Cedar Fair testing RFID wristbands for payment

Posted Tuesday, August 13, 2013 10:50 AM | Contributed by Jason Hammond

In the near future, you may not need to take your wallet to Cedar Point, Soak City, or other Cedar Fair LP parks. This summer the Sandusky-based company, which owns 11 amusement parks and six water parks, is testing a new system it calls FastPay at its Dorney Park amusement park in Allentown, Pa.

Read more from The Toledo Blade.

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Friday, August 16, 2013 11:55 AM

This technology (and implementation) seems old. Disney has been doing it 10-20 years. Even arcades have utilized similar processes for some time.

I personally believe biometrics (not RF wristbands) linked to a central processing makes more sense financially and functionally. My hunch is privacy hysteria is a contraindication...? Maybe the technology is not reliable yet? I still remember that God-awful "finger width" biometric process Disney tried some years back... :-) But something that requires the end user to carry/hold/obtain NOTHING...seems to be the ultimate get.

I personally hate bottlenecks. Waiting to get wristbands/etc...just lengthens the ticket purchase process time and frustrates the end user. I'm for any system that decreases such inconvenience.

I think they could be a little more forward thinking than radio frequencies ...possibly...? I'm certain they can get beyond "refills"...which is the reality of the archaic process they're testing.

I applaud efforts to modernize the process...but think they might be a bit behind the curve with how they are implementing...

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Friday, August 16, 2013 12:21 PM
rollergator's avatar

Raven-Phile said:

Soon, we'll all be using our very own RFID wrist bands to make purchases on underwear and sunscreen.

...and brownies! ;~P

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Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:24 AM
LostKause's avatar

Timber-Rider said:

...As a former Meijer cashier, I have dealt with all kinds of different systems and cards...

The Cedar Fair parks already sell Snoopy Bucks, which are like the old fashioned gift certificates. This is like Snoopy Bucks, except you scan your waterproof RFID bracelet to pay. The number in the bracelet is like the bar code or magnetic strip on a gift card, except that it is invisible. I don't see what makes this any more complicated than that, as far as overcharging or mistakes in credit or debt goes. Don't over-think it. everything else is the same, as far as type of payment, and how that side of the transaction goes, as far as I know. If a "system or card" is going to mess up, it's going to mess up no matter if you are purchasing an RFID type gift card, or the food and merchandise outright.

I actually know a lot about gift cards myself. The system that I am familiar with rarely messes up, the biggest problem being that the cards were already used and somehow got mixed in with the new cards.

RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology is really fascinating to me. To familiarize those who do not know, an item, like the bracelet here, has a chip in it, which has a unique number. That chip does not have a battery in it or anything. The reader sends out a radio signal that hits the chip, and the number on the chip bounces back to the reader, and the number is retrieved. The reader then does whatever it needs to do with that number, like send it to a computer.

Many department stores use RFID technology in the stockroom to help keep track of inventory. It has also been used to identify missing pets for decades. There are new ways being discovered to use RFID, but I would argue that this technology is really not new anymore.

It's very much like the theft deterrence systems near the exits at department stores that have the towers that sound an alarm if a non-deactivated chip imbedded into a package is detected nearby. The difference is that RFID bounces an entire unique number back to the reader, and the theft deterrence systems just bounce a single signal to sound an alarm.

Last edited by LostKause, Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:27 AM
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Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:38 PM


RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology is really fascinating to me. To familiarize those who do not know, an item, like the bracelet here, has a chip in it, which has a unique number. That chip does not have a battery in it or anything. The reader sends out a radio signal that hits the chip, and the number on the chip bounces back to the reader, and the number is retrieved. The reader then does whatever it needs to do with that number, like send it to a computer.

Thanks for the education...I honestly had no clue what RFID was until the article...and frankly you describe it much easier.

My relatively non-technical mind has immediate questions. Why is a RF device even needed? Doesn't manufacturing/buying RF chips add unnecessary costs to the system?

I'm back to my "bio-metrics" dream (of course I'm also a bit perturbed we are not all driving jet-packs to the park). Seems like you have to have a scanner for either the RFID or bio-metric system. Would scanner costs be "that much" more for bio-metrics versus RFID? So much as to dwarf the costs for the "chipped" wristbands over time...?

It just seems so much more convenient to skip the radio frequency part of the process on multiple fronts. Ease of use for the consumer, security, and possibly costs... Is bio-metric scanning technology unreliable, too expensive, etc?

