RFID Systems Course Project – Fall 2005
Resources from WINMEC RFID Lab, UCLA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION 4
2. INFORMATION ON RFID TECHNOLOGIES 4
2.1 What is RFID? 4
2.2 Frequency Ranges of RFID Tags 5
2.3 Passive, Semi-Passive, Semi-Active, Active Tags 5
2.4 Active vs. Passive 5
2.5 HF vs. UHF 7
2.6 Effects of Environment on RFID 8
2.7 Progress of Cost Reduction of RFID System 10
2.8 RFID Operational Frequencies in Countries 10
2.9 Comparable RFID Technology 10
2.10 RFID Value Chain 11
3. COMPARABLE USES OF PERSONNEL TRACKING IN MARKET 12
3.1 Customer Relationship Management 12
3.2 Case Study of CRM 12
3.3 Current Applications of RFID in Markets 13
3.4 Current Situation of Theme Parks 15
4. RECOMMENDATIONS 17
4.1 Position of RFID in Theme Parks 17
4.2 Deployment of RFID in Theme Parks 17
4.3 Future Applications 19
5. CONCLUSION 19
FIGURES AND TABLES
Figure 1. Basic RFID system. 5
Table 1. Side-by-side comparison of active versus passive tags. 6
Figure 2. Example of an estimated position of a system using multiple tags 6
Table 2. Benefits and disadvantages of active versus passive tags. 7
Figure 3. Technical performance versus frequency range of active tags. 8
Table 3. Comparison of UHF (915 MHz) and HF (13.56 MHz) RFID tags. 9
Table 4. RFID compliance in different countries. 10
Figure 4. Location-sensing technologies’ location accuracy versus 11
Figure 5. RFID value chain as of 2005. 12
Table 5. Various uses of RFID in current markets. 14
Figure 6. Illustrative map of Disneyland in California. 15
Figure 7. My Pal Mickey with certain figures pointed out. 16
Figure 8. Deployment method versus technology in terms of a general quality 18
Theme parks always must be on the cutting edge of entertainment, and in effect, technology. An
emerging technology is radio frequency identification (RFID) that is a new form of tracking assets. Thus it
is necessary to determine:
a) What types of RFID technologies would fit into a theme park environment?
b) What are the current (comparable) uses of RFID in environments?
c) Why would a theme park wish to use RFID?
d) How and where could RFID be used in theme parks?
This paper addresses each of these questions, and is a starting point for those wishing to investigate RFID
use in theme parks. Also, this paper presents information for tracking people in an open environment.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology allows the tracking of assets as they move
about. In terms of theme parks, there is an untapped opportunity to apply RFID tags to track visitors at a
park and provide an interactive and unique experience. By applying tags to individuals, important
information about their behavior can be determined. By acknowledging each individual’s unique taste, a
more personalized visit can be tailored. Consider the benefits of knowing where a customer is in the park,
and what places they have visited during their visit. Also consider being able to communicate with these
visitors to offer them sound advice based on their behavior.
In this paper, a general background of RFID technology will be provided. RFID tags operate on
different frequencies, with each having its benefits. Also, tag power can either be supplied externally or
internally. There are multiple categories of tags, and thus it is necessary to select out the best choice in
applying in a complex system such as a theme park.
The current environment in theme parks and the possible application usage of RFID in parks must
be critically analyzed in order to determine feasibility. Theme parks are already implementing multiple
types of individual tracking. There are systems of customization for a visitor at a park. It is necessary to
analyze all these, and determine what is missing from them in order to see if RFID can fulfill an
Finally, in terms of all the information that will be presented, it must be noted whether or not the
market is mature enough for RFID to be applied. After all, the technology is still changing drastically and
the pricing structure is also changing. There is also advancements in the capabilities of the tag that are
constantly emerging. So the question is, can RFID be used in our desired environment?
