2013
05.30

What’s on your agenda this summer: concerts, theme parks, festivals, cruises? With vacation season just around the corner, many people are planning weekend festivities and I am excited to say many of the venues are taking the guest experience to a whole new level—and at just the right time too.

At the center of this movement toward “smart customer service” is M2M, RFID (radio-frequency identification), NFC (near-field communication), and other connected technologies.

I believe a big driving factor for incorporating M2M into attractions is the safety aspect. For example, on a cruise ship, the combination of RFID, facial recognition, and handheld wireless devices can improve emergency response, food safety, point-of-sale transactions, and passenger service. Another case can be made for the use of RFID-enabled wristbands at theme parks for safety in case a child gets lost or separated from a parent.

However, looking beyond some of the obvious safety and emergency-response perks, another big factor driving M2M and RFID at the theme part is the ability for one attraction to separate itself from the next, providing an improved guest experience. At many theme parks, wristbands with embedded RFID already allow guests to queue for a ride without having to actually wait in a line, while also allowing for purchases without needing to carry a wallet.

Many attractions have dabbled with RFID or similar technologies to create a more personalized and interactive experience for guests. Legoland, www.legoland.com, Dollywood, www.dollywood.com, Barbie’s Dreamhouse, www.barbiedreamhouse.com, the Royal Caribbean Oasis, www.royalcaribbean.com, and South by Southwest, www.sxsw.com, are just a handful of instances. But none are gaining quite as much attention as Walt Disney, www.disney.com, and its MagicBand technology, announced earlier this year.

The MagicBand is part of MyMagic+, which uses different methods to connect all aspects of the guest experience. The MagicBand, which is worn on the wrist, allows guests to enter their resort room, buy food and merchandise, and enter theme parks and water parks. Additionally, the band provides FastPass+ access and serves as the connection to Disney’s PhotoPass. Initially, the band will be available only to select guests.

Right out of the gate, the technology is being met with opposition, particularly with concerns arising that the device could target and track young children. But parents don’t need to worry. Disney says the band does not store any personal information, but rather contains a code that securely links to an encrypted database that associates the band with the benefits a guest has purchased. Additionally, theme-park attendees opt in, meaning guests can choose if they would like to participate or not.

In addition to providing guests with a better overall experience, Disney can also improve flow, security, and other operational aspects, while reducing wait lines at rides, which will also improve the customer experience.

Here’s the rub: Disney is receiving a lot of attention—although it isn’t the first, and it certainly isn’t the only, amusement park making such moves. Just this week, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, www.dorneypark.com, announced a new FastPay system that will allow guests to load funds on a wristband for cashless payments. Once money is linked to the wristband, customers can make purchases at gift shops, restaurants, and food carts—all without needing to carry a wallet.

Based on recent announcements and conversations with industry experts, I foresee this move toward smart customer service growing exponentially, as the entertainment and attractions industry looks to provide a higher level of service to guests. What are your thoughts? Would you use an RFID-enabled bracelet to make payments and queue for lines at amusement parks?

Interested in learning more about M2M, RFID, and other connected devices? Don’t miss this year’s Connected World Conference, June 10-13, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M #RFID

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