Archive for the ‘Sports & Recreation’ Category

Bar codes are hot again!

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The mundane bar code just got a little sexier. A pair of British volleyball players have signed a deal to wear scanable bar codes on their bikinis. The British based gambling site Betfair signed the deal with Olympic volleyball players Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin, according to the London Daily Mail. Their bikini bottoms will feature a quick response code that will take users to a Betfair website when photographed on a smart phone.

According to the Daily Mail, the women tried out the bar code bikinis during a recent tournament. However, Olympic sponsorship rules will prevent them from donning the bar codes during the 2012 London Games.

No word yet if Dampney and Mullin will opt to embed RFID tags on their clothing as well. Although, RFID and apparel tagging is certainly a hot sector.

RFID and social media give firms new supply chain and marketing visibility

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

RFID is well touted as a tool to increase supply chain visibility and provide real-time updates on the whereabouts of critical assets.

In today’s mobile world of smart phones and need-it-now access, RFID is quickly becoming known as a visibility tool of another sort – one that allows people to communicate instantaneously with each other, providing vacation updates from around the world, for example.

Those with hint of nostalgia might opt for writing a postcard that will arrive a week later, but those living in a highly connected mobile world are rapidly embracing the combination of RFID and Facebook to allow friends and family to view photos and news updates instantly.

Vail Resorts and Great Wolf Lodge are two entertainment venues that have deployed an RFID-based system to allow visitors to share information. Many more venues, from concerts to conventions, are planning similar deployments.

“The ability to create this virtual overlay on a physical event has great marketing value and provides a terrific engagement for guests,” says Patrick Sweeney, founder and CEO of ODIN RFID, whose EasyConnect software powers Vail’s EpicMix system that was utilized by more than 100,000 skiers last winter.

EpicMix, which utilizes an RFID-enabled ski pass with readers placed throughout Vail’s five resorts, was offered to season pass and multi-day pass holders last winter, with an adoption rate of 15 percent. This coming ski season, the program will be offered to all skiers.

Last year’s top EpicMix skier logged 171 ski days and skied more than 7.2 million vertical feet, earning the top spot on the EpicMix leader board. Of the 100,000 users, 45 percent of EpicMix accounts are public, meaning that guests volunteer to share skiing statistics with friends and family on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. According to its web site, EpicMix generated 275,000 social posts and over 35 million social impressions (based on Facebook’s estimate of 130 friends per user). Also, EpicMix drove 1.7 million web and mobile visits last ski season.

“The big number for us is 35 million positive social media impressions,” says Robert Urwiler, chief information officer for Vail Resorts. “That’s a big deal to us because it increases the resort’s visibility in the social media space. This is a way for not just the resort to talk about itself but for guests to brag about their experience. We’ve created 100,000 brand advocates bragging about the experience they had at one of the Vail resorts. That’s pretty powerful.”

EpicMix leverages RFID installed at each of the company’s 89 lifts across its five mountain resorts and RF chips embedded in lift tickets. Urwiler says that 170 readers and 1,300 antennas comprise the current system. The resort has issued hundreds of thousands of RFID tags for the program, a number that will only grow as the recently acquired Northstar ski area is brought online and as more skiers sign on with EpicMix.

The system allows guests to track vertical feet skied and days on the mountain, and lets skiers share their experiences with family and friends on Facebook and Twitter. The free EpicMix mobile app alerts skiers when their Facebook friends are on the mountain, and can be used to send private messages, eliminating the always frustrating task of locating skiing partners on the hill.

Guest location services was also the primary objective of the initial RFID deployment at Great Wolf Resorts, which also uses the technology embedded on visitor wristbands as guest room keys and in-house charge accounts.

After check-in, guests at Great Wolf can register their wristband at the Great Wolf Connect kiosks and link it directly to their Facebook account. Then, at five Paw Posts located throughout the resort, guests can scan their wristband and smile for the digital camera at each spot. That photo – or a general photo of each attraction – and a caption are then automatically posted on their Facebook wall.

“Guests have been asking us for photo sharing functionality for quite some time. Great Wolf Connect allows us to expand our technology infrastructure in a way that enhances their stay,” says Great Wolf chief information officer Rajiv Castellino. “In Grand Mound, we’ve already seen our guests embrace this new experience. And as guests see others capturing memories at the Paw Posts, they’re trying it out for themselves, too.”

