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World's Largest Cruise Ship Launches RFID-based Passenger-Tracking System

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is renting out iPhones and wristbands with Wi-Fi RFID tags to help families and groups locate their members.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 22, 2010When Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas set sail from Helsinki on its maiden voyage in December 2009, the cruise ship offered its passengers more than two 40-foot-long surfing pools, a zip line, a 30-foot-tall rock-climbing wall and a host of other amenities. The 1,200-foot-long vessel—the world's largest cruise ship—also provided its customers with an RFID-based application that offers families and other groups a way to track their members.

The application employs Ekahau's real-time locating system (RTLS), which includes Wi-Fi-based RFID tags in badges or wristbands, and an Apple iPhone, which can access each tag's location on its screen displaying a map of the ship. The location information is transmitted to the iPhone via the ship's existing Wi-Fi nodes. The system also enables the iPhone user to send an alert when needed, to those wearing the wristbands.

Bill Martin, Royal Caribbean's VP and CIO
"The goal was to allow our guests to more freely communicate with each other as they explored the ship, as well as keep tabs on their kids," says Bill Martin, Royal Caribbean's VP and CIO. When selecting a system for tracking passengers, he indicates, the cruise line decided to take advantage of the ship's existing Wi-Fi network, installed to provide onboard guest communications.

Royal Caribbean installed a Wi-Fi network of nearly 1,000 access points on the ship, with plans for a host of wireless services intended to improve passengers' experience on board—all under the name Royal Connect. The iPhones offer the passengers the ability not only to locate their party members, but also to make reservations at restaurants and spas by calling or sending messages to those merchants, track daily activities by accessing daily postings of those activities, and receive notifications when, for example, their table is ready at a restaurant. The software that manages data for these services was provided by DeFi Global, located in Scottsdale, Ariz.

One service in which the cruise line was interested was helping passengers track their group or family members. Without technology, searching for a missing passenger would require a considerable amount of time and effort, especially onboard a vessel the size of the Oasis of the Seas. There are as many as 6,000 passengers at a time, along with 2,000 crew members; 16 passenger decks; a "Central Park" with boutiques, restaurants and bars; a spa; a fitness center; and more.


Sean Presher-Hughes 2014-11-21 04:55:36 AM
Besides being able to track friends and/or family members aboard cruise ships, surely the system could be made available to track one's own location and be used to find out how to get about on a ship as it is usually very cumbersome for passengers to find their way around aboard a ship with it's maze - like passages. For example one passage rarely leads all the way across from stern to aft! Having been on numerous cruises myself in the past, I often encountered the problem of being able to get from one side of the ship to my cabin or for example, to a restaurant or entertainment venue. The system should entail hot spot areas with computer screens or monitors whereby a bracelet could be tagged and one's present location could be displayed on a map of the ship on the screen. This should be able to assist the passenger in navigating his/her way to a predefined location on board the ship. This can be displayed on the screen or via a small optional print out ticket. eg. Take elevated down to level 3, walk towards the stern and take the flight of stairs down one level. Arrive at the entrance to the Mezzanine Calabash Restaurant. Another use of this application could be to allow passengers to easily find their way to their nearest muster station/s. This application could be referred to as the "Where am I" or "Find my way" application.

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