2. INFORMATION ON RFID TECHNOLOGIES
2.1 What is RFID?
RFID technology operates on the principle of using radio waves to energize tags that can then
relay information to readers. Tags consist of an antenna and a chip, as well as an internal power supply
sometimes. It is an emerging technology, and it is very useful in conveying data about what it is attached.
Often the tags are programmed with pertinent information about what they are stuck onto, and thus when
read, that information is updated in the system with not only general information, but also read-time as well
as read location (depending on the level of sophistication of the system). To be read, RFID tags relay on
either mobile or fixed readers that emit energy that energize the tags. A general figure of what goes on in an
RFID system is provided below, in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Basic RFID system. Courtesy of RFID-Handbook.com
2.2 Frequency Ranges of RFID Tags
RFID tags are currently operating on four different ranges of frequencies, categorized by low
frequency, high frequency, ultra high frequency, or microwave frequency. Low frequency (LF) RFID tags
operate on a low range of frequencies, thus they do not have much broadcast distance. LF tags broadcast on
the range of 30-300 kHz. High frequency (HF) RFID tags operate on a higher range of frequencies. They
broadcast usually around 13.56 MHz, but can range between 3-30MHz. Ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID
tags operate on even higher frequency compared to the previous two tags. The tags transmit about 900
MHz, but can also transmit as low as 300 MHz. Microwave frequency tags operate at 2.4 GHz usually, and
have a range of 1-300 GHz.
2.3 Passive, Semi-Passive, Semi-Active, Active Tags
RFID tags are passive, semi-active, or active (as well as being LF, HF, or UHF, microwave).
Readers are solely responsible for energizing passive tags. As a passive tag passes a reader, the reader’s
energy must be received long enough for the passive tag to be able to transmit its reply. Active tags are
continuously powered by their own internal power source so that a signal is constantly being transmitted.
Semi-active tags are passive, unless they come into contact with a signal. In this situation, the tag is
energized enough to be told to turn on, in which case the tag transmits under the received power. Often,
semi-active tags use their own internal power supply to power sensors that can record temperature,
pressure, and other simple activities. Thus, semi-active tags need only be powered long enough by a reader
in order for it to transmit data. Semi-passive tags operate similar to semi-active tags, with minor differences
in definition (depending on the defining organization). For this report, semi-active tags are considered an
unnecessary burden to study further. The benefit of sensors does not equal to the transmission power of a
fully active tag.
2.4 Active vs. Passive
In terms of a side-by-side comparison of active tags versus passive tags, see the illustration of the
table below, Table 1. It is important to note that passive tags must rely on being energized by a reader in
order to be able to relay information. Passive RFID either reflects energy from the reader or absorbs and
temporarily stores an amount of energy to generate a response. This creates a weakness of signal from the
tag, so then it may only produce a low-level signal that is limited in abilities. While on the other hand,
active tags provide their own signal strength. Thus, readers need only provide low-level signals to the tags.
Because of the proposed application of the RFID technology, it is necessary to analyze the multi-tag
collection capability, which will affect the choice of power for a tag.
Table 1. Side-by-side comparison of active versus passive tags.1
Passive tags suffer from needing to be energized, and thus are limited to needing to be in the
reader’s range long enough to not only be recognized, but also powered in order to transfer data. In one
example, it was shown that one passive tag system needed more than 3 seconds to identify 20 tags.1 As one
increases the number of tags entering one reader’s range, it decreases the ability of the reader to read tags in
a timely fashion. As communication is a range of 3 meters for passive tags, it would be needed that the
speed of the tag system is less than 3 miles per hour. Also, passive tags cannot suffer from interference of
the reader signals because otherwise they would go unrecognized.2 Comparatively, active tags do not need
to be heavily energized in order to transmit. Also, because the tag is active, it increases its read range.