The solution is ideal for Great Wolf, which operates indoor water parks that can be difficult for guests to capture vacation moments due to the possibility of damaging camera and video equipment from water exposure.

The Paw Post locations include the most popular photo opportunities throughout the resort, including the resort’s signature Tipping Bucket as well as a full view of the of the waterpark from an elevated balcony inside the waterpark, and the Great Clock Tower in the lobby.

The Walt Disney company is also investigating RFID for a variety of use cases. According to the Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia, a web site that provides updates on everything Disney related, Disney sent out surveys to its park guests in June to gauge their reaction to RFID. The site says that Disney is considering RFID for everything from wristband admittance to pre-registration of guest information assigned to the wristband that would allow the theme parks to custom tailor a guest’s visit, such as character interactions and ride options.

Urwiler thinks we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to RFID and social media.

“This all surfaced pretty quickly and I think there is another wave coming with these NFC-enabled mobile devices,” says Urwiler. “Think about the implications of mobile phone manufacturers building readers and tags into every device, and then the innovative app developers who will inevitably develop tools to interact with social media in ways we have not even seen yet. So the proliferation of tags and readers to the general consumer versus back office uses like supply chain will produce a wave of innovation that is pretty exciting.”

2012 London Olympic Games may utilize biochips with athletes

Monday, April 4th, 2011

We’ve seen RFID playing a greater role in the sporting world lately, but it looks like the 2012 Olympic Games in London will take the technology to the next level by actually implanting RFID chips in athletes for athlete tracking, accessing secure areas and for use with purchases.

Rumors began flying late last week, on April Fool’s Day nonetheless, and Finextra Research posted a blog report on its web site with the following comment from Mary Coleman-Brace, the spokesperson for the LOCOG:

“While some may consider this invasive, it is a tried and tested technology and we hope to incentivize athletes by offering them discounts on a range of Olympic village services, also offering spot prizes for those that participate in the program. We believe that this sets the tone for future Olympic village constructs by defining a truly innovative security and payments device that the athlete can carry with them at all times. It also enables us to track the athletes and we’re looking at trialing the integration of the RFID technology in respect to performance measurement for elements like track-and-field race timings also.”

Patrick Sweeney, CEO of RFID provider ODIN, knows a thing or two about Olympic Games. He spent five years training for the Olympics, and was resident at the US Olympic Training Center. He says that since the tags will carry a very limited read range, athletes won’t be able to take advantage of the technology for social media apps.  Click here to read Patrick’s blog about the opt-in Olympic RFID program.

PGA utilizes RFID-enabled tickets to enhance the fan experience at Northern Trust Open

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

RFID technology continues to be a winning combination for sporting events. The technology was rolled successfully at Vail Resorts this winter, with the RFID-enabled EpicMix ski pass allowing resort guests to track their ski days and communicate with friends online.

This week, RFID will be in use during the Northern Trust Open on the PGA tour, where a pilot program using RFID will measure fan and corporate sponsor experiences. The pilot is being run through a partnership between Avery Dennison, Stark RFID and the PGA TOUR.

The PGA Tour began investigating RFID in 2010. This week, some of the entrance tickets to the tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades will be equipped with RFID inlays to enhance access on the grounds, personalize engagements between corporate sponsors and VIP guests, and better track how tournament offerings are being utilized.

“Our goals in pursuing and expanding this RFID technology pilot are simple: to improve the fan experience at our events and deliver added value to our corporate sponsors,’’ says Jack Tyson, PGA TOUR director of ticketing operations. “With the participation of Avery Dennison and Stark RFID, we’ll learn firsthand at the Northern Trust Open how important corporate sponsors maximize real-time data collection to personalize and improve their hosting engagements with VIP guests.’’

At the Northern Trust Open, guests with the special RFID tickets will see personalized greetings flash up on a big screen TV as they enter the Avery Dennison hosting tent.

“We believe RFID will play a key role in the event management space in the coming years,’’ says Maggie Bidlingmaier, global director of sales and marketing, Avery Dennison RFID. “The applications will go far beyond access control. It will not only be used in multiple areas within the event operations, it will ultimately be seamless to the attendee and improve his or her experience. In conjunction with the PGA TOUR and Stark RFID, we are proving just how successful RFID technology can be when applied to event management applications.”

