Sports & Entertainment – The Next Market to Drive RFID Adoption?

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, May 31, 2012 @ 12:12 PM

Tags: RFID, Sports & Entertainment, Access Control, Attendance Management

Nats TixNot too long ago we blogged about the Tampa Bay Lightning embedding RFID tags in the jerseys worn by season ticket holders. The strategy was to encourage repeat customers and increase sales and revenue. Could the Sports & Entertainment market be the next major adopter of RFID? It seems as though the idea of using technology to build brand loyalty in this segment is catching on.

The Washington Nationals have also embarked on an RFID-fueled rewards program that links ticketing, concessions, merchandise and parking to keep their fans coming back and spending money.

At Nationals Park RFID readers have been installed at the front gate, as well as at refreshment stands and merchandise shops. With RFID-enabled turnstiles, fans required an average of less than three seconds to enter the park as opposed to almost 10 seconds when tickets were manually scanned. And, if a fan has earned enough points to merit a freebee such as a hot dog, t-shirt, or even a game ticket, he will receive a text message or an e-mail indicating as such, if he has opted into the program.

However, brand loyalty isn’t the only business benefit that will drive RFID adoption in the sports and entertainment market. Anyone who has ever tried to buy tickets to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game knows that those tickets are in such high demand, they usually sell out as soon as they go on sale. If you were at Ray Bourque’s last game in Boston in a Bruins uniform, you’d recall there was not an empty seat in the house, or in the aisle for that matter. It makes sense that franchises would want to capitalize on those peak demand situations.

Enter dynamic pricing. The concept has been around for a while, but it has only just recently taken off in sports. With dynamic pricing, not only can the franchise profit more from the games everyone wants to attend, they can appropriately value tickets for the games that aren’t as popular. For example if the weather is bad or if there is another major event happening at the same time, the tickets can be priced accordingly and both the fans and the franchise are happy. 

According to a Forbes story, “Ticket pricing technologies have advanced to the point where it has become logistically more efficient to implement dynamic pricing in sports.” The article doesn’t specifically mention RFID, but based on what we’ve seen with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Nationals, RFID could assist with dynamic pricing adoption because of the customer identification and direct messaging it could help facilitate.

Qcue, the company that develops software for dynamic pricing, has seen clients increase revenue by an average of about 30% in high demand situations and approximately 5-10% in low demand situations. It would be interesting to see how much the profit margins could increase by integrating with an RFID solution.

RFID Keeping Tabs on the Largest Supply Chain in the World

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, May 24, 2012 @ 11:10 AM

Tags: RFID, Supply Chain, DoD, IT Asset Tracking

DoDThe United States Department of Defense (DoD) has used RFID in its supply chain for almost 30 years. Long before that, during World War II, the US Army kept track of equipment using IBM punch cards and electric accounting machines. After the benefits of RFID were quickly discovered and used for other types of applications, in 2005 the DoD mandated that its suppliers had to mark each item sold to the department with a passive RFID tag.

Lack of item-level visibility in the supply chain posed problems for the DoD, leading the department to develop a Radio Frequency In-Transit Visibility (RF-ITV) network to track container shipments. Because of the success and return on investment with that deployment, the DoD looked at other ways it could leverage RFID in its supply chain.

The DoD’s latest project is to use both active and passive RFID to track equipment that comes out of Iraq, sent to certain locations to be rebuilt, and then shipped to Afghanistan where it will be put to use once more. Much like the Commander in Chief has advance men, DoD personnel have advance information on equipment. According to an RFID Journal story, the visibility helps streamline the process for receiving the supplies and equipment and planning for the rebuilding work.

The advance information – or visibility into the supply chain – helps government employees know what supplies are needed so they can place the right orders at the right time. Equipment coming out of Iraq destined for Afghanistan can be scheduled for necessary repairs with far more efficiency. That could mean soldiers getting bullet proof vests faster, or driving armored vehicles in better condition.

RFID could have potentially helped account for the equipment and supplies that were purchased with the hundreds of billions of dollars approved by Congress to support the war in Iraq in 2007. I understand that it is a huge sum of money to trace compounded by the fact that it’s the world’s largest supply chain. However, we should try to learn from that experience and look for other ways that RFID can help with accountability in government. One idea comes to mind.  

