Wow factor: Theme parks get a contactless boost 6. October 2016

Theme parks and other leisure-entertainment venues have come a long way since Walt Disney opened his first one in a rural corner of Southern California in 1955. Today’s attractions and waterparks offer entertainment of all kinds, for young and old alike, and are considered destination getaways for more than 600 million visitors worldwide each year.

For the groups operating these facilities, the goal is to create exceptional personalized services, so each visitor has a positive and memorable experience, while also increasing efficiency and convenience, and, of course, ensuring the highest levels of safety and security.

The contactless trend

Leading venue operators around the world have discovered that contactless technology, in short- and long-range formats, can help meet all these goals when it’s designed into smartcards, wristbands, and other wearables. Short-range solutions give visitors a new level of convenience, with the ability to do things like make payments, bypass long waiting lines, and access hotel rooms, while long-range solutions help venues manage crowds and offer new services, such as personalized action-cam photos.

Contactless access and payment solutions, based on short-range technology, are already being used by Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates, Gardaland in Italy, Trans Studio in Indonesia and other large parks from Orlando to Shanghai.

What these venues have found is that contactless technology enhances the customer experience while boosting revenue. Embedded in a card or wristband and capable of interacting with mobile phones and other electronic devices, short- and long-range contactless technology can add convenience and security at every level.

An enhanced visitor experience

Here are some of the ways that contactless technology can enhance the theme-park experience. If you book in advance, you can have a wristband delivered ahead of time, so you can bypass the ticket window and go directly to the entrance when you arrive. The wristband might be equipped with just short-range technology, for up-close transactions, or might aIso have long-range technology, for transactions that take place over several meters.

Your wristband can make it easier to get to the venue. If you take public transport or a privately run shuttle service, you can use the wristband to purchase a ticket, and if you drive, it can pay for parking.

Having used your wristband to enter the park, without waiting in long lines, you can use it to interact with theme-park characters who call you by name. You can pay for food and beverages or buy merchandise and souvenirs with a simple tap of the band – there’s no need to carry cash or worry about losing your credit card while you enjoy yourself. The wristband lets you purchase tickets to special events, or get guidance and advice while at the venue, and gives you access to coupons, special offers, loyalty points, and exclusive VIP areas.

If your wristband is equipped with long-range technology, it can be used to personalize any action-cam photos taken while you enjoy roller coasters, water slides, and other attractions. Instead of hunting through random shots at the end of your ride, to find photos of you and your friends, your wristband can be used to show only photos of you and anyone associated with your entry ticket. Select the ones you want as souvenirs, and buy them with another tap.

Outside the park, you can use the band at nearby restaurants and, if you’re staying near the venue, your wristband can also act as the key to your hotel room.

Some visitors choose to leave their mobile phones behind when they’re at the venue, so as to have a more immersive experience, away from every day cares like emails and texts. For those who do keep their phones with them, though, contactless technology can interact with mobile apps, too. The app can display a personal welcome when you arrive, and, in combination with your wristband, can enable live updates, so you know when it’s a good time to get in line for an attraction, or share experiences on social media.

Convenient and secure

All these contactless transactions are fast, simple, and secure, which means there’s less waiting overall, and more time for fun. Multiple layers of security combine to protect data, for strong authentication, secure transactions, and secure access information, including the dates the wristband is authorized for use. Common Criteria certification, with support for industry-recognized encryption algorithms, such as AES, provides effective protection against the latest attack scenarios, so the privacy of each user is assured. The format is also extremely difficult to copy or forge, so there’s less fraud. Embedded security protects the venue and its reputation, and lets visitors enjoy their time at the park without fear of identity theft or other scams.

Behind the scenes: Improved operations

Short- and long-range contactless technology goes beyond the visitor’s experience to provide operational benefits, too. Onsite staff can use wristbands to access lockers and work areas. Park operators can manage personnel more efficiently, with real-time monitoring of onsite activities, and can deploy staff where they’re needed most during the busiest times. Long-range identification helps with queue management, and real-time knowledge of wristband location helps find lost children or manage crowds during emergencies. Park operators can also monitor transaction levels in real time, can develop profiles of visitor habits and preferences, and can use interactive items, such as kiosks and posters, to interact with visitors.

NXP for the entire ecosystem

NXP as a member of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), is focused on theme-park applications. We have an extensive network of partners for contactless technology, which means our solutions are supported by an entire ecosystem. For theme-park applications, our portfolio is strengthened by many partners like Gantner Technologies, the leading manufacturer of NFC access control, check-in, electronic locking for lockers, and cashless payment hardware for the global leisure industry.

MIFARE® and more

Because NXP has such an extensive portfolio of interoperable contactless technology, theme-park operators can find the right solution for their immediate need, yet still have options for expansion and added functionality over time.

NXP’s MIFARE product portfolio offers a flexible memory configuration, so you can start small and add on as time goes by. The technology is fully NFC compatible, so MIFARE product based applications can interact with gaming consoles onsite, as well as the mobile devices that visitors carry with them. Suitable options for theme parks are available throughout the MIFARE product portfolio, from MIFARE Plus® and MIFARE Ultralight®, to MIFARE® DESFire® EV1 & EV2. MIFARE products are supported by TapLinx, a developer kit that makes it easy to integrate contactless smartcard technology into a mobile app. Available for Android and supporting all MIFARE IC formats, the SDK lets you finish a design in just minutes.

Extending the options, developers can also choose NXP UCODE® 7 for long-range UHF RFID or NXP NFC tags from the NTAG® family. Other options include contact interface controllers in NXP’s SmartMX® line, which have powerful cryptographic coprocessors for secure multi-applications.

Join the conversation

Have you been to a theme park that uses smartcard technology, in the form of a card or a wristband? What was your experience?