A laundry service catering to hotels in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has started installing wafer-thin microchips on bedsheets, pillow covers and towels – allowing travellers to scan a QR code on each item and check precisely when it was last washed.
The service, which also allows management to track each individual item, has become an online hit following a series of recent scandals over poor hygiene at high-end hotels.
The Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai and other five-star establishments in China – including The Peninsula in Beijing and the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai – were forced to apologise last November after a video exposing unhygienic cleaning practises went viral online.
The clip, which quickly racked up tens of millions of views, showed cleaning staff wiping down in-room cups with the same towels and sponges used to clean showers and toilets.
On social media, people broadly welcomed the Wuhan laundry's move with many calling for the system to be rolled out nationwide.
"This system needs to be implemented throughout the country," wrote one user on China's Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo.
"I take my own bedsheets every time I travel. Once I got a bad rash after a hotel stay and was covered in red spots."
But some were more sceptical, saying the QR code could be easily damaged or data in the chip could be tampered with.
"What's the point in knowing how many times a bed sheet has been washed or the time when it was last in a washing machine without knowing whether the sheet was actually changed after the previous customer checked out?" wrote another.
Last year 79 of Wuhan's 110 commercial laundries were shut down after being deemed substandard by government inspections, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing an unnamed official from the city's economic planning body.
The chips can withstand temperatures of up to 180°C (356°F) and be washed 200 times, according to Bluesky TRS, the Beijing-based company that developed the technology. – AFP Relaxnews
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