Thus, one would need to increase the number of readers in a passive system in order to accomplish the
same ability of an active tag system. One needs only worry about the capacity of the reader to be able to
read multiple active tags, versus the ability of a reader being able to energize tags as well as being able to
read tags. An example of a size of an active tag and an example of an active system is shown below, in
Figure 2. Example of an estimated position of a system using multiple tags and readers.3
Active tags provide a greater range and thus offer more reliability in terms of their distances. Also,
active tags can be coupled with technologies such as WiFi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, GPS, or GSM for location
and communication. As of November 2005, 20% of tags by value are active.4 Radianse uses active RFID
with Bluetooth to locate nurses in hospitals. Connexion2 uses GSM to record an incident if a social worker
is threatened or attacked. Telegesis combines active RFID tags with ZigBee.5 In general, we are seeing
active tags being used with multiple technologies in order to produce a complex and robust product. In
summary, we can see that there are multiple benefits to using an active tag versus a passive tag, as listed
below in Table 2.
Table 2. Benefits and disadvantages of active versus passive tags.6
2.5 HF vs. UHF
For the purposes of this report, it is not necessary to go in-depth into LF or microwave tags, as
they do not possess the range (the former) or within the cost limits (the latter). Passive tags are wildly
available, but do not provide the amount of data transferable, or the range for accurate and precise location-
based technology. Microwave technologies are still emerging, and they are not matured enough with
testing. Microwave tags also require large sources of power that would be too costly to consider.
In analysis of the current frequency ranges, UHF possesses benefits over HF, although if there is more
progress in the HF field, HF may well become a possible choice with time. HF was tested in the 13.56 MHz
band, with reception up to 10 meters through a large area or volume.7 UHF often approximates to a beam,
with blind spots. Antennas developed by PYGMALYON Company have been able to detect tags within a
60 cubic meter volume. This technology was used at a sporting event, which is very similar in dynamic to
the crowds at many theme parks in terms of fluidity. According to Savi Technology, it would be pertinent
to mention that HF does posses the ability to propagate within a crowded environment, as well as have a
great range.6 It is important to note that long range HF is still being developed, while at the same time,
long range UHF has matured more, and is currently benefiting from sales of volume.
In general, radio signals at low frequencies will propagate farther than higher frequencies, if given
similar transmitter power levels. The reduction of quality of a radio signal is directly related to wavelength
as it travels through a medium such as outdoor air. Signals experience the same decrease in signal strength
per wavelength so that a lower frequency (with a longer wavelength) will decrease at a slower rate. Thus,
lower frequencies are able to maintain their integrity over greater distances. It is significant to note, though,
that below 100 MHz, other factors can greatly impact the range. Frequencies such as 13.56 MHz depend on
inductive coupling, which drops significantly with distance.2 But, if an electrical coupling is employed at
these frequencies, there is a high susceptibility to noise and interference with other devices that operate on
those frequency ranges. So, it is important to note that when operating in the UHF range, it would be
important to use the lowest acceptable frequency in order to gain both from the benefit of great range and
data integrity. Below in Figure 3, is a graph that illustrates the effect of frequency on technical
Figure 3. Technical performance versus frequency range of active tags.1
Because of the various necessary obstructions that exist in theme parks, it is necessary to consider
the effects of obstructions on signal strength. As was noted, wavelength of the signal is a very strong piece
of information to always take care. Wavelengths that are larger are able to propagate around obstructions,
because some obstructions prevent signals to go through materials. Wavelengths have an inverse relation
with frequency. At 433 MHz, wavelength is approximately a meter while at 2.4 GHz, wavelength is 1/10th a
meter, so obviously the level of going around obstructions is obvious.1 Theme parks often have very unique
architecture, and thus the goal of choosing a certain frequency would require one that could avoid the
multiple obstructions that may be built over time or already exists in the park.
2.6 Effects of Environment on RFID
RFID technology is very temperamental, as many different sources can influence the quality and
success of tag reading. Thus, it is important to note what types of conditions could influence the tags. In
enough to tackle the rigors of the various environments of a park. It is important to consider a technology
that can handle a heavy load of reads, with traffic in parks often dense and fluid. Also, because parks
consists of outdoor and indoor areas, the technology chosen should be ready for various weather patterns as
well as outdoor and indoor signal interferences.
