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Chips with everything

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Everyone now wants to make semiconductor chips in China, it seems. But in Wuhan a laundry firm called Kunteng Washing is taking a different approach by sewing RFID minichips into the corners of the towels and sheets that it washes for hotels, Xinhua reported this month. Waterproof and resistant to high-temperatures, each chip registers when, where and how the item to which it is attached was last cleaned.

“It automatically records the entire sanitisation process – from washing, sterilisation, eliminating alkali and ironing – all of which is monitored by cameras,” explained Pu Jinyong, manager of Beijing-based Bluesky TRS, which supplies the technology to Kunteng.

“By scanning the QR code on the chip with their mobile phones, hotel guests can access the timestamp of each and every step.”

The innovation follows a series of hygiene scandals at luxury hotels, including a widely publicised case in 2017 when a much-followed blogger discovered that some of the five-star chains weren’t changing their bed sheets for days at a time.

Last November an undercover video by an internet celebrity revealed that maids at other hotels were using the same dirty towel to clean every corner of the guestroom – from mirror, basin and toilet, through to the tumblers in the room’s fridge.

So the reaction to Kunteng’s laundry tracing system was generally upbeat, with three quarters of the 438,000 respondents to a survey by National Business Daily applauding the idea.

“I hope it can be launched nationwide,” proclaimed a weibo user.

Of course, there were sceptics as well. “Now the hotel can simply feign it by editing the QR code,” one netizen warned.

“Is a QR code what China is lacking in this situation? What we are really lacking is trust,” another chimed in.


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