Carnival to bring MagicBand-like, wearable medallions to cruise passengers
Much-hyped concepts “wearable tech” and “internet of things” may soon become practical realities for tens of thousands of travelers, as the cruise industry makes a massive investment in sensor-based technology and data analytics.
In November 2017, the Princess Cruises’ ship Regal Princess will debut wearable technology for guests. Some analysts believe this innovation will likely be a forerunner of how all major cruise ships will interact with guests within a decade’s time.
In fact, parent corporation Carnival hired away the designers of MagicBand to lead its effort (pictured, below). Just as the MagicBand acts as a ride ticket, hotel key, and payment method, so does the Ocean Medallion double as an ID for embarking and disembarking the ship, room keycard, and payment method.
The sensor-based gadget can be kept in a pocket or be worn on the wrist or neck. Each medallion communicates with nearby near-field communications and bluetooth low-energy sensors to provide a relevant data exchange.
That said, the Ocean Medallion takes the wearable concept further than the MagicBand. For example, partner vendor Accenture will use the data to anticipate guest preferences.
Carnival CEO Arnold Donald illustrated this concept to reporters on a call today by using the example of a passenger who visits one bar to buy a drink and then visits another bar elsewhere on the ship later in the trip and is greeted by name by a crew-member who offers to make the same drink the passenger ordered previously, thanks to the shared data.
Travel agents will be acknowledged throughout experience. Guests will be reminded of their agent’s name when viewing their stateroom TVs. Guests will be prompted to book another trip, while giving a commission to the agent for the on-board sale.
Location-sharing is another perk. Passengers can opt in to keep tabs on each other while on-board. For instance, a spouse could visit the stateroom and look on a screen on the back of door to see on a map which part of the ship their spouse is, based on the last known interaction the spouse’s medallion had with on-board sensors.
The guest could easily see on the screen a recommended shortest path to find their way to where their spouse is. Or they could leave a message on the stateroom screen about their plans for later on. The same information could be looked up via a mobile phone app or by asking a crew member to look it up on a tablet on their behalf.
Addressing data-protection concerns
The safety of personal information will be a key concern of many guests.
The company says that, unlike magnetic credit cards, the Ocean Medallion doesn’t contain any personal information. It is just a device that broadcasts “a license plate, or a number that would be meaningless to outsiders,” to nearby sensors.
On the enterprise side, the company says it has adopted the latest methodologies to apply tokenization, anonymization, and encryption.
When it comes to payments, the system uses either dual-factor or triple-factor authentication, depending on the size of a purchase being made with the Ocean Medallion. If you want to buy a Rolex on board, for example, you’ll need to offer a personal identification number to complete the transaction as an added safety check.
The cruise industry may be travel’s sleepiest sector, technologically-speaking. So it is notable that the CEO of Carnival promised this would be one of his company’s largest investments ever.
Arnold told reporters that the Medallions are optional but he expects most guests will use them. Princess Cruises, which serves 2 million passengers a year, will be the first brand to adopt it fully. He added:
“If guests love it, we’ll apply the platform to every one of our 10 brands… and to our private island destinations. At this point, we’re focused on cruise as a category. We have proprietary technology we have patented on this.
“But we would frankly expect it to be applied to more traditional land-based venues, and we could see a situation in which we licensed some of the technology.”
Other cruise lines worldwide will watch closely to see if wearable tech becomes the internet of (good) things, meaning gadgetry that even one’s tech-phobic aunts can enjoy.
Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.