RF waves can be absorbed by water, reflected by metal, and confused by EM interference. But,
tags can transmit through wood, plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard.8 Metal and metal items provide a challenge,
but line of sight is not so necessary. Also note that by placing tags on a person, people consists basically of
water, so thus that could present a severe problem.
It is important to note, companies such as Miyake, DAG systems, SUBTROPIC, Tagsense, UPM,
Rafsec now are offering passive HF tags that are tolerant of water and metal, and possess ranges of two to
ten meters. Advances in HF tags are occurring constantly, as previously it was noted that most tags would
be not work over one meter and were not robust in terms of facing impeded environments.4
Below, in Table 3, is a chart that illustrates the differences between HF and UHF tags in terms of
environmental considerations. Important things to note is the effects of outdoor conditions such as rain,
humidity, or snow. Although it has already been noted that UHF would succeed in crowded environments,
we see that HF does perform better in certain weather conditions. Of course, this information should be
taken with a grain of salt, as our desired UHF would be 433 MHz, while in the system that was tested, it
Table 3. Comparison of UHF (915 MHz) and HF (13.56 MHz) RFID tags.9
2.7 Progress of Cost Reduction of RFID System
The costs of tags vary depending on size of order and the scale of the system. In terms of passive
tags, the Auto-ID expects tags to drop 25% by 2007 for orders of 1 million units. For passive readers, it is
expected they will drop to $70 in 2006.2 AMR Research estimates that a consumer products company
shipping 50 million cases a year could spend upwards of $20 million for RFID implementation.2 Readers
for active systems are approximately between $1000 and $5000, while tags costs below $50. Of course, as
time progresses, this emerging technology should see drastic price changes.
2.8 RFID Operational Frequencies in Countries
Important facts with RFID operational frequencies are necessary to consider because of the
presence of theme parks throughout many different countries. By being in different countries, one would
wish to chose a frequency that is acceptable in many countries, thus allowing a more universal adaptation
of a system. If the noted allowed frequencies are not taken into account, a feasibility study in one country
may not be comparable to another country, considering the country may ban that certain frequency range.
Also, note that there are significant differences in robustness of HF and UHF, and thus, one would
hopefully test a frequency that is not only robust, but also acceptable in many countries. Below in Table 4,
we see a summary of acceptable bands of active RFID systems in certain countries.
Table 4. RFID compliance in different countries.2
2.9 Comparable RFID Technology
The current benefits of using RFID versus other comparable technologies are numerous.
Currently, the cost of RFID can range depending on the size of the order and the wanted capabilities. In
terms of theme parks, active UHF tags would provide the desired capabilities. Thus, the cost of these tags
and their readers are most important. Currently active UHF tags can cost between $2-20 dollars each,
depending on numerous conditions. A comparable technology to be used that would provide tracking
capabilities would be a GPS locator. The cost of a rudimentary handheld GPS locator is roughly $100. GPS
are also more geared towards single users versus creating a system network. Also, GPS systems are often
large versus RFID tags, which are small.5
Currently employed in many areas are infrared (IR) tags that emit modulated light in a diffusive
pattern. IR tags work when the emission is picked up by antennas with optical sensors. These sensors need
a line of sight, because light is easily blocked by walls and other physical obstructions.10
WLAN (IEEE 802.11b) is a midrange wireless local networking standard that is increasing in
popularity. It is capable of transmitting 11 Mbps and has a range of 50-100m. Tags that utilize WLAN are
large and demand large amounts of power, although they do have a massive amount of popularity. This
technology has been designed to transfer large amounts of data, and is not specifically designed for location
Bluetooth (IEEE 802.1b) is also a type of wireless local networking standard. The data rate is
lower than that of WLAN, and the range is typically shorter of typically 10-15m. The technology is prolific
among many forms of communications. The tags are quite small, and can be tagged individually in order to
provide a level of tracking. Bluetooth has been employed with RFID to provide a robust system for
In finality, the direct purpose of using RFID in theme parks is the cheap, location-based tracking
data that it could provide. Thus, we need to know exactly how precise a position can be achieved from the
currently available technology. Real time locating systems (RTLS) can precisely acquire an individual’s
position with WiFi to 10 feet. Depending on the type of active tag, a signal can be accurately positioned
