Princess Cruises unveils “digital concierge”

Ocean Medallion wearable devices will debut this fall on Princess Cruise Lines

Passengers on Valencia-based Princess Cruises will have first crack at a new wearable digital device the cruise line’s corporate parent unveiled this week.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp. & plc, which owns Princess and nine other cruise lines, announced the launch of Ocean Medallion in a keynote speech Thursday at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. His speech was a rare departure from the tech titans who typically headline the event.

Ocean Medallion is a quarter-size 1.8 ounce disk that has no on/off button, needs no charging or instructions. It can be worn as a bracelet or pendant (available for purchase onboard) or carried in a pocket. The device offers vastly expanded wireless connection for cruise passengers, and may be a harbinger of things to come back on shore.

Unlike earlier generations of such devices used at theme parks, no action by the user, such as tapping the device, is required. Sensors automatically pick up signals from the devices. One of the lead designers of the system is John Padgett, who helped develop the MagicBand used at Disney theme parks, and has been with Carnival since 2014.

Prior to cruising, Princess encodes an Ocean Medallion with information passengers provide online, laser-etches it with the guest’s name, ship and date of sailing, and mails it to the passenger.

The device includes near field communication and Bluetooth low energy communication capabilities that interact with thousands of sensors, kiosks, interactive surfaces and smart devices installed throughout the ships and ports. Ships will need to have up to 7,000 sensors installed.

Princess says the technology will speed boarding and unboarding. Once aboard, it will replace keycards, as it will sense the passenger’s approach to his or her cabin. Carnival says the device does not store sensitive information, such as a stateroom number, and includes undisclosed authentication features.

Passengers can order food and have it delivered anywhere on the ship, make purchases without any transaction, cards or paper, and engage in onboard wagering. It will also make it easy to locate friends and family around the cruise ship, and book shore excursions.

The medallions are powered by proprietary technology developed by Carnival Corp. that features an Internet of Things network of intelligent sensors and computing devices. Ocean Medallion will work with the Ocean Compass app for guests and crew that is available via interactive displays throughout the ship, on stateroom TVs or on mobile devices.

“The Ocean Medallion is an amazing use of technology that potentially redefines travel as we know it,” Donald said. “It opens an entire world of experiences, and the personal power it unleashes is huge.”

Use of the medallions will debut this November on Regal Princess, a 144,000-ton ship that carries 3,560 passengers and a crew of 1,346. Next up will be Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess early next year, as part of the new Ocean Medallion Class to be rolled out over several years across the Princess Cruises fleet. The line carries two million passengers a year.

“With this innovation, from the moment our guests first engage with us, their experiences will be powered by their preferences, from extra pillows to their favorite drink,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “Services they desire will be delivered seamlessly, in real time, often without asking, where and when they want them.”

The medallion is part of what the company has dubbed a highly personalized “experience ecosystem.” As cruise ships have grown ever larger, cruise lines have vied for ways to make the experience less overwhelming. Use of the medallion will be “intuitive, but not disruptive. Personal, but not invasive,” said Michael Jungen, Carnival Corp.’s senior vice president of experience design and technology. Passengers may opt out of using the medallion if they find it intrusive.

The technology could be useful in other industries, Donald said, suggesting the benefits of a patient checking into a hospital and being recognized without filling out any forms.

In addition to Princess, Carnival Corp. owns Carnival Cruise Line, Fathom, Holland America Line, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, and P&O Cruises in Australia and the United Kingdom. The combined lines operate 102 ships that go to more than 700 ports worldwide.

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