RFID is a splash at Great Wolf Lodge

Published: September 26th, 2008

The one thing you know for sure when you go to a waterpark is that you and your money are going to get all wet.

Great Wolf Lodge opened in April of 2006 and is a year-round waterpark resort with its own spa service for girls along with restaurants, shops, mini-golf, arcade, fitness centre, conference and meeting area, 406 all-suite guest rooms in a log cabin setting and an adult concept spa as well. Great Wolf Lodge’s goal is to get its guests wet, not their money.

But that becomes a great challenge on a resort that pumps more than 2.5 million litres of water in and out of the 103,000 Sq. Ft. waterpark on a daily basis.

Through the use of <a href=http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/Home/News.asp?id=46177&bSearch=True target=”_RFID technology provided by its solution provider Precision Dynamics Corp. the resort all but eliminated the need for customers to carry hard currency, banking cards, credit cards or identification cards with them, which means no more wet money.

The RFID chip is part of a wrist band called Smart Band and according to Shannon Allen, spokesperson for Great Wolf, it also eliminates traditional hotel items.

“It’s a passport to fun and access to anything you do at the lodge. It accesses your room so no more hard keys. It can access your lockers at the waterpark, buy your food at the food outlets and bar. It tracks all your incidentals through a pre-authorized credit card or kiosk,” Allen said.

Guests can also load more cash onto the wrist band. Parents can also load a cash value onto the wrist bands of there kids for use in the arcade, kids spa or resort shops. When you leave the remaining cash is refunded back to your credit card.

The Smart Band has also improved service by enabling guests to activate cameras on thrill rides. Your picture gets taken while you take the plunge.“This eliminates the wallet and the many accidents where cash comes floating out of the water,” Allen added.

Besides sparing patrons from wet money, the technology can also identify a lost child. Through the RFID chip in the wrist band can signal to Great Wolf Lodge the child’s name and room number from the check in information.

At registration, guests are given an RFID wristband, which is embedded with a Texas Instruments 13.56MHz RFID inlay, to use while at the resort. All information on the wristband is encrypted.The only negative of this system is that check in takes longer than normal, said Greg Slevar, IT manager at Great Wolf Lodge, nestled on what was once Niagara Falls, Ont.’s largest camp site.

“The wait times are hardly remembered because of the huge conveniences the wrist band provides from eliminating wet paper money and or wet Loonies and Toonies,” he said.

Precision Dynamics worked with the Opera Property Management system for the POS machines to develop an interface for the front desk check in process. At check in there is an RFID reader and writer made by Feig Electronic of Berlin, Germany.

There is a unique ID on each Smart Band. The wrist band carries separate memory areas along with write-to specific memory.

Great Wolf’s network is based on Cisco equipment and the vast majority of the resort is wireless. Slevar runs two different wireless networks; one for guests and an internal one that runs the 28 Point of Sale systems.

The network was split in two to prevent any kind of security risk on the resorts data.“When we first started this we had to decide between physical security or VLAN. The VLAN was a little cheaper from a hardware standpoint,” Slevar said.

MicroAge Niagara was the local solution provider who helped develop the network at Great Wolf Lodge.

The return on investment for this project is very hard to determine for Slevar because he has nothing to compare it to, he said.

“It is all about convenience. You do not want to make it hard for someone to spend money and along with that it does add time to check in. We do not have your standard check in,” Slevar said.

In terms of operations, the Smart Band does make it cheaper because there is no need for locks on the doors or lockers.