within 30-100 feet, and with passive tags up to hundreds of feet in precision. Of course, because of the
nature of various sources of interference, signal precision could be improved significantly if an area is
assessed properly. Below in Figure 4, we see a summary of multiple technologies, and their deployment
Figure 4. Location-sensing technologies’ location accuracy versus deployment. Each box’s horizontal span
shows the range of accuracies the technology covers; the bottom boundary represents current deployment,
while the top boundary shows predicted deployment over the next several years.11
2.10 RFID Value Chain
RFID value chain, as of 2005, can best be illustrated by the drawing below, in Figure 5. This value
chain is what a company that chooses RFID would need to deal with once they decide the technology. It is
significant to note that if a theme park was to enter into the market, it would most likely have an in-house
group develop the product, or it would be outsourced to another company. If the company were to tackle
the program on its own, it would likely face many forms of cost, from doing basic testing of various
technologies in its park, developing a system infrastructure, as well as many other costs. Most likely this
would be a good choice, because parks could retain their propriety rights of any new technologies
developed and be able to patent any inventions.
Figure 5. RFID value chain as of 2005.12
3. COMPARABLE USES OF PERSONNEL
TRACKING IN MARKET
3.1 Customer Relationship Management
The main purpose of personnel tracking is that it can be a useful tool in Customer Relationship
Management (CRM). CRM consists of the use of systems, processes, and procedures for interacting with
customers and thus better manage them.13 In order to successfully employ CRM, one needs to have a
scalable system, with multiple communication channels and an ability to handle assignments through a
workflow. The architecture of CRM can consists of an operational, analytical, or co-operational system. In
summary, CRM should provide a way to improve customer service and relationships and thus create a more
meaningful and profitable connection. It is necessary to maintain a database that protects customer privacy.
3.2 Case Study of CRM
Harrah's casino is an example of an environment that is utilizing a tracking program for CRM to
its advantage. Harrah's currently is employing loyalty cards throughout the casino. The loyalty card uses a
magnetic stripe to track the movement of players as they play the various games. The loyalty card offers
incentives to players, and offers valuable data such as how long a customer is playing at a machine, when
that player is playing, and how much the player is gambling. In terms of customer information, the loyalty
card provides enough so that Harrah’s is able to target customers and entice them back. The CIO of
Harrah’s has said that the program has produced a 389% return-on-investment.14 Out of all visitors at
Harrah's, 80% are said to be participating in the loyalty cards. Important facts to draw from Harrah’s is how
they are employing a cheap tracking program to i) track its players ii) offer them incentives from their
playing habits iii) increase the amount of money spent on its facilities. Any theme park could thus employ
the same type of system using RFID, in order to create a smoother flow in the park, as well as enrich the
experience of the customers and thus increase its popularity.
3.3 Current Applications of RFID in Markets
RFID is being used in many different types of environments, although they are difficult to
compare to theme parks. A big use of RFID is in the supply chain, retail, medical field, manufacturing
inventory, and other such environments where there is a benefit to knowing where an asset is currently
Currently, RFID is not being utilized in theme parks for a personalized experience. The only
published use of RFID in theme parks is the use of tags in tracing children. Not much has been published in
terms of what technology or what specifications the parks are operating under. What is known is currently
theme parks can sell wristbands to parents that allow the tracking of their children throughout the park.15
Thus, when a child is lost in a theme park, the tag’s signal is traced so that the child’s location is
RFID is implemented in different methods throughout the various markets. In essence, RFID is
either being used tracking pallets or tagging at item level. Most applicable systems would be tagging at
item level, as pallets are often subjected to a very structured path. Items, though, often have a much more
fluid interaction in their systems as they tend to move between multiple vendors as well as through varied
It is important to look at the benefits of RFID in other markets, and then to summarize down the
trends into possibly relevant applications. By looking at the development of increased sales, inventory
tracking, and reduction of costs, there is indeed a use of RFID to theme parks. It would be beneficial to
know how RFID is being employed, what type of format, application, and supplier is doing the job. In table
5, there is a list of multiple examples of how RFID is being employed at this moment.
