Being a sports fan, I find myself going from one end of the pendulum to the other as far as being totally enamored with my team, to giving up hope and not wanting to hear their name until the next season. But, I will admit I could never change allegiances, no matter how disillusioned I may feel at certain times.
Even though season tickets and attending sporting events are probably the last thing people would give up in an economy when tightening belts is a way of life, team franchises must still recognize that times are tough and tickets and concessions aren’t cheap. They need to figure out ways to keep fans coming back, especially if they’re not winning.
Having exhibited technology savvy in the past, the Tampa Bay Lightning has recognized the business benefits of RFID. They have embedded RFID tags in about 10,000 season ticket holder jerseys. Why? To help drive ticket sales and team loyalty.
Season ticket holders will each receive the new team jersey with an RFID tag embedded into it. As the tags are scanned by one of the 250 readers installed into the Quest terminals throughout the arena, at concession stands, and in the retail stores and kiosks, they are offered discounts on food, beverages and team merchandise. And if you’re watching the game on TV, you can bet you’ll see a lot more Lightning jerseys in the crowd. Since embarking on this latest project, the Lightning franchise has seen a noticible increase in demand for season tickets.
We’ve seen this before. In a previous blog post, we experimented with RFID and social networks to build brand loyalty. The results showed so much promise that we feel this combination will soon take off in business. The Boston Celtics have recently used social media to convert Facebook fans into ticket holders. Mark my words, it won’t be long before the Celts see the promise of RFID with social networking to boost ticket sales.
For insight into how others are using RFID to build brand loyalty, download our case study: Building Brand Loyalty and Reach through RFID and Social Media.
If there is one thing we know about RFID, it’s that if there is one way to use it within a market or market segment, there are 100 ways. Using RFID to modernize or improve laundry management is no different. RFID–enabled laundry applications are being used in hotels, casinos, government offices, hospitals, schools, professional sports, and basically any institution that deals in employee uniforms, garments and linens.
The benefits of implementing an RFID-enabled laundry system range from streamlining processes to eliminating inventory errors, decreasing manual labor, and even reducing the spreading of disease. More advanced business objectives can include improved energy and water efficiency. All of these benefits have a direct, positive impact the bottom line, which is often the case with enabling a process with RFID.
However, it’s not just the use of RFID in general that improves laundry management. It’s very specific capabilities that have been designed into in RFID tags and readers, and the manner in which they operate with one another that make this use of RFID truly innovative.
The RFID tags used in laundry management need to be able to withstand water immersion, extreme heat, pressure and chemicals. On the flip side, RFID readers need to be able to read tags simultaneously for clothing or other items that may be stacked or in piles. As the technology has evolved, UHF RFID solutions are beginning to replace other RF and proprietary technologies in this space (we are also seeing the same thing in waste management, tolling, access control, and other markets and applications). UHF has proved to be ideal for laundry management because, not only can it be used to identify and locate hundreds of items per second, but it also has the added benefit of reading items from greater distances.
For organizations that need to track their garment inventory in large batches, UHF technology allows them to eliminate the less efficient practice of single-piece barcode or proprietary tag scans. Further, they can eliminate or reduce the number of expensive, dedicated read stations which can lead to added time-saving and cost reduction benefits.
Now, take into consideration that many business don’t have a laundry facility on-site. In these cases, the laundry is shipped elsewhere to be cleaned and sorted, making the management piece a little more challenging. If the laundry is done off-site, the implementation of RFID portals and use of tag directionality features can play a big role. It can be used to tell if the items are leaving or arriving for better inventory precision. Points of loss can be identified so that any necessary corrections can be made to prevent similar situations in the future.
Share your experiences or thoughts on the use of RFID for laundry management. We’re eager to hear them!
Taking Luxury Guest Rooms to the Next Level
Some of you may have had the pleasant experience of getting to your hotel room and finding a chilled bottle of champagne with a card wishing you a Happy Anniversary or Congratulations on Your Nuptials from “the management.” It’s a simple gesture that goes a long way, just because they were paying attention in Reservations and knew how to share the right information with the right people.
If we can get excited about something like that, imagine how happy and loyal guests would be if hotel management knew we wanted to sign up for the first tee time, or wanted the coveted 8:00 pm dinner reservation, or desperately wanted the maid to stay away until noon. Sign me up, right? So what are we waiting for?
Hint: The enabling solution would also eliminate the demagnetization problem with swiped key cards.
The answer: An RFID guest room locking system which eliminates the need to swipe, but even better, enables a deeper level of personalization for the guests.
ARIA at CityCenter was one of the first Las Vegas resorts to install an RFID guest room locking system. With KABA Saflok Messenger, the hotel door lock system can be put on the network which allows ARIA staff to interact with rooms in such a way that makes the guests' visit more personable, and therefore more pleasurable.