RFID is very popular for tracking athletes at events like marathons and at the Olympics, and has been also used for fan access control andd to control counterfeit tickets at the last two World Cup soccer events. But the next frontier for RFID and sporting events involves enabling fans to interact with advertisers and social media avenues, similar to the EpicMix app.

Vail skiers surpass 25 billion vertical feet using RFID-enabled EpicMix, powered by ODIN

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

RFID technology is helping skiers at Vail to track the runs that they ski and to use that data to interact with friends on Facebook and other social media outlets. The EpicMix program, which debuted this year, reached a milestone this week when pass holders surpassed 25 billion vertical feet of skiing.

Every skier holding a season pass is measured by software from ODIN, which integrates real time physical world data into Vail’s unique virtual experience called EpicMix, allowing full integration into Facebook, Twitter, SMS, etc.

“RFID is a natural choice for social media programs, but the accuracy has to be 99%+ to keep participants happy,” says ODIN founder Patrick J. Sweeney II. “The software has to be very scalable as well. Vail is the tip of the iceberg for social media applications that tie the physical world with the virtual world through Facebook, Gowalla, Foursquare and other popular sites. Sports teams, trade shows, events are all starting to adopt RFID to create unique and long-lasting guest interaction”

ODIN assisted Vail in deploying hundreds of RFID readers at its five mountains, across thousands of miles. The system was fully integrated in five months. The RFID operating system has performed flawlessly on readers deployed where temperatures dipped as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Click here to view a video about how EpicMix works.

RFID goes Hollywood with a prime time shout out from the gang on Hawaii Five-O

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

RFID technology has been in use for some time to track athletes at events like the Boston Marathon and at other major sporting events like the World Cup. RFID technology went Hollywood on Monday night when Steve McGarrett and his sidekick Danno relied on RFID to track a team of criminals in this week’s episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Turns out some of the RFID-tagged athletes in a triathlon were up to more than competing. Check out the link to the show here, and advance to the 35th minute to view the RFID mention. Cool stuff!

The LA Marathon and the Seattle Rock & Roll marathon both used RFID systems from Impinj to track runners at last year’s races. More than 25,00 runners were tracked at more than 18 points along the course, utilizing Impinj Speedway® readers and Threshold reader antennas. All runners wore ChronoTrack “D-tags,” powered by Impinj’s Monza™ tag chip and UPM Raflatac’s DogBone tag antenna.

Privacy concerns hit the slopes; RFID-enabled ski passes under fire

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Remember a few years ago when word got out that Levi Strauss was piloting RFID at a couple of its outlet stores? The news spread like wildfire, and privacy advocates were picketing the stores soon after, claiming that the RFID tags would be used to track customers and steal their identity.

Well, look at how far tagging has come in the apparel industry. Item level tagging is all the rage for apparel retailers. Now, the privacy issues are hitting other industries where RFID usage is more in its infancy, such as the skiing industry. RFID makes perfect sense for ski resorts. Instead having an employee with a bar code reader scan every skiier coming through the lift line, the process can be done automatically with RFID. It’s all about reducing lift lines, right? (Although I would miss the jokes that the lift attendant at Cranmore provides).

Since Vail Resorts launched its RFID-based social media application called EpicMix, there has been increased backlash against the technology. EpicMix measures vertical feet and terrain skied by users and the lifts they ride. Skiiers who choose to do so can also share their information with friends on Facebook. (I hope to make it out to Vail this winter to trial the technology!)

However, those who are worried about invasion of privacy and having their data stolen are turning to something called Ski Pass Defender, a device designed to allow skiers to activate the RFID-enabled season passes only when they choose to, such as when passing through the lift gate.

An article in ESPN Action Sports says that nearly 700 Ski Pass Defenders have been sold already, and that the $15.95 device is starting to make its way into ski stores as well.

From the article:

The SPD, which sells for $15.95, is comprised of two aluminum-backed sheaths attached to a lanyard. The aluminum prevents the RFID chip from being read. To board a lift, an alligator-style clip is squeezed, activating patented “squeeze to read” technology, allowing passholders to control when and how the information on their RFID chip can be shared.

Other entrepreneurs are breaking into the RFID protection market — sleeves, wallets and bags are being made to prevent RFID-chipped passports and credit cards from being read, and portable devices such as the RFID Guardian alert users when their chips are scanned.

RFID guru Patrick Sweeney of ODIN was at Keystone on opening day this month, and got to try out the technology. Read his account of the EpicMix experience here.