Reviving theme parks with IoT Edge
Theme parks are facing numerous challenges due to the pandemic. Disneyland remains closed, and for those parks that have reopened, they’re dealing with long lines and paused projects. With COVID-19 case rates going up across the country, the challenges can seem insurmountable.
Against the struggle of meeting strict health and safety regulations mandated by state and local governments, theme parks have sought to transform their current operations to meet social distancing and contactless protocols. Achieving this goal means ensuring that guests are safe and feel safe, and that their privacy and security is respected.
IoT Edge solutions can provide adaptive capabilities in support of these enhanced customer experiences. At the same time, parks need to strike a balance between using data to make more intelligent decisions while ensuring that customers’ concerns about privacy and security are respected. Being transparent about how data is used while showcasing the value for informed decision making are the keys to successful and improved experiences.
Since the onset of the pandemic, businesses across the US have adopted contactless solutions to allow for social distancing, such as curbside pickup, contactless payment and voice technology. As most theme parks were built before the proliferation of smart technology, they’ll need bridge solutions to adopt contactless solutions. These can be incorporated into parks’ current layouts through IoT Edge devices.
Disney World first opened in 1965. Much of its infrastructure remains tied to legacy systems. Guests may be currently required to make reservations online, but there’s so much more they could be doing to leverage contactless transactions through IoT Edge.
Imagine visitors queueing virtually and ordering food through their smartphones while checking out on POS kiosks that automate cash acceptance and produce change. The technologies employed by these solutions include voice recognition, QR codes, hands-free alternatives and facial recognition, and can be integrated into existing systems or incorporated into new products and services. Using Edge bridge solutions, like our EdgeManager solution, we’re able to transform legacy, analog devices into IoT-capable systems.
With the increasing sophistication of voice synthesis and speech recognition, voice can create even more personable and immersive systems for customer interaction. Instead of a “you’re here” sign, picture hands-free interactive kiosks that utilize voice recognition to interact with guests.
QR codes can pair these kiosks to customers’ smartphones and can also redirect customers to other systems such as websites for further contactless interaction. Hands-free alternatives include using proximity sensors and computer vision to initiate customer interaction, recognize physical gestures and identify customers via facial recognition.
All this can be achieved with proper renovation to the existing park infrastructure.
Smart environment systems
In addition to providing contactless alternatives for guests, theme parks are charged with improving the overall environmental safety of their physical spaces. This includes changes for smarter environmental visibility and control, and actively modifying human behavior based on informed decision making.
Gaining a more thorough understanding of spaces requires deploying environmental sensors and targeted analytics. Sensor data can measure occupancy and air quality over time, combining with reservation system information for an accurate picture of the area’s safety. This data can then be used to make required changes to spaces, including improved air filtration and physical surface cleaning, based on expected occupancy.
Poorly ventilated indoor spaces remain a major risk of spreading the virus, so parks will need to regulate HVAC airflow. Cloud-accessible smart IoT solutions on the Edge can regulate airflow in resorts and hotels, meeting air ventilation requirements stipulated by state and local governments.
Smart environment systems can adjust ventilation based on human traffic within a space with scheduled air preparation based on historical traffic. Improved filtering and cleaning, via UVGI and UV-C LED disinfection systems, can further improve the overall safety of spaces. These technologies can also apply to better preventative and corrective maintenance of HVAC and other environmental control systems.
Now armed with better visibility and control, parks staff can implement clearer directives, such as visual cues for spacing out people on the floor, signage and elevator limitations. These provisions can also inform cleaning staff about priority areas to disinfect and allow them to report areas they’ve cleaned in a coordinated, automated fashion with mobile apps and room QR codes.
These measures are integrable with existing or new building management (BMS) systems to more effectively coordinate building operations. Cloud-accessible BMS systems allow for more centralized management and monitoring. By enhancing building network and IoT systems, more information and control can be directed by these BMS systems.
Wearable devices, a technology whose use has skyrocketed over the past decade, has a proven track record of facilitating contactless experiences. Disney World has already adopted their Magic Band wearable as a park experience offering to guests.
The Magic Band allows guests to enter the park, unlock hotel rooms and order and pay for food. Magic Bands can also monitor health data. Disney World employees are required to screen guests’ temperatures, but body sensors within wearables can track this automatically, in addition to oxygen levels, respiration and heart rate. The bands can also monitor environmental factors such as temperature, air quality and humidity. These measures can provide both park staff and visitors with more informed awareness and decision making.
Wearables are versatile and easily connect to other systems, mobile devices, on-premise and Edge servers and cloud services. Smart wristbands leverage wireless technologies such as NFC (Near Field Communication), RFID, Bluetooth/BLE and Wi-Fi. NFC is particularly appropriate for close proximity contactless payment and admission while RFID can be used for remote monitoring and tracking to capture location information.
While guests at Disney World are currently avoiding physical contact at security checkpoints by using metal detectors instead of bag searches, IoT Edge solutions can further enhance safety and security throughout the park.
To allow for more environmental awareness, theme parks can leverage computer vision techniques such as object recognition for traffic, space and safety monitoring, facial recognition systems instead of fingerprint sensors and no-touch temperature check systems. Computer vision can be applied and integrated with prior solutions to better support required contactless capabilities.
Automated, camera-based monitoring systems can track environments and human behavior. Historical and current data can be captured and analyzed to determine the density of people and unsafe behavior such as close contact and frequent physical touching of surfaces. Facial recognition can be used along with other security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, to identify customers and staff, streamlining processes and minimizing close proximity and physical contact. This could include registration, admission, payment, transactional and check-out activities.
Customers are concerned about the threat posed by COVID-19. Theme parks take the threat of COVID seriously and are providing every precaution to make guests feel safe. But there’s always more they can do. By leveraging IoT Edge technology, theme parks can ensure that they welcome guests into an environment that is closely monitored and conforms to guidelines mandated by state and local governments. Adapting to the new normal isn’t easy, but it is possible to engineer a cutting-edge guest experience that will outlast the pandemic.
About the Author
Joe Bond is a Principal Architect in Digital Edge (AI and IoT) at PK. He has over 25 years in software development and architecture with a background in telecom and consulting.Tags: Edge, IoT