The RFID technology lets the guests unlock the door by flashing their key over a lock reader. No swiping involved. The Saflok RFID system communicates with a wireless network of technologies in the guest rooms. Control4 Corporation was brought in to help enhance the guest experience. For example, when a guest opens the door for the first time, Saflok sends a message via a Zigbee mesh wireless network to the Control4 in-room controller, which activates a 'welcome theme.' The welcome theme prompts certain activities, curtains parting to showcase the view and the TV displaying controls for guests to personalize, that best serve newly arriving guests. From there, more personalized services await for the remainder of their stay.
The bonus is that an RFID key cannot be demagnetized by cell phones or other similar devices which has been quite problematic across the hotel industry. And as with most RFID applications, this one also comes with added operational efficiencies. Fewer moving lock parts and automatically monitored batteries reduce maintenance. And since CityCenter's guest rooms and RFID door locks are integrated with the network, guests can change rooms without needing to make changes to their key. How’s that for modern convenience?
Serving Up Soft Drinks, Freestyle
In this week’s posts we’ve covered a variety of topics related to the application of RFID in the beverage market, including beverage supply chain optimization, product authentication, inventory management and patron identification, but there’s more. Coca-Cola recently began testing a new drink dispenser called Coca-Cola Freestyle™ that they hope will reinvent the market. This may be one of the most innovative uses of RFID and other technologies that the beverage market has seen in a while.
Innovation - Freestyle
If microdispensing and PurePour aren’t terms you are familiar with now, they will be soon. These are but just a couple of the new technologies used in the Coca Cola Freestyle – a drink dispenser that also includes a curved metal enclosure created by the designers of Ferrari race cars and the latest in touch-screen menu technology.
Using technologies similar to those used to deliver precise doses of drugs, a single Coca Cola Freestyle can dispense over 100 different beverages. Through this microdosing process, drink ingredients are blended with water and sweetener and then dispensed from the machine. Taking innovation a step further, the 30+ 46 ounce flavor cartridges in each Freestyle machine are RFID enabled, allowing Freestyle to detect its supply levels and transmit data back to Coca-Cola and the dispenser owner for re-stocking, and to report which brands of drinks are being consumed and when.
With 1.6 billion servings of Coke sold worldwide every day, one of the most interesting aspects of this system is the massive amount of real-time data it will be providing to Coca-Cola to help assess consumption trends and to improve test marketing activities. For a view of what a dispenser analytics dashboard might look like, check out these images from SmartData Collective.
The way that beverage manufacturers and retailers are connecting with their customers is also changing. High-cost broadcast and print advertising is giving way to social networks and other methods of permission marketing to extend reach and deliver personalized messaging.
As mentioned in our post RFID and Social Networks, Coca-Cola and handful of companies including Facebook, recently teamed to host an event that leveraged RFID to bring the digital ‘Like’ to the physical world. With over 500 million active users on Facebook and nearly 11 million who “Like’ Coke’s Facebook business page, a new way for brand owners like Coke to market to their customers is beginning to rapidly emerge. Will a combination of RFID enabled displays, wristbands like those used at the Coca-Cola Village, and mobile devices help retailers, restaurants, theme parks, museums, and even brand owners, take “Like’ marketing beyond its virtual confines even further to the physical world?
Coke also has a Freestyle Facebook page that lists its test locations, drink flavors, and, of course, Wall comments from many satisfied customers. This page also has many requests for Freestyle to be sent to "my" location - building awareness and demand from its virtual community of 'Friends'. Described by Coke:
It's the ultimate beverage experience.
It's about choice.
It's the perfect pour.
It's 106 brands in one special place just for you.
Combating Underage Drinking and Improving Sales with Patron ID and Point-of-Sale Wristbands
The days of recreating the background of a state driver’s license in your garage, taking a cheesy picture of yourself in front of it, slipping it into generic plastic enclosure, and sealing it with your mom’s iron are over. Now I’m not saying that I ever did that, but I’m sure others tried and were successful in passing off a fake ID to go somewhere or do something they weren’t old enough to do.
Regardless of the method used to produce them, trying to enter a bar or purchase alcohol are probably some of the most common uses of fake IDs. The debate over the legal drinking age has gone on for years. Regardless of the position that you take, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages must comply with the law or face stiff penalties. Making compliance difficult, some young people are willing to take the risk of using a fake ID despite the consequences - including driver’s license suspension, fines, and higher car insurance rates. As a result, simply checking a person’s ID to provide access to a bar or an event where alcohol is being served is sometimes not enough.
