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Two Ohio Water Parks Become RFID-Enabled

Guests at Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark and Great Wolf Lodge can use RFID tags embedded in wristbands to do such things as pay for goods and services and unlock hotel rooms.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 14, 2006Two new Ohio water parks—Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark, located in Columbus, and Great Wolf Lodge, in Mason—recently installed RFID systems allowing guests to use RFID tags embedded in wristbands for such tasks as paying for services and unlocking their hotel rooms.

Few already-established water parks are installing RFID systems to replace existing access-control systems utilizing keys or bar-code technology. However, the new parks have made RFID the access-control and contactless payment technology of choice.

Kim Schaefer, Great Wolf
"Newer parks are going for RFID as the Cadillac option," says Ken Peterson, director of food marketing for ticket and wristband provider National Ticket Co. "It gives them the ability to locate a person, unlock doors and provide contactless payments, which justifies the dollars spent." One problem faced by water parks is that patrons wear bathing suits the whole time they're there—whether in or out of water—making it inconvenient to carry a wallet or cash. With RFID contactless payment systems, however, patrons don't need a wallet or cash to spend money.

Great Wolf Lodge issues bracelets with writeable RFID chips that can be instructed to admit guests into their rooms, open or close lockers for storing personal items, pay for food and other purchases, and buy game tokens, all without worrying about the charges until they check out.

Each guest receives a Smart Band RFID wristband made by Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC), a San Fernando, Calif., provider of cashless payment and identification systems. The wristband contains an embedded Texas Instruments 13.56 MHz RFID chip compliant with ISO 15693, the unique ID of which is connected to a folio (itemized bill) for that guest's family.

Instructions stored on the tag enable it to open a specific room door, or to allow a specific purchase amount to be applied to a guest's folio. RFID readers stationed at points of sale, vending machines or gaming areas send that purchase data to the hotel's database for billing at the end of the family's stay. Micros System point-of-sale stations installed throughout the resort enable guests to make cashless payments with the RFID wristbands.

To enter a guest room, a patron holds the wristband within a few centimeters of an RFID interrogator built into the door lock. When purchasing souvenirs or food, or when playing an arcade game, a person uses the wristband the same way, holding it within centimeters of an RFID-enabled payment terminal.

Great Wolf has already added RFID technology to two other new water parks as well: one in Scot Run, Pa., and another in Niagara Falls, Ontario (see Great Wolf Water Park Launches RFID. Additionally, it is installing RFID systems in at least two more parks under construction, says Kim Schaefer, Great Wolf's corporate COO.

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