Table 5. Various uses of RFID in current markets.5
3.4 Current Situation of Theme Parks
The current environment in theme parks can be separated into three categories of specialization.
The first type of interface with customers consists of no participation or little control the customer has in
providing the theme park with behavioral information. The second form is mild interactivity with the theme
park, where the customer’s tastes are acknowledged and somewhat attended. The third form of interaction
is a complete immersive experience hand-tailored to the customer. Disney is an exemplary example of a
company that maintains all three types of attention towards customers.
The first category is the casual visitor to the park, who has not contacted Disney beforehand and is
visiting and not being particularly cared for. This user of the park is unfamiliar with the area and is simply
being lead by any enticements that the park currently displays. This type of casual user suffers from not
being able to know what they want, or any detailed information about any events in the park, and thus is
subjected to the whim of the moment. Basically, this type of visitor is at the mercy of the most direct
enticement, or “weenie” as Disney calls it. For instance, Disney employs a hub-spoke design of its park,
with the castle being the hub. The lands are considered spokes for Disney, and thus, a person is enticed to
head towards the large castle, and from there decide their choice in entertainment. Now imagine if the users
knew, for instance, that when in Tomorrowland they might really like a certain attraction in Frontier land.
Instead of wasting time cruising around for something that catches their eye, they could make a direct route
between the two areas. This user would be a perfect candidate to track, and then, as the visitor continues to
go and visit certain areas in the park, a behavior pattern can be developed and thus the user can be informed
on a more pleasurable experience. Below in Figure 6, is a map of Disneyland in California. It is important
to note how the different paths in the park are no different than different shipping lanes for a product (the
Figure 6. Illustrative map of Disneyland in California. Courtesy of WDWinfo.com
The second form of interaction can be seen in Disney’s Fastpass program. Fastpass allows a
customer to have more control of his theme park experience by allowing a customer to queue his position
in a line at a ride. To use Fastpass, a visitor passes his ticket through a machine, and is given a printout of
when to revisit the ride. They will still have to wait in line, but they often wait in shorter lines. The Fastpass
program is limited though, and is often geared towards the most popular rides. The visitor is playing an
active role in controlling his theme park experience when he uses Fastpass. A visitor is in essence telling
the theme park they acknowledge their want of a ride, but would rather spend their time in other parts of the
park instead of being inactive in a line. By using Fastpass, it frees the visitor to enjoy their experience more
as well as an opportunity to spend more money throughout the park. RFID technology would be
complementary to Fastpass by enticing users to go to events they are near that have no lines, while also
directing people to areas that are under less demand.
Another example of the second category is the “My Pal Mickey” program that has just begun
within the past 3 years. “My Pal Mickey” is a somewhat interactive doll that a visitor can purchase and use
throughout the Disney parks. It allows the user to have information relayed to them dependent on their
position in the park. For instance, they might be reminded to go watch the nearby fireworks within an hour
of the show. Also, the character provides fun facts about nearby attractions at the park. “My Pal Mickey”
utilizes an IR system in order to triangulate its position and thus utilize a more personalized experience
based on position. “My Pal Mickey” costs $65 dollars and is not very precise. The system also has no range
inside attractions and is designed as an outdoor device. RFID could even be employed in the device in
order to heighten its positioning features as well as interactivity with a database. Below in figure 7, “My
Pal Mickey” is illustrated with his multiple features.
