Web Exclusive - September 2012
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Smart Technology

By Deborah L. Vence

They're convenient. They save time. And, they make going to waterparks and amusement parks all the more enjoyable. They are RFID wristbands.

In fact, Hersheypark amusement park in Hershey, Pa., implemented Smart Band RFID (radio frequency identification) Wristbands in May of this year to improve customer convenience and satisfaction, as well as boost profits at the park.

"The whole thing is about customer service and guest convenience. That's the whole reason they went down that road," said Greg Cetera, regional sales manager, Precision Dynamics Corp., RFID Solutions Group, based in San Fernando, Calif., the company that provided the RFID wristbands.

Last year, Hersheypark conducted a successful trial of the [Agilysys] cashless point-of-sale (POS) system using RFID wristbands. The waterproof wristbands are used to make park purchases, check balances and load additional funds at any of the park's 200 RFID-enabled POS stations.

Hersheypark's cashless POS system also is an expansion to its use of RFID technology. Four years ago, the amusement park implemented RFID-enabled lockers, which guests access using RFID wristbands.

How it works: The Smart Band is a nontransferable wristband with a securely sealed RFID tag inside to store and transfer data. The data is accessed by RFID systems, such as RFID Smart Readers and the PDC Smart Kiosk.

When an RFID system is installed, the RFID reader with a USB port gets connected to the POS system at each terminal.

As a result, "Guests can go up to customer service windows, purchase a wristband and load value onto it. They can load $50 or $100 onto it. And, at that point, they put belongings in a locker and enjoy the waterpark," Cetera explained.

The advantage of using such a wristband is that when people keep belongings locked up in a locker, they can get a beverage or food without having to worry about carrying a bag or losing their belongings. And, after the cashier rings up the purchase, you can tap the wristband on the reader and check to make sure the money is in the account, all while updating the new total. The customer receives a paper receipt that also includes the remaining balance.

The RFID reader is positioned in front of the cash register, where patrons can hold up their wrist. The reader, which has a range of no more than 2 inches, then reads the wristband.

"You have to place the wristband with close proximity with a tap-and-go approach," Cetera said. "It's as simple as that, as simple as swiping a credit card."

When it comes to choosing a wristband color, PDC has a list of choices, but made a custom color especially for Hersheypark—chocolate brown, which goes in line with the Hersheypark logo in the middle. (Note: Hershey, Pa., is the headquarters location of The Hershey Company.) Cetera noted that the wristbands can have a custom color made. Chocolate brown is a color they had never used before, for example.

To boot, not only are the 11-inch-long wristbands adjustable, they also are free (the park absorbs the cost), and disposable.

"These are disposable. They're not to be worn more than once," he said. "The whole goal of the program is to give the customer a better customer service experience, a quicker process.

"[This is about] guest convenience; not having to get out of a line or go back to the locker, specifically, and taking time away from enjoying the amenities," he said. "[You don't have to] get your wallet, get your drink and lock your wallet back up. You are saving time and allowing more time for enjoying the amenities. Spending goes up for convenience.

"Guests love it," Cetera added. "It's very user-friendly."

They are user-friendly in other areas as well, such as keyless hotel room and locker entry, access control and security, counterfeit prevention, and customer loyalty and VIP programs.

Hotel guests, for example, can wear an RFID wristband that acts as an electronic room key. So, they don't have to worry about misplacing or losing a key.

"You can open up hotel door locks [using the wristband technology]. There are so many more applications," he said. "It's an evolving technology."