The Chinese startup putting microchips in linens to ensure hotels are clean
Hotel hygiene scandals are forcing Chinese hotels to look for creative tech solutions
If you’re the type of person who’s concerned about how clean your hotel room actually is (a terrible rabbit hole to go down), a 1-year-old startup in China might help ease your mind.
Suqu Net designs chips that can be used to track hotel inventory, like being embedded into cleaning rags to ensure the same cloth isn’t used to clean both the toilet and other areas of the room. The chips can also show whether a room has been restocked with fresh items.
Some hotels in China, like Shanghai’s Wugong Hotel, are already using the company’s tech. If a cleaner decides to use a toilet cleaning cloth to wipe down the sink, sensors will set off an alarm. Don’t worry, it’s not calling the police; it just notfies hotel management.
Reusing cleaning tools in an unhygienic way might seem like an oddly specific fear, but this has been the subject of a number of hotel hygiene scandals in China. Last year, a whistleblower nicknamed Huazong created a storm online after posting videos of more than 100 upmarket hotels, including international chains. The videos purportedly show a number of stomach-churning cleaning practices, including using the same towels to wipe drinking cups and toilets.
With Suqu Net’s chips, hotel rooms “know” if a room attendant is using a dirty rag thanks to sensors hidden in the wall. The sensors can track a number of different objects in the room, including cups and bedding. The chips are the key to traceability, according to Shanghai-based Suqu Net engineer Shi Xiaowei.
Suqu Net’s tech is also designed to give guests peace of mind. Each room has a QR code that sends guests to Suqu Net's WeChat mini program. There guests can see when the room’s linen was last changed and the teacups sterilized.
“Originally, we just wanted to have a try and see the response of the guests. Unexpectedly, after nearly half a year's trial, the scanning rate of the guests reached 97 percent,” Liu Zhiqin told local media outlet ThePaper.cn. Liu is an executive at the New World Shanghai Hotel management company that controls the Wugong Hotel.
But reassuring guests that their rooms are clean wasn’t the original motivation for using Suqu Net's tech. The company’s mini program has a number of features for guests, including room service and an internal shopping mall. Wugong Hotel started using the system for its smart temperature regulation and light controls, Liu said.
As it turned out, though, guests were much more interested in the cleanliness of the rooms.