Figure 7. My Pal Mickey with certain figures pointed out. Courtesy of Eweek.com
The third type of experience a user can do is the ultimate customized experience, as experienced
by VIP’s. This system usually consists of a personal tour guide that is able to provide the most unique
experience to a visitor. The visitor can inform the guide on their personal tastes in rides and events, and
thus the tour guide can provide an interactive interview process that would customize their experience at
the park. Often, these visitors at parks have to pay sums of money in order to pay for the higher attention
paid to them. RFID would not be supplementing this type of experience, although it could be a
complementary system for users who wish to venture out of their tour from time to time.
4.1 Position of RFID in Theme Parks
RFID has a place in theme parks. It is an emerging technology that will continue to become less
costly, and provide a stable system that should provide value customer data. By providing a tracking
service to customers at the park, theme parks can establish another level of interactivity that would enhance
and expand the current environment.
Theme parks should always concentrate on creating an immersive environment so as to enhance
the experience of the visitor. By using the tracking information provided by an RFID tag, a park could
determine the likes of a user by determining the time spent by a user at certain areas. By increasing the
interactivity of the park with the visitor, an even more complex system could be established. For instance,
imagine coupling RFID tags with cell phones. By knowing where a user is in the park, a system could
determine where he most likely will go next, and thus alert the visitor by cell phone (text messages or a
direct phone-call) of possible interesting things to discover throughout the park.
A theme park could potentially use RFID to:
+ Activate events when certain visitors are in the area (i.e. fireworks launched for large
congregations of people)
+ Provide information to visitors based on their previous visits to the park (if they had chosen to
register themselves into a database)
+ Provide information to visitors based on their current behavior at the park
+ Gather detailed information about customers behavior patterns to apply to future parks or
+ Offer flexible transportation systems that divert buses to largest areas of people
+ Use RFID payment system to also establish an easy way of paying for things throughout the
+ Link certain incentive offers based on behavior found by location awareness (i.e. offer a sneak
preview of a new ride to those that have shown previous interest in similar rides)
4.2 Deployment of RFID in Theme Parks
There are different methods of implementation for RFID in any environment. The following is a
list of five of the most popular methods and the best choices for this application.11
Method 1 is the use of fixed readers, to provide real-time tag presence. The method uses stationary
readers to continually monitor RFID tags in the read range. This system is basically automated. This
methods provides information on the presence or absence of specific tags, location information with a
granularity of a single reader’s range. By knowing that a tag is in the presence of one reader, we know it
shouldn’t be in the presence of other readers. Thus, if the information is continually updated, there can be
checks to make certain that RFID tags are moving to desired positions. Thus, with enough robustness, a
system can activate check-in and check-out activities as a tag moves in and out of a reader’s range.
Method 2 consists also of fixed readers, but relays real-time tag location. This method relies on a
single tag being within the range of several readers at one time. Unlike method 1, this method determines
the position of the tag versus knowing a general sense of where the tag is currently located. Even more so,
method 2 determines where a tag is, while method 1 can only tell if a tag is within a reader’s range. Two
methods exist for triangulating the position of a tag. One method is to use timing information to determine
the latency of a signal between reader and tag. The constant of RF signal speed is used here to calculate
boundaries along which the tag may be, and the intersection of these boundaries at a point provides the
location information. The second method is to compare the strength of the signal at each reader, and to use
the RF propagation loss equations to create possible location boundaries as in the first method. This method
is more susceptible to error, since the signal strength can be affected by many types of interferences. By
either triangulation method, a location can be determined that is more precise than a general read field.
Instead, method 2 provides a fraction of a read range as a possible location.
Method 3 is the use of mobile readers and interval collection. This method uses one or more
mobile readers to collect information from groups of tags. Information is not necessarily real-time, but
readers are able to move about and thus produce a greater read range. This method is useful in terms of
acquiring tag data for areas that are affected by unusual travel patterns. This would be useful, for instance,
in analysis of what a group of people that have gathered consists of. Thus, specific time and places can be
tested, even though a permanent system is not positioned.
Method 4 uses mobile readers, and tag location at intervals. This method is simply a more
sophisticated version of method 3. Method 4 consists of adding fixed “locator” tags, so that the position of
the reader relative to the reader is known. From this, further positions can be extrapolated for the location
of the read tags in the area.
