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Terror Gets Personal at RFID-Equipped Haunted House

The Nest, located in Arizona, is using an EPC UHF RFID solution from Fish Technology to link visitors to their Facebook pages, enabling the system to use personal information to terrify each patron.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 31, 2012During the weeks leading up to this year's Halloween, The Nest Haunted House (rated the spookiest place in the nation by ABC's Good Morning America TV news show) will offer terror tailored to each visitor, thanks to an RFID-based system. That means a patron may see his or her name on a tombstone, view friends' faces displayed on walls, seemingly in trouble, and hear a "serial killer" calling out to him or her.

The Nest—located at the Rawhide entertainment park, in Chandler, Ariz., approximately 30 miles south of Phoenix—takes visitors through a 55,000-square-foot "haunted house" in which they are stalked by a serial killer known as "Killer Kell." Steve Kopelman, The Nest's producer, says that a few years ago, he noticed that "if, by chance, we figure out the patron's name, it enhances the experience tenfold." Since then, Kopelman has been seeking ways in which to individualize the experience at his haunted houses. He looked into RFID-based experiences, and was interested in adapting a Facebook app—Takethislollipop.com, a game that accesses information from a player's Facebook account in order to provide an unnerving amount of personal information to a serial killer.

Steve Kopelman, standing beside one of The Nest's many spooky denizens

After working with Fish Technology (for RFID readers and tags), as well as its partner, Brightline Interactive (for digital content), Kopelman says he plans to offer The Nest's first RFID-enabled experience when the haunted house opens its doors at the end of September.

There were several challenges related to installing an RFID system at the 55,000-square-foot facility. For one thing, the sheer number of visitors would require a solution that could read every tag and provide content quickly and accurately. During the five weeks The Nest is in operation, a total of 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected to visit, with as many as 1,500 guests arriving per hour. Kopelman was familiar with an application used by Great Wolf Lodge that enables attendees to utilize RFID technology to have themselves photographed at various kiosks throughout the resort, and to have those images automatically posted on their Facebook wall (see Great Wolf Lodge Debuts RFID-enabled Social-Media App). He had liked the Fish Technology solution provided at Great Wolf Lodge, but that system requires that visitors, wearing wristbands, tap their wrist against a reader—which would eliminate the spontaneity and sense of surprise required at the haunted house. Therefore, says Rick Weldon, Fish Technology's president, his company and Brightline developed an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) system that would enable each badge to be read at every read point, from a distance of several feet, as visitors walk past in single file.

Upon purchasing a ticket for $25, a visitor is offered the option of including the RFID-enabled personalized experience. Each guest who opts in receives a Fish Technology RFID badge that hangs from the neck on a lanyard. Guests use their phones, as directed, to send a text message—including their Facebook address and password—to the Fish Technology software on Fish's server. That information is then linked to the unique ID number on the badge's EPC Gen 2 passive UHF HID Global InLine Ultra RFID tag, made with an Impinj Monza 4QT chip. All of the RFID tag and reader hardware was developed and manufactured by Fish Technology.

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