This weekend I took a mini-cruise and was impressed with the RFID-enabled services on board.
Car ferries sail between the ports by the Baltic Sea on a
daily basis. Their original business was transporting cars and
trains from Sweden to Finland and Aland and vice versa. 1970s saw
the change towards cruise ships and offering the passengers
entertainment as well as transportation. Today most shipping
companies offer so-called mini-cruises, which typically take 20-24
hours and offer dining, clubbing as well as relaxation. In 2013
more than 15 million passengers travelled with the Baltic Sea
I got to travel on one of the newest vessels on the Baltic
Sea. As an RFID enthusiast I was glad to see RFID used on board for
one thing. Furthermore I enjoyed the way it had been implemented. I
witnessed UHF RFID used in a restaurant and in the Spa and Wellness
area. Although I've seen similar deployments with RFID before, I
felt these were more sophisticated than ever before.
Spa & Wellness area
These days several spas already have some RFID-enabled
wristbands, which allow the guests to make their purchases without
money. The RFID wristband is used to collect all purchases and as
the guest is leaving the spa, the total amount will be charged from
The Spa & Wellness area on this ferry is beautifully
decorated and has an air of luxury in it. Therefore the wristband
they offered for payment purposes really fit the place. It was
small and rather sophisticated looking.
When I've visited other Spa's with RFID functionalities,
I've often found that the RFID wristband is large and clumsy. And
in most cases when I've wanted to pay, I've had to dig out the
"coin" from inside the band. The "coin" will need to be removed
from the band in order to place it in a special reading device -
this is typical for HF RFID as the reading range is limited. As the
Spa & Wellness area used UHF RFID readers, all I had to do was
to hold my hand on top of the reader device and it would register
my order. I did dig out the "coin" of course - just to see how it
was. And I realized one benefit of this wristband: if the "coin"
for some reason did break, you could easily replace it without
having to order a whole new wristband.
Relaxed after my Spa visit I felt somewhat hungry and
headed to a restaurant, which was described to offer "casual
dining". At the restaurant entrance the hostess greeted us warmly,
gave us credit card-sized cards and explained how they worked. We
took the menus given to us and selected our courses and off I went
to order them. I told the chef our orders and gave him our "credit
card" and he held it on top of the reader (as you can see in the
picture). As we left the restaurant we gave the cards to the
hostess who repeated our purchases and when we agreed, she produced
us the bill.
The benefit of this kind of self service restaurant is
clearly in the number of the staff. No waiters were needed,
although there was a person tidying up the tables. The benefit for
the customer is that your meal is prepared in front of you and you
know it is fresh. And if you didn't like it, the chef is near for
you to give your feedback.
I expect in the future we will see even more RFID-based services
on board of the ferries. For families for instance the RFID
wristband would be a great benefit already now: if the wristband
would be used everywhere for payment, you could buy pre-loaded
wristbands for your kids - e.g. worth € 20,00.
The ferries sell tax-free alcohol and tobacco products for
their passengers. However, there is a limitation to how much
alcohol one may bring to Finland / Sweden. Following the limitation
would be easy if everybody entitled to buy it again had the
wristband. Once your purchases are full, the cashier would
immediately see it from the system. Perhaps in the