In April 2008, I had heard some of the industry rumblings with regard to RFID for guest tracking and speed control. Steamboat Springs had offered family tracking for families for a fee. There have been on-mountain speed control tests done at several other resorts.
Then, two years later in April 2010, I figured it would just me a matter of time before our lift passes could be used for the same thing. I came up with the idea for SkiPassDefender. On August 30, 2010 Vail Resorts announced EpicMix. My business was deemed to have been standing in the way of the Vail Resorts initiative. I was given a choice: End my business, continue to work as a ski instructor, and abide by “certain rules”; Or after 17 years of service for Breckenridge, and an trainer of instructors for 11 years, I would not be hired back to teach skiing for Breckenridge or Vail Resorts. I searched my conscience, and chose to offer people the easiest way to control which information is shared and cataloged while on the mountain. RFID technology is not a fad. It will be adopted by a majority of ski areas around the world. Ironically, I don’t see the SkiPassDefender as competition to the Vail Resorts EpicMix initiative. It is simply a way to give the skier or rider the freedom to choose to be tracked or untracked from day to day or run to run. And we now know where Vail Resorts stands on that point. “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black”.
Hundreds of ski areas around the world are using RFID technology for lift ticket or guest service tracking strategies. Several ski areas including Aspen have mentioned the use of RFID assisted speed control zones in their slow skiing areas. Using this technology your ticket can be “hot passed” if you’re exceeding the “speed limit”; you would arrive at the base lift and you would be stopped, warned, and/or documented. This information can now be cataloged for the season or multiple seasons.
EpicMix is Vail Resorts’ latest initiative. It is a tour de force product which integrates the best of RFID Lift ticket UHF RFID chip technology (longer range/tracking potential), excellent social media integration (opt-in marketing through EpicMix.com), and “smooth” adoption. Your data is shared with YOU, and your friends only if you opt-in. And it can be accessed by a mobile application. However, it is collected by Vail Resorts for future targeted marketing and Profit/Loss considerations, regardless of your consent. A publicly traded company does not launch a multi-year initiative such as this without forecasting significant Return on Investment. There are incredible opportunities to leverage this technology to influence the bottom line. I will discuss those in future posts (subscribe to our RSS feeds). e.g. Let’s hope that Vail Resorts or other ski areas do not partner with insurance companies and have the opportunity to “share” data.
In addition to working in the Ski industry for 21 years, I have worked with companies across the US advising Identity Theft mitigation, FACTA, HIPPA, & Gramm Leach Bliley compliance. The more data collected, the more complex the task of securing it becomes. What is private, public, discoverable, etc? It is quite a maze.
RFID is great for certain things, good for others, and ill-equipped for others. These distinctions are determined by the side of the RFID fence on which you sit. If I want to collect movement data (people, produce, merchandise) it is fantastic. If you don’t want to have your movements cataloged, you need a RFID blocker.
I don’t have anything against Ski Corporations using these technologies, and their “initiatives” to grow revenues and decrease expenses. But I think there are enough people who prefer NOT to be watched and cataloged by a big brother to warrant $16 of protection.