John Padgett, the man who developed Disney’s hugely successful MagicBand, explains how Ocean Medallion, his latest application of wearable technology in travel, is set to transform the cruise sector
This autumn cruise industry is poised to prove it can outdo the astonishing success of Disney’s pioneering wearable MagicBand technology.
The free MagicBand, which was launched in Florida’s Disney World in 2015, now sees almost 100% take-up by Disney hotel guests and 95% customer satisfaction levels.
The band, which unlocks hotel rooms, makes purchases, and books restaurants and ride times, has made Disney the world’s fourth largest distributor of wearable technology.
But according to the architect of Carnival Corporation’s Ocean Medallion, who developed MagicBand for Disney, the technology could have an even bigger impact on holidays at sea.
John Padgett, Carnival’s chief experience and innovation officer, said the managed Disney experience provided a great on-land proving ground for wearable technology in tourism.
But cruise offers even more potential. “In cruise you own all the verticals of the consumer experience from lodging, food a beverage, retail, transportation and recreation,” he said.
“On land these complicate the guest experience because different people operate them. In cruise you can innovate across them all instantaneously according to the way guests react.
Ocean Medallion roll-out:
The Princess Cruises brand has been chosen by Carnival Corporation to debut Ocean Medallion and seven ships have been lined up:
November 2017 – Regal Princess*
January 2018 – Royal Princess*
March 2018 – Caribbean Princess
May 2018 – Island Princess
November 2018 – Crown Princes
November 2018 – Golden Princess
January 2019 – Ruby Princess
*ships based in Europe in spring and summer 2018
“Personalised service has been around for as long as time. If you have enough money and enough people you can have a personalised experience.
“But I have this passion to democratise elite-level service. I want to achieve mass personalisation.
“If you increase personalisation guests feel better and they consume more. If they like what they are consuming and they consume more, it must be better from a vacation standpoint.
“This is much bigger than a cruise line doing something new or innovative. This is the whole Internet of Things taken to an extreme, it just happens to be on a cruise ship.”
Padgett stressed Ocean Medallion is not being introduced based on a crude return on investment calculation of selling more stuff or reducing staffing costs through automation.
He said: “We look at this from a value point of view. Cruise represents just 2% of hotel rooms in the world. To have an impact on the 98% is potentially huge in terms of yield.
“Secondly, when you personalise the experience its valued more so you are not going need to to discount it. It will have an impact on rates dissolution.
“Thirdly, make things easier to consume and more is consumed. We’re making our business model a function of the guest. What does the consumer want and how do we deliver it?”
Padgett said Ocean Medallion has the potential to transform the product across entire fleets.
Inevitably the sector’s latest and most advanced hardware is on its newest ships and only available to those guests who pay a premium to cruise on them.
• Ocean Medallion will be provided free to guests as stateroom door keycards are today and it is up to them how much of the functionality they use.
• The technology is an application of Bluetooth Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) that identifies and tracks tags or devices attached to objects.
• No new technology was developed for Ocean Medallion meaning development took just two years, but there are 27 patents pending on the technology.
• Carnival invented Ship Positioning System (SPS), a ship version of Global Positioning System (GPS), to pinpoint guests and direct them to the services they require.
• Ocean Medallion is the same size of a 10p piece and has no visible technology such as an on-off switch or charging function.
• Carnival will consider off-ship applications including in terminal buildings, private destinations like Princess Quay or Princess Lodge, Alaska, and potentially in port shops, museums, airports, and transfer coaches.
New ships and classes of vessel account for much of the marketing buzz lines generate, but in practice most guests will be sold less innovative, older product.
Ocean Medallion, however, will be retro-fitted onto older ships, as well as becoming standard on new vessels, so the new features can be enjoyed by all.
“In cruise what’s always baffled me is we have these 30-year assets but compete on the newest ones. I want all our guests to have a personalised experience with no hassle.
“The value in cruise stacks up against any destinations, we need to make sure we maximise the guest experience.”
Despite the hype, Padgett said he doesn’t want Ocean Medallion to become the focus of people’s cruise. He wants it to operate intuitively, almost unseen.
The device will pair with the Ocean Compass digital concierge and communicate with around 4,000 touchpoints from in-room TVs, stateroom doors, large touchscreen interfaces in public areas and devices used by crew.
It will also work with guests’ personal devices if they choose, be stamped with the guest’s and ship’s name and sail date and come with choice of accessories so it can be worn either as a watch or broche.
The real-time nature of the data generated means enhancements to individual experiences can happen immediately rather than fed into future improvements.
Padgett stressed data collected will only be used in ways that are compliant with privacy rules, including new stricter EU regulations due to come in next May.
“Guests can always elect into receiving marketing but it’s an affirmative choice. The deal is guests are sharing their information, so we are going to make the experience better in real time.
“Once you leave the ship if you want us to forget that information we will forget it, that’s perfectly fine. It’s the guest’s choice.
“Most will say I don’t want you to forget it because I want to come again and enjoy the benefits.”
An Uber for service
Ocean Medallion’s ethos is summed by the mantra “anything you want, anytime you want it and, anywhere you are”.
Padgett said: “Cruise ships are strange in that they have areas set up to provide service at certain times of the day while other areas are empty.
“What if I’m at the pool bar on the top deck and I want sushi from the restaurant on deck five? In today’s world it’s closed.
“With Ocean Medallion we can provide that on-demand service no matter where the guest is.”