. Philips claims RFID enablement provides hotel staff and owners with an integrated solution that can deliver cost savings of up to 50 percent due to a remote maintenance system. Cleaning personnel, for example, can work more efficiently as the housekeeping status of a room is automatically communicated to a central office. Remote monitoring checks ensure that all equipment in the room is working.And the automated check-in and check-out service means fewer employees are needed to staff the front desk.
Executives at Philips believe the concept has tremendous potential for use in a variety of other environments, including workplaces, stadiums, hospitals, and nursing homes.
"Elderly people often have very specific needs that we would like to address with personal care," says Ruud van Vessem, vice president of Philips Applied Technologies. "We are able to create an interactive intelligent environment with rooms that are capable of recognizing people through sensor technology and RFID."
Last month marked the end of an era at Gillette, when most of the manufacturer's Boston RFID operations relocated to Ohio. The move was the result of parent company Procter & Gamble's decision to consolidate the majority of its RFID staff and operations in Cincinnati. P&G, which acquired Gillette in 2005 for $57 billion, still maintains a presence in Massachusetts with its state-of-the-art RFID research lab at Fort Devens.
Dick Cantwell, a vice president at P&G and the visionary behind much of Gillette's RFID strategy over the years, opted not to move and has left the company. So too have many members of Gillette's former RFID team, including Jamshed Dubash, who had been director of technology and EPC. At one point, Gillette's RFID team had included close to 20 full-time workers.
The marriage of Gillette and P&G joined two pioneers in RFID technology—the companies represent two of the three founding members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto ID Center. Though both trailblazers, the two companies took different routes to meeting the Wal- Mart RFID mandate—Gillette embraced the technology, investing heavily in equipment, while P&G initially opted for the stripped-down "slap and ship" approach.
P&G's plans to combine the two groups became apparent last spring when Keith Harrison, global product supply officer at P&G, told attendees at the annual meeting of the Warehousing Education and Research Council that "[Gillette] had a different focus, and we've come together and created one RFID group, and we're making the best of both strategies."