Exciting new RFID technology has been installed at the Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) to expedite access to the ski lifts. Skiers are now given a badge, which is embedded with an RFID tag, to carry in an exterior pocket. When a skier approaches a gate, the RFID badge automatically causes the gate to open, permitting entry to the ski lift. I've personally had the pleasure of testing this new mechanization of an old process and I like it!
The RFID system has been installed in seven locations, covering all access points to the Park City ski area. Previously, the methodology used for lift access involved handheld portable bar code readers that would scan a bar code on the user's lift ticket and then transmit the data back to the resort server and obtain an approval response. This required several attendants to be constantly scanning lift tickets. It was a slower and more labor-intensive process. As a skier, it was annoying to have to wait in line while those ahead were scanned one at a time.
This new RFID procedure allows skiers to rapidly pass through access control.
Some of the key benefits of the RFID system include:
* Better access control for the ski area. As the skiers pass through (or attempt to pass through, there is a small gate that does not open unless the RFID tag is deemed valid), small colored lights provide a visual display of the type of badge that each user has. The lights signal whether the badge holder should be an adult or child, season pass, half-day or more. This simple-to-use system is supplemented by a wireless tablet held by a lift attendant. As a skier passes through the gate with his RFID badge, information about him--including a picture if he is a season pass holder--shows up on the tablet.
(Image, left: The tablet being used by the lift attendant.)
* Improved customer interaction. When a badge is scanned by the RFID reader, the skier's name is displayed on the attendant’s tablet, giving the attendant an opportunity to improve the customer's experience with a personal greeting or interaction.
* Greener operating and customer convenience. Since the RFID badges can be re-used, they are a more environmentally friendly and customer friendly option. Guests may keep their badge and re-load its value without having to wait in another ticket line. These are very appealing features for PCMR.
* Potential for complete customization of pass status. Passholders can add a la carte options to their tickets (Fast Tracks express lanes, night skiing/riding privileges, underground parking). Let's say a passholder decides during his first day that he hates waiting in line and regrets not paying for Fast Tracks. The RFID technology allows a lift attendant to easily upgrade the RFID pass then and there with his tablet.
According to Andy Miller of PCMR, the RFID system also offers the opportunity for "Line Busting." He explains, “If it’s a busy skier day and the Resort finds it has a long line of walkup business at the ticket window, we’ll be able to walk out to guests in the line and sell passes directly from the tablet we’re carrying, relieving stress at the ticket windows and cutting down on wait time for the guests.” The resort plans to implement this important feature into their system in the future.
Miller also explained a few challenges that PCMR experienced in adopting the RFID technology, “Building the infrastructure for the gates’ installation was the biggest challenge for us: fiber optics, power and network connections had to be installed and established at all gate locations.”
PCMR expects to recover its RFID investment in a couple of years. Reduced ticket expenses (from the ability to re-use tickets returned by guests, and guests’ ability to reload their own tickets) and curbing fraudulent use of tickets are the two biggest components of returning that investment.
The RFID system is manufactured by SKIDATA. SKIDATA Group is a global leader in access solutions with almost 7,000 installations worldwide, SKIDATA provides ski resorts, shopping malls, major airports, municipalities, sports stadiums, trade shows and amusement parks with secure and reliable access solutions for people and vehicles. SKIDATA Group (www.skidata.com) is a member of the publicly traded Swiss Kudelski Group (www.nagra.com).
Park City Mountain Resort is one of the nation's premier ski locations and is just 45 minutes from the airport at Salt Lake City (Airport code SLC). The town of Park City is a charming place to visit and the home of the Sundance Film Festival. Recommended dining venues include the No Name Saloon. Excellent ski-in and ski-out lodging is available at the Marriott Mountainside Resort.
Written by Craig Aberle
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