RFID Wristbands for Patron Identification
With over 50 years of experience developing wristband ID systems and nearly a decade deploying RFID systems, California based Precision Dynamics helps event organizers and venue owners take ID checking to the next level. For positive age identification and verification, the Precision Dymamics AgeBand® system scans the magnetic stripe or 2-dimensional bar code of an individual’s credentials (typically a driver’s license or other ID card) and prints their name and other pertinent information on a non-transferable RFID-enabled wristband. If they are 21 years of age or older, the system also prints “Age ID Verified 21” on the wristband. In addition to confirming the age data on a person’s credentials and providing visible verification for venues that serve alcohol, use of the AgeBand system provides a technology advantage over mean looking bouncers – often scaring away those using fake IDs before they try to enter an event.
In addition to being used to verify patron ages, AgeBands are made of thermal material to support point of sale applications. When used in conjunction with a specialized kiosk, the system allows patrons to load cash credit onto their RFID wristbands to support instant, automated purchases at concession stands and other retail areas.
If it’s a safe event environment and increased sales that you are after, you may want to check out Precision Dynamics SuperFest case study. The write-up details how the system helped increase throughput at concession stands, reduce long lines, and allowed the venue to replace expensive stand-alone POS units – resulting in a 15% increase in revenues.
We welcome your comments below.
Beverage Dispensing – Managing the Perfect Pour
Historical records track the consumption of beer and wine back 5,000 years. Liquor distillation began about 2,000 years ago and today, liquor is one of the world’s most traded commodities. Central to the liquor industry are the millions of bars and restaurants that serve millions of liters of drinks each day
Key to the successful management of a bar or restaurant is being able to measure its liquor pour cost - the bar’s cost of goods sold as a percentage of total sales. For those keeping score, if a bar of restaurant has a drink product that cost $2, and sells it for $10, then the pour cost is 20%. In order to calculate an accurate pour cost and determine how to factor it into their overall profitability measures, restaurant and bar owners need to contend with inventory shrinkage, which is a big problem in this massive service industry. More specifically, bar operations often lose profits due to careless draft beer pouring by bartenders (the horror - around 10-15% of tap beer goes straight down the drain in most pubs), over-pouring liquor shots, and product theft. In fact, industry research reports that the average bar can be losing more than 25 percent of their liquor, wine and beer profits through inventory mismanagement.
Gordon's, Vodka, Kina Lillet. Add RFID. Shaken, Not Stirred.
It may seem a little like an 007 gadget from the Q Branch, but, believe it or not, RFID is being integrated into liquor pour systems to help establishments measure every milliliter of alcohol poured to customers.
LasVegas.Net Liquor Inventory System, for example, offers replacement RFID pour spouts, active antennas, and browser based software that allows bar and restaurant owners and managers to record and review drink pour data – down to the last drop. With this system an RFID Spout is assigned to each bottle in the bar and every drink dispensed is automatically tracked in real-time. The Liquorinventory.Net System can generate customized real-time reporting, giving bar owners a detailed view into their establishment's liquor usage to help determine open stock inventory, bartender over/under pours, employee theft, and resolve differences between reported dispensed volume and point of sale records.
Similarly, Northern California based Capton, a leading developer of RFID-based business control solutions for the hospitality market, offers a solution called Beverage Tracker. Beverage Tracker utilize patented RFID-enabled pour spouts that monitor liquor use and wirelessly transmit information on every ounce that is free poured. In a recently published case study, Caption details how the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island in San Diego, CA produced an immediate 3.6 point drop in liquor costs by using Beverage Tracker – an improvement that paid for the system in only 3 months.
The first cocktail party ever thrown was by Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1917. 50 guests were invited to the Walsh mansion at noon on a Sunday for a one hour pre-lunch party. Surely times were different and RFID-enabled pour spouts were not a topic of conversation at the Walsh house. But the next time you are out enjoying your favorite cocktail, take a look at the pour spout of the liquor bottle at the bar. Is RFID is helping manage the perfect pour?
Giving new meaning to the ‘eye in the sky’
Remember the movie Rain Man when Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant, used his keen photographic memory to count cards to win at Black Jack? In real-life counting cards a strategy that casinos deal with as part of the business. Although, lucky for them, not many people have such an ability; and using devices to count cards is illegal. Yet they still must enforce the law and protect themselves by watching players very closely.
Casinos also face another challenge every day. It’s the poker chips. Even if you aren’t a gambler, you probably know that players accumulate chips (if they’re lucky) representing their winnings, which eventually turn into money in their hands. The chips themselves don’t pose the challenge. They have a little help. Players have tried to come up with ways to win big by using the chips in a way not intended by the casino. If you guessed counterfeiting and smuggling, you’re a winner!
