Thursday, October 16, 2008

RFID Questions with Randy Josselyn of Disneyland Resort

As the industry continues to find ways to serve its customers better every year, a common denominator is technology. One of the hot buttons over the past several years has been RF or RFID (radio frequency) technology, which can be applied to a variety of operational functions in the attractions industry, including point of sale, ticketing, and more.

Randy Josselyn of Disneyland Resort describes how the technology is being used, what it does, and how it works in the attractions industry.

FUNWORLD: What are some of the main RFID applications you see most frequently at parks?
Randy Josselyn: For the most part, RFID is being applied as a cashless spending module, allowing guests the convenience of stowing away their personal affects. This is especially true in the waterpark environment, where valuables and wallets are stowed away in lockers.

RFID is also being utilized for ticketless access control. As more and more facilities begin installing “smart” turnstiles, we are seeing an increase of ticketless alternatives. Facial recognition, biometric scans, and RFID are just a few of the popular alternatives to traditional bar-coded tickets. Lockers, vending machines, photo stations, and self-service kiosks can all be configured to accept RFID devices.

The versatility of RFID allows the guest experience to be significantly enhanced, providing an all-in-one solution. The cashless payment solution can be linked to the ticketless RFID device, along with hotel room access, lockers, guest demographics, and even a guest’s personal preferences.

RFID is also being employed at many locations for guest tracking and child locating. Using an external interface, parents, children, and groups can locate the members of their party via kiosks or handheld devices.

FW: There’s a feeling this is an expensive thing to bring into the park. Is that true?
RJ: RFID readers and RFID tags are expensive, but they have seen significant price drops in the past five years. As credit card companies adopt more and more RFID functionality, more RFID enabled terminals have appeared on the market. Reusable RFID wristbands have become more prevalent as well as the less expensive one-time-use RFID wristbands. RFID tags can also be installed into wristwatches, merchandise, and ID cards.

FW: Are there ways to make it more affordable, such as working with a vendor who does a revenue share but maintains the equipment and technology?
RJ: Many vendors are offering revenue share solutions.

FW: What is the most popular mode of RF?
RJ: RF surrounds us on a daily basis. Nearly every department store uses RF devices for inventory tracking and product security. These tags can be found on product boxes, apparel tags, or even in the products themselves. Companies rely on RFID for access control and security on property while toll roads employ the technology for cashless payment at toll booths. At amusement parks, although still relatively new (five or six years), RFID seems to be utilize mainly for access control and cashless payments.

FW: Why is it efficient for parks?

RJ: RFID could allow facilities to reduce labor with self-service RFID access control, while increasing revenues by encouraging quick purchasing without the need of a wallet. As more and more guests migrate to non-cash electronic payments, management can see significant decreases in the costs related to cash management (hourly labor during cashout procedures, change orders, etc.). This comes at a price as most cashless spending scenarios are linked to credit cards which incur a transaction fee.

FW: Why do guests like it?

RJ: Besides being new and exciting, the ability to link all of your purchases to your hotel room or to a single folio allows for less time spent gathering your money to make purchases and more time enjoying your family. Guests have also enjoyed the peace of mind experienced by utilizing RFID guest tracking at amusement parks. Personally, I am looking forward to the ability to have photos of my family taken while I am enjoying my day and associated to my RFID account—that technology is just starting to reveal itself at a handful of amusement parks worldwide.

FW: When parks implement a new technology, how can they curtail any confusion guests might have about how to use it, what it does, and the cost to them?
RJ: Educating guests on any new technology can be difficult, and RFID is no exception. Many guests experience anxiety over what information is actually contained on the RFID device, and they worry about potential security risks associated with using the RF device at your facility. Allowing guests the option to not use the RFID device or to provide an alternative is always a good idea. Likewise, incentivizing the RFID utilization can promote the use of the RFID device and remove some of the barriers associated with trying something new.

Most facilities incorporate instructional videos detailing how their experience can be enhanced by opting for the RFID. These videos are commonplace in the admission queues and registration areas.

Don't forget the RFID vendor floor tour at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, Thursday, Nov. 20, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

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