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Smart City Sentinel

Carnival Cruises Connects the Passenger Experience

By Arti Loftus

Earlier this month, Carnival Cruises took IoT experts for a ride demonstrating their Ocean Medallion service, enabled by a smart device which personalizes each guest experience. Introduced at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, the service uses a wireless Bluetooth an NFC-enabled device the size of a quarter, that can be worn around the neck, on a belt clip, or on a bracelet and can, with the passengers’ permission, track their activities on board, learn their favorite wines, meals and activities, track their children, open their staterooms (keyless entry), and enable purchases.

The staff also uses the medallion to automate and personalize the service they provide to passengers; for example, they can greet each passenger by name, and provide “frictionless” interactions and purchases.

Another benefit of the Medallion platform is navigation around modern cruise ships which are increasingly large and complex, given their size and scope.

Ocean Medallion sensors and networks are currently installed on five ships now, with 17 more slated for installation in the next two years.

The IoT data provides a real-time picture of the most valuable cargo on the ship – the passengers and crews, while also reducing carbon footprint by, for example, more efficiently adjusting lighting and AC in staterooms when not in use. Given the success of the technology, Carnival is now looking to install similar services into land-based entertainment facilities.

Thom Jordan, Managing Director of the Networks & Telecom vertical for Rocket Wagon Venture Studios, was invited on board for the tour and demonstration and said, “This is a great view into how a real city would or could function, with links for citizens to access vital city  services, and a platform for creating a vibrant, connected local economy.”

One of the largest IoT implementations of its kind, Carnival worked with NYTec, a US tech company to develop the waterproof medallion and connected systems.

“Carnival has done a great job protecting privacy and allowing passengers to opt in or out of certain tracking. Given the convenience of services like this,” Jordan said, “consumers can leverage Ocean Medallion to enjoy their vacation time by utilizing the frictionless interactions and experience personalization coupled with its security safeguards.” 

Using the Medallion is free of charge and optional for passengers.

John Padgett, originally from Disney, has been leading this initiative, as Chief Experience Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Global Experience + Innovation at Carnival. Padgett developed the magic band and my magic plus and said the Ocean Medallion is “the most extensive experiential Internet of Things that’s ever been done.”

Medallion relies on an impressive 70,000 sensors on the ship. Every state room door and staff mobile device is a sensor. Medallion works in conjunction with Ocean Compass, the app and service that displays personalized recommendations for each passenger on 40,000 Digital interaction points, including the 55-inch screen kiosks all over the ship.

Padgett said, “our focus is in the end-to-end guest experience being holistically delivered in a personalized way, in a simplified way.”

Ocean Medallion enables the following:

  • Sets up itinerary before you leave the home
  • Check-in remotely
  • Connect to Ocean Ready, the Carnival technology where passengers’ health profiles, food preferences, and excursions are selected before boarding
  • State room access (keyless): opens door turns on lights and AC and adjusts to each passenger’s settings
  • Reserve restaurants and activities.
  • Receive invitations to special events and recommendations
  • Track children and other group members
  • Go into “invisible mode” to the group, if you don’t want group members to “see” you

Cleaning staff can use it to know when the room is empty to clean the room (better passenger experience and more efficient for Carnival), and since it knows where a passenger is on the ship, a passengers can order food or services which staff can deliver directly to the passenger wherever they are in the ship.

“There are apps and games enabled by the medallion throughout the ship,” Jordan said, “and with over 4,200 passengers and 1,300 crew members on the largest ships, truly enables a smart city at sea.”

Padgett's said, “your experience is only going to be as good as your operational experience,” so a great deal of attention has been placed on behind the scenes capabilities in addition to the guest experience.

Carnival cruises incorporate this IoT service in what they call layers:

  1. the interaction layer, which is the UX
  2. the experience layer, where it incorporates the restaurants, activities, etc. functions on the ship
  3. the signature service layer, which is the Ocean Concierge and Ocean Ready (personalized passenger specific layer)
  4.  The ocean medallion itself as a separate layer
  5. The Operating System

Royal Caribbean has a similar service called the RFID WOW Band, which is used to open doors or food, beverage beverages, and merchandise. It connects experiences via their Excalibur platform which integrates the Sea Beyond mobile app, WOW Band, AR, and VR, and has a different spin than Carnival, focusing more on innovations like virtual concierges built on AI.

The ultimate goal of technology and innovation at Carnival is to “maximize vacation time for our guests,” Padgett explained. “We’ve gone out of our way for what we call experience personalization. Our goal is to make the technology disappear in the eyes of the guest and have their experience purely based on their enjoyment and their vacation.”

Padgett said, “On our interactive crew ships we’ve accomplished 99.7% of our guests or interconnected person via our Medallion class service.”

“We chose the Medallion because it was a ubiquitous device and platform on the entire ship.  Phones and phone apps vary in terms of models, carriers, updates, etc.   The medallion is waterproof, sunproof, sandproof – which smartphones are not.”

“That being said,” Jordan explained, “guests can also use their phones, apps, and any other on-ship interactive screens or devices giving them an omnichannel experience.”

The Medallion provides the on-ship safety center real-time awareness of everyone on the ship, which while not as sexy as other services, makes the fire drills more efficient, while also ensuring greater safety in the event of real-time emergencies.

“With this system, families can locate lost children or family members with dementia in seconds, not hours,” Jordan said.

Carnival also owns Princess Cays, which is the only IoT enabled island in the world, in the Bahamas, and a story we’ll be following up on particularly following the recent hurricane that devasted some parts of those islands.

On October 1st, Carnival will take delivery of their first Medallion (pre-)enabled ship. The company operates in 360 ports in 7 continents.


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Special Correspondent

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