It was recently reported that Teri Takai, the DoD Chief Information Officer, talked about an active effort to assess risk in the government’s supply chain in the midst of Cyber attacks that have plagued the nation. The effort would entail having better security for computer hardware and software, and having visibility into everyone who has access to the network, and knowing what information they access. I think we’ve identified RFID’s next government job.

RFID Garment Tracking at Disney

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, May 07, 2012 @ 10:09 AM

Tags: Garment Tracking, RFID, Inventory Management, RFID Kiosk, Laundry Management

I could write a flowery post about this deployment of ThingMagic RFID readers, but I think it would be more compelling if I just stick to the facts.  If you have a large inventory of garments that you need to track, take a look at the following ROI case and then contact us to discuss how RFID can help save you time and money.

  • Disney is using UHF RFID to track $100 million worth of costumes.
  • The solution has saved the company more than a million dollars.
  • Inventory counting times have been reduced from approximately 180 labor hours (within larger costume storage areas) to about two hours.
  • The system has increased the accuracy of inventory checks, from 85 to 90 percent accurate to nearly 100 percent.
  • The need to staff checkout counters has been eliminated, freeing up personnel for other tasks.

This is how it works. A Disney cast member walks through rows of costumes at one of the 25 storage areas. She selects her costume garments and proceeds to a kiosk with an integrated ThingMagic RFID reader. The cast member swipes her ID badge through a bar-code reader at the kiosk, where her face and name are displayed on a video screen. The RFID reader captures the garments’ tag IDs and feeds that information to the Disney garment management software. Voila. Cinderella is off to greet her fans without a moment’s delay.

When the cast member is done for the day, she puts her costume into a laundry chute where another ThingMagic RFID reader captures the tag IDs. The status of the garments is updated, noting when they enter and exit the laundry area. This same process works with uniforms for band members, wait staff, and… well, you get the picture.

Disney Soution

Disney also uses RFID-enabled inventory cycle count carts to expedite inventory counts in their costume storage areas.  What previously involved 15 to 20 employees manually scanning barcodes for nine to twelve hours can now be completed by one or two workers in about one hour.

The solution paid for itself in less than a year.

(Image source: RFID Journal RFID Helps Disney Employees Get Into Character)

Reducing Food Waste with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, May 03, 2012 @ 10:43 AM

Tags: RFID, Food & Beverage, Waste Management

Save FoodYou could feed a small country with the food you threw away! How many of you heard that growing up from your parents? Well, maybe they were onto something.

The cost of food these days makes it much more difficult for many to buy lunch at work when they have cold cuts, lettuce and tomatoes at home that will go bad if not used to make a sandwich. When going out to eat, we can justify the large portions by knowing we can take a doggie bag home, but half the time it gets forgotten in the restaurant or brought home and tossed in the trash after a few days.

South Korea may have found the next best thing; deterring people from wasting food. An RFID-based system charges people for the food they throw away.

As reported by Earth911.com, SK Telecom has developed bins that will weigh food that is thrown out. Using RFID, the bins will calculate a disposal fee based on the exact weight, which will then be debited from the person’s public transportation card or billed to a credit card.

It works in much the same way an RFID-enabled check out at a grocery store might work.  The person taps the bin where there is a reader waiting to read an RFID-enabled card. The lid opens, and the person can throw out their unwanted leftovers. The bin then weighs the food waste and informs the person of the subsequent fee.

According to a city government official, they expect their approach (which includes a home kitchen system) to help reduce 670 tons of food waste per day, cut the total amount of refuse by 20 percent by 2014, contributing to savings of 19.5 billion won (over $17M USD) per year.

Good idea, don't you think? Anything to help reduce waste of any kind is A OK in our book. I’d like to enforce a similar practice in my house. I wouldn’t necessarily charge my children, but having them think twice about over-serving themselves and throwing away food is a good thing.

Once the mindset is established, we might start to incorporate this thinking into our decision-making process. At a restaurant, we may decide that while it might be nice to order an appetizer, entre and dessert, while sampling the bread, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to eat it all. We may make better decisions with waste reduction in mind, and skip the appetizer in favor of the bread.

This is a great example of RFID helping to Reduce. We’ve also seen how RFID can help Reuse. We’ll take it upon ourselves to find a successful use for RFID in Recycling and report back.

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