Method 5 is the use of fixed readers at choke points. Choke points are places where there is a
bottleneck in the flow of assets. In terms of theme parks, often these are such as admission gates and other
entrances. Thus, most areas in theme parks already have established one-way paths so that this method
could be successfully employed at these choke points. By using these choke points, location is known as
well as anticipated future location. By using established points such as entrances, one can safely assume
that the visitors should move towards the exits in a well-timed fashion. This type of system would be useful
for determining the theoretical hourly ride capacity (THRC) of attractions that usually are more fluid in
people coming in and out.
Below in Figure 8 is a summary of all 5 deployment methods and their quality relationship with a
certain technology. Note, excellent is considered to be the point that the system is very reliable and signal
strength is strong. Good is qualified as mostly reliable, with anomalies causing problems in signal strength.
Fair is considered the point where the system may miss multiple tag reads, but is still able to provide a
quality experience. Poor is considered the point where the system can not be sure of where many tags are
currently located. NA is considered a technology and method mix that is impossible to deploy.
Figure 8. Deployment method versus technology in terms of a general quality of signal.11
The above show recommendations of choosing between fixed or mobile readers, and applying
certain protocol to those readers in order to determine position. In terms of RTLS, there are three methods
of sophistication. They are zone-based location, time-of-flight, and differential time of arrival. Zone-based
location is illustrated by the 5 methods of deployment above (excluding method 2).16 Time-of-flight
depends on a transmitter sending a signal to a tag, and receiving a response at usually a different
frequency.16 Beacon tags are used in this system, which transmits their identification codes on a pseudo-
random basis. Transceivers that receive signals from tags calculate the time elapsed between transmission
of signal and time received, and thus determine position ranges. This system is costly because it must be
sophisticated enough to determine elapsed time of signal transmission. Differential time of arrival
technique consists of using a fixed transmission rate from the tag. By using multiple readers, they simply
compare at which time the tags information was received, and compare against what time the data should
have been transmitted.16 Thus, instead of relying on an amount of time different between sent signal and
received signal (from tag to reader back to tag to reader), this system rely only a tag to reader relationship.
By using a mixture of all the above methods a theme park could determine a very accurate map of positions
of its RFID carrying visitors.
4.3 Future Applications
As RFID technologies become more robust the system can become cheaper for all users to use.
The overall purpose of the tags is to provide a theme park with a dynamic tracking system. By exposing the
system to more users, the park benefits from increased tracking information and interactivity with visitors.
As the technology continues to cheapen and become more robust, the infrastructure could be upgraded to
accommodate a heavier load. As chips become cheaper and more advanced, it will become indeed very
pertinent to investigate applying RFID into more theme environments. Entire rides could be developed
based on RFID technology. By activating events only in the presence of certain tags would signify a level
of interactive experience yet to be had.
RFID is a relatively fast developing technology, with multiple uses. One of them could possibly be
in theme parks. RFID allows for visitors to be identified and tracked. This can be accomplished by using a
UHF tag that is active. By choosing UHF, there is enough robustness to tackle the varied environment of a
theme park. Also, we wish to choose an active tag so then the data may be reliably transmitted. However,
costs of UHF tags are not cheap, nor are the readers that must be used with them.
In order to determine the feasibility of implementing RFID, a theme park must determine the exact
use of the system. If a RFID system is able to provide a more valued customer relation, the increase in
revenue may make up for the initial high costs of a system. Also, because RFID provides a tailored service,
there could be a chance to charge users to be able to use the system. Thus, RFID could provide another
level of customer experience at a park.
In conclusion, RFID is an interesting new way of providing attention at a close level to customer
behavior. But, in order to truly benefit, a careful study must be determined in exactly how RFID would
respond to a theme park. RFID technology is highly specific and temperamental to exactly how it is being
employed. There are multiple ways of achieving the same goal with RFID, and it is important to determine
which method is the best method.
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