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3/22/2006
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RFID Pays Way, Opens Doors At Resort

Guests at a resort in Niagara Falls will be given RFID wristbands to access rooms and pay for service during their stay.

Great Wolf Resorts Inc. in April will open a Niagara Falls resort equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The property intends to operate on cashless point of sale (POS) platforms and hotel keyless entry systems.

The Ontario, Canada, resort will become the second Great Wolf Resorts property this year to open with an RFID infrastructure design by Precision Dynamics Corp. Great Wolf Lodge Poconos, Penn., a 401-suite family resort with an indoor water park, opened in October. Great Wolf Resorts will retrofit an additional seven resorts if the technology proves successful.

When guests arrive at the Great Wolf Resorts they will be given an RFID wristband embedded with a Texas Instruments Inc. 13.56MHz RFID inlay to use while at the resort. Each guest is assigned a number. The wristband provides entrance into the guest's hotel room, and allows the guest to make cashless purchases at POS terminals throughout the resort. Parents may provide wristbands to kids for food, beverages, and arcade games.

Each wristband will act as a charge card, and guests may add funds to their wristbands at Smart Kiosks or Great Wolf Lodge POS stations. Alternatively, funds may be transferred onto the wristband using cash or credit or can be linked to the room account.

Items will be added to the account as they're purchased with the wristband. The account will then be reconciled when the guest checks out of the resort. Encrypted information on the wristband provides security.

The plan to install RFID at the resorts took three years to design and build. Great Wolf Resorts had to get buy-in from manufacturers that supply the resort with equipment. "Early on, we talked with our arcade vendors to get change machines that would work with the RFID technology," said Kim Schaefer, chief operating officer at Great Wolf Resorts. "We had to write software for the computer systems and find a lock vendor to interface with the system."

Great Wolf Resorts spent more than $250,000 on payment systems, servers, software, hardware, and RFID technology. Software drove most of the added expense. The budget also includes another $250,000 for RFID wristbands in the coming year.

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