In a previous blog post we saw how the horticulture industry hopes to put an end to counterfeit containers with RFID. Casinos are using RFID for very similar reasons. By using an RFID-based tracking system, casinos can verify the authenticity and value of each chip in seconds. In turn they can put an end to counterfeit chips and staff pilferage, as well as honest errors in cashier counts. This technology enables casinos to track each chip throughout the casino. Specialized readers and software lets the casinos monitor and collect information on payments, fills and credits, table drops, tips, and win and losses per table.
One such solution is provided by Gaming Partners International Corporation which has provided more than 70,000 casino chips and plaques to the Viage entertainment and gaming complex grand opening earlier this year. The chips and plaques, which are from the Company's Bourgogne & Grasset line of casino currency products, were fitted with 125 KHz RFID micro chips.
Aside from keeping an eye on counterfeiters and smugglers, RFID-enabled processes can help increase the speed of various casino actions. As reported by RFIDNews, at The Global Gaming Expo Asia in June, GPI introduced its new RFIDPoker application, which automates continuous readings of the poker pots, charges and rakes. With this type of system, casinos can obtain data and statistics to analyze table and game performances, round-ups lists, and daily totals. Also by GPI, an RFID Cage application serves as countertop reader that works in three dimensions so cage operators can read chips whether they are in stacks, in chip racks or in a pile. Now that’s cool.
So when that player tries to make a look-alike chip to double his money, or when that cashier thinks about taking a few loose chips home, they should remember that the eye in the sky has a new friend and its name is RFID.
Creating Interactive and Personalized Customer Experiences
In ancient Greece, a stranger passing outside a house would be invited inside by the family. The host would wash the stranger's feet, offer him or her food and wine, and only after the guest was comfortable would the host ask their name. While today’s greeting practices have changed, this early relationship between host and guest is an example of the lengths we can go to in order to make one comfortable in an unfamiliar environment and deliver a personalized experience.
Today, a several billion dollar industry exists to provide comfort and personalized experiences to guests as they travel the world. Organizations in this industry provide services to guests and visitors of hotels, casinos, resorts, membership-based clubs, conventions, attractions, and a wide variety of special events.
Much like the reach of the ‘supply chain’ into and across all areas of global commerce, defining the hospitality market and identifying all of the areas that technologies like RFID can impact it can be a challenge. Many groups provide valuable services to the industry including facility maintenance, operations, management, marketing, and human resources, among others. Regardless of the segment of the hospitality industry one is in however, superior service and operational excellence are what drive success. It is no coincidence that these are two areas that are being revolutionized by RFID.
Over the past several years, RFID has found its way into existing operations within this market, offering a new level of automation. Today, RFID-enabled solutions are available to automate access control, track assets, and manage staff. The potential for RFID however, reaches far beyond these applications, enabling solutions where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears into its environment. Emerging applications where users and consumers can naturally interact with RFID are allowing solution providers to the hospitality industry deliver guests and event attendees with customized, real-time, interactive, and experiences that are tailored to match their personal preferences.
ThingMagic is working with several partners in this space whose innovative solutions are designed to deliver personalized experiences. Following on the heels of the 2010 British Open, the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf, the examples below highlight how RFID is being used to create a VIP experience for participants at high-profile golf events.
Stratum Global, a Chicago-based software solutions company lives by the motto “Start Small, Think Big”. Stratum Global put this approach to work in their delivery of a solution for one of the nation’s premier country clubs located in the hills of beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Based on Stratum Global’s TagNet RFID suite, the solution was implemented to provide security at the two main gates to the facility as well as provide notification to Club staff when a Member has arrived on property. RFID tags were applied to each of the Member's vehicles and are read as the vehicle enters. Security gates are managed as well as Portal Event Viewers being strategically located throughout the property (Valet Parking, Golf Bag drop) to identify Members to staff.
What's next for TagNet at this Club? The Golf Bag Room, Catering & Event Management and tracking priceless assets around the facility. Each of these applications are designed to enhance member experience and automate processes in ways that could not be done economically or aesthetically without RFIDS.
NooliTIC is an information and communication technology engineering company based in France. NooliTIC solutions address many of the historical issues resulting from manual event management processes including long lines, frustrated customers, and gaps in security. By adding a passive RFID tag to each customer’s ID badge and strategically deploying RFID readers, restricted areas can be easily monitored without interrupting the flow of foot traffic. Data about event guest & VIP traffic is also gathered by the NooliTIC system, allowing event managers to determine how to improve future events by downsizing less crowded attractions and increasing staff availability for the more popular ones.
Please share your experiences with RFID-enabled hospitality solutions. What would you like these solutions to offer that they currently do not? What do you think the next innovation in RFID-based hospitality solutions will be?