By Marsha Frydrychowski, Director – Marketing Services, Resource Label Group

Adoption of Near Field Communication (NFC) — a smart two-way communication technology — is expected to triple by 2024. And as it grows and new applications emerge, we’re discovering that we’ve only grazed the surface as far as NFC’s potential to drive efficiency, transparency and security. By 2024, NFC will be accomplishing things we haven’t even dreamt of yet.

To get an idea for where NFC is today — and understand its limitless potential for unlocking value tomorrow — we narrow in on an innovative technology developed for the hospitality industry.

The problem: Unsafe employee conditions

Service employees, and especially those in the hospitality industry, make up a startlingly high percentage of all sexual harassment victims, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. To combat this problem, cities across the country are putting ordinances in place requiring hotels to take certain safety measures.

Einar Rosenberg, Creative Innovation Officer (CIO) of Creating Revolutions – an NFC Forum 2018 Innovation Award Finalist — , saw glaring problems with the predominant technology hotels are using to comply — panic buttons.

Panic buttons don’t account for variety of ways people react to emergencies. Some will be ready to take action, pressing the button and calling for help. But many victims report experiencing complete paralysis during an attack. Relying on panic buttons alone would leave many service workers defenseless in a real emergency.

A safer, smarter employee security solution

As an alternative, Rosenberg developed a patented NFC-enabled employee system, which sends security a location-based alert — whether or not the employee is able to reach out themselves.

How the NFC-enabled employee safety system works

Before entering a room, the housekeeper touches their Employee Mobile Unit (EMU) to an NFC disc on the outside of the door. This automatically starts a timer, giving the housekeeper time (usually two minutes) to sweep the room. Only when they deem the room safe will they touch their EMU to a second NFC strip at the back of the room, stopping the timer.

If the timer goes off without the employee touching the second NFC disc, security is alerted with the location of the room and a separate countdown is initiated for them. If security doesn’t respond to the alarm, touching that same NFC disc, within the specified amount of time (usually about 5 or 10 minutes), management is notified.

If the room is safe, the employee touches the second NFC disc and cleans the room as planned. While cleaning the room, the housekeeper can shout for help in Spanish or English or touch a button on the EMU to alert the security team of their location.

When they’re finished, they touch their EMU device to a third disc on the inside of the door as they exit the room, signaling to management that it’s ready for guests.

In this way, the security system keeps employees safe and security accountable for responding quickly. As an added benefit, management gets real-time visibility into employee efficiency and room availability.

Collaborating with a label converter to develop a full-scale employee security system

To develop this intuitive technology, Creating Revolutions patented the core concepts of the system and partnered with Resource Label Group to bring it to life, manufacturing and encoding the physical NFC discs.

Creating Revolutions required three key customizations for the NFC discs, which other providers were unable to provide:

  1. That each of the discs (3 per room, hundreds per hotel) match the surface they’ll adhere to perfect — rendering them invisible to the guests.
  2. That each disc be uniquely encoded with their proprietary software before being delivered from the label converter’s facility.
  3. That the NFC discs be delivered in a format that makes installation foolproof for the hotel staff.

To the first point, Creating Revolutions provided the color or pattern required for each disc in each room, which Resource Label replicated when manufacturing the discs. Resource Label was also able to replicate the software on their end, automating the entire encoding process. Each order that left their facility was pre-encoded with the proper information to make the system run seamlessly.

For the last customization, Resource Label compiled all three NFC discs for a room onto one strip, which was labeled with the name of the room (“Room 117”, “Presidential Suite”, etc.) they were to be installed in. If a hotel had 137 rooms, 137 clearly marked strips were delivered. This innovative format allows hotel staff to install the NFC discs for each room in 60 seconds or less, with little margin for error.

Beyond employee safety

Although this technology is making huge waves in the hospitality community, it’s hardly limited to employee safety applications.

NFC technology transforms any surface into a “smart” surface — and has the power to drive efficiency and accountability in any application where there are customers, staff and a physical location.

Consider a restaurant with NFC-enabled tables, where a patron could tap their phone to an NFC disc to summon their waiter. Or a big box retail store, where you could touch your phone to an NFC sensor to ask a product-specific question to an employee who’s specialized in that department. Or to order a mojito at a pool.

And those examples are just what Creating Revolutions is already working on — there are applications for NFC that no one’s even thought of yet.

“If you start working with NFC today, you have a unique advantage,” Nick Testanero, President of Smart Products at Resource Label Group, says. “The learning curve on the manufacturing side is all behind us, and almost anything is possible. Digital extended content, authenticity for high-value goods, social engagement, employee safety — anything.”

Watch this video to learn more about NFC: