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RFID Helps Xplor Action Park Photograph Visitors as They Zip By

EPC tags embedded in safety helmets identify each individual, by means of readers installed in caves, along rivers and at the tops of towers.
By Claire Swedberg
May 15, 2012When Xplor, a Mexican adventure park located in Riviera Maya, was under construction four years ago, the park's photo manager, Felipe Lorenzo, faced a challenge: how to design a system that could snap dozens or hundreds of photographs of each of the parks' visitors in action, without making them stop and provide their names. The site includes two circuits of zip lines, two circuits for amphibious vehicles, an underground river for swimming beneath stalactites, and two other subterranean rivers for paddling in rafts. Lorenzo wanted to develop automated technology with which a guest could simply be recognized, photographed and offered pictures that he or she could then purchase onsite at the end of the day, or online upon returning home.

Lorenzo's team, led by Quetzal Chilian, the park's new-projects chief, developed a solution that includes passive radio frequency identification tags embedded in visitors' safety helmets, as well as optical sensors and readers installed near automated cameras, and a software system that identifies the optimal time to trigger a photograph and then stores that picture, along with the proper individual's records. Xplor's IT department supplied the software and handled its integration.


Felipe Lorenzo, with a tagged helmet under his arm, stands next to one of the park's 32 RFID-enabled cameras.

The team realized that the park's fast-paced environment, in which visitors would be in motion more than stationary, would not always be conducive to photography. The cameras would need to capture pictures at the point at which zip-line participants take a leap off a tower, or as rafters negotiate passage through a cave. It was deemed too impractical for Xplor's staff to try to capture snapshots at the right moment, and to then try to manually connect each picture with the correct guest. However, because participants would be issued helmets to protect their heads, the team saw an opportunity to use the headgear to track each visitor as he or she moved throughout the park.

Xplor has 1,800 safety helmets, of which up to 1,000 are typically in use on any given day. Three Alien Technology Squiggle EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags were embedded under the padding inside each helmet, and remain invisible to users.

USER COMMENTS

Clint StLaurent 2015-04-08 01:39:16 PM
To be fair: His team didn't develop the RFID system. They bought a turnkey system from a developer. That same system was used by Jackson Digital Imaging, the creators of the ride photography system they purchased. JDI integrated the RFID into their photo systems to take the pictures and associate them with the RFID enabled helmets. The Xplor staff did not create any of the ride photo software nor integrate it with the RFID system.

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