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Amusement Parks Adopting RFID

RFID is being used in attractions and as a convenient way to pay for everything from lockers to refreshments.
Oct 08, 2002Oct. 8, 2002 - It often seems that the potential uses of radio frequency identification are almost limitless. Stone Mountain amusement park in Atlanta, Ga., is a case in point. The park has developed an attraction that relies heavily on RFID. The result: attendance has risen by 20 percent over the past year.

When patrons visit The Great Barn, a replica of an 1870's-style barn, at Stone Mountain, they register by entering information in a computer. The information is then written to an RFID tag stored in a wristband they are given. Kids score points by moving from one station to another where they have to complete farming tasks, such as placing foam fruit in baskets, tossing them into buckets and passing them down troughs.

After the kids complete a task, they wave their wristband over a "magic spot," which is really an RFID reader. That stores their points on their wristband. Their score is also posted on a large electronic scoreboard in the middle of the barn. Children are ranked within their age group by their total score.

"Smart bands are a major contributor to the interactivity of the game," says Ned Strickland, Stone Mountain's GM. "They help make the magic happen by enhancing the play for the kids."

The wristbands contain a 13.56 MHz Tag-it RFID transponder from Texas Instruments and were supplied by San Fernando, Calif.-based Precision Dynamics Corp., the world's largest maker of wristbands. Precision Dynamics has also supplied bands to Six Flags Over Georgia for a "floating locker" system.

The problem at Six Flags was patrons would rent a locker in one area and have to walk back to it from another area, or designate one person to watch everyone's belongings while the others went on a ride. With the floating locker system, developed by Compusafe Electronic Locker Systems of Wentworth Falls, Australia, patrons purchase a locker band for the day. With the wave of the band, they can rent a locker in one area of the park, then take their things and rent a locker in another area.

The RFID tag in the band identifies each patron and allows data to be written to and read from the bands to control access to the lockers. The bands can also be used to pay for refreshments, so patrons can put their wallets in their locker. The parks can also use the technology to provide rewards to frequent visitors or coupons to encourage visitors to ride less popular attractions.

Precision Dynamics, the world's largest maker of wristbands, began making RFID-enabled bands in 2000 and has seen the market grow rapidly, particularly for crowd control and healthcare applications.

"It's the future direction of our company," says Irwin Thall, Precision Dynamics' sales manager for RFID. "We have had a great response in all kinds of categories and are looking to increase no of installed sites in healthcare and entertainment venues."
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