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Saturday, August 17, 2013 1:38 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

The chips are absurdly cheap. Like, tens of cents.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Saturday, August 17, 2013 1:39 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Saturday, August 17, 2013 1:51 PM
LostKause's avatar

I have read that RFID chips for this kind of use are around 7-15 cents each, depending on the volume bought, of course. I suspect that the readers are no more than any other kind of hardware.

The chips that are encased in glass tubes and can be inserted under the skin, which I find terrifying, are much more expensive.


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Saturday, August 17, 2013 3:18 PM

Timber-Rider, did you ever work at Meijer? Just curious...I don't think you've ever really told us.


The amusement park rises bold and stark..kids are huddled on the beach in a mist

http://support.gktw.org/site/TR/CoastingForKids/General?px=1248054&...fr_id=1372

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Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:29 PM

They have fingerprint scanners on phones and tablets now. This is in addition to stand-alone units. That seems to be the most practical amusement park (particularly water-park) interface. A simple fingerprint scan with a jpeg picture back-up linked to the central credit card center...voila!

Then we can think into the future further. Fingerprint scans at the ride entrances...connected to a central real-time "line-length" software system which will alogrithmically determine the real time ride price. Interactive park maps (on your smart phone)/stations that can determine exactly what you have experienced...that can plot your most efficient (i.e. park's most profitable) means of experiencing park attractions based upon simple inputs.

The possibilities are limitless and exciting. All without the need for a radio frequency, wristband, etc.

I don't even recognize the park experience today compared to 20 years ago. I can't even imagine how different it will be 20 years from today. Our kids may one day laugh at us when we tell them we actually waited 1-2 hours to ride rides.

...don't even get me going on facial recognition software/scanning and how that could change the entire amusement park experience.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:41 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Umm, you got people afraid of a business tying personal info to a silly wristband.

Imagine the backlash of a business tying personal info to a fingerprint or facial recognition.

If the park can tie my name, address, and payment info to my fingerprint - they already have more on me than any law enforcement agency.

I mean, in terms of the excitement and "what ifs" - I'm right there with you. I just don't see it happening any time soon and I'm not sure it needs to. Still not sold on the fingerprint thing being any easier or more convenient or offering any real benefit over the RFID wristband.

In fact, scanning a fingerprint or face is actually less convenient that an RFID which works in proximity. Basically just stand close enough to the register to order your food/souvenir/game play and payment just happen automatically. Nothing else has to be done.


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Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:28 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

Yes. I would much rather wave my wrist in the general direction of the payment device than have to bugger around touching something.

"Line length software system" to determine the "real time ride price"? Why on earth would you want to know how much something is going to cost you only after you've decided to buy it?


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Sunday, August 18, 2013 12:18 PM

I should think that buggering would cost extra.


My author website: mgrantroberts.com

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Sunday, August 18, 2013 8:25 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

Imagine the backlash of a business tying personal info to a fingerprint or facial recognition.

If the park can tie my name, address, and payment info to my fingerprint - they already have more on me than any law enforcement agency.

I too assume privacy issues are a big reason we are looking at this 10-20 year old technology as something new and exciting. I was thinking more of tying the fingerprint (retina scan, etc) to an arbitrary # which is then tied to the credit card processing center...just like these RF bands are being utilized. The photo was only mentioned as a means for the 16 year old park employee to double check that the scanners are indeed working properly at the point of sale...though indeed a whole different can of worms in terms of privacy/backlash..

I could argue that tying this info to a credit card is really no more invasive than some current retailer practices. But I cannot argue that the backlash and effort to defend such a practice would be a HUGE disincentive to implementation...

I agree that PRIVACY is the deterrent. Maybe something less provoking than a fingerprint could be utilized...? ...an innocent EAR scan! :-D

As for what the law enforcement knows and does not know about us...? Who really knows for certain...? The data storage is so cheap and the input of data becoming so simple (i.e. Google Glasses, Phone GPS, etc), privacy is under attack everywhere. The mayor of New York is currently calling for all public housing benefactors to undergo fingerprinting. If society evolves (devolves?) to the point in which such practices become the norm...?

Anyhow...no doubt wristbands are a step in a more efficient/profitable system. I'm just looking further down that road...

P.S. Real good take on the RF's working in proximity. I can see how this could be "better." For example...interaction with dress characters (i.e. Mickey) could be initiated as soon as a child gets "close" to a character/area. Or how about the haunts? How scary would it be if the evil spirit called out your name? I love all of this stuff...and believe all parks have just scratched the surface of possibilities...

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