When tomorrow Arnold Donald, Carnival CEO, takes the stage at CES 2017 in Las Vegas to deliver opening keynote, it will be one of a few times in the 50-year history of the event that someone from outside the tech world gets top billing at the year's biggest gadget event.
Donald plans to talk about how connected devices can change our life. Carnival is launching a small next-generation wearable that’s supposed to make your leisure time more leisurely and streamline everything you do on board the ship. It’s called the Ocean Medallion, and it’s no bigger than a quarter. You can wear it on your wrist or as a pendant on a chain, or even just slipped into the pocket of your jeans. No matter where you put it, it’s always working.
The way it works is this: When you sign up for a cruise and establish your likes and dislikes — your basic vacation profile — you can opt-in for the Ocean Medallion free of charge. The company mails you the laser-etched disc with your name engraved on it, equipped with the latest Bluetooth and NFC technology.
You just have to wear your medallion, and you’re good to go.
Image: Carnival Corp.
Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t have to worry about wallets or keys, except how much fun you were going to have that day? That’s what wearing the medallion is like. It unlocks your room door when you walk up, no keycard needed; it lets you buy whatever you want on the ship and charges it to your account; it keeps track of your past orders so that Carnival’s dining staff can customize your meals without you even having to ask; and it makes boarding and disembarking as simple as walking past a fancy sensor.
It shows how the latest technology is expanding to the world around us in new and surprising ways. It’s similar to Disney’s MagicBand — designed by the same man behind the Ocean Medallion — that puts payment power on your wrist and unlocks the door to your room without a key. The Medallion does the same, and a whole lot more with a GPS-like navigation and information system that knows where you are, walks you right to where you need to go, and can even share your location with others on the ship, so they know what you’re up to. Basically, today it’s a Medallion on a cruise ship, but tomorrow (or someday) it could be the way we buy groceries, clothes, and cars.
The other big takeaway? This isn’t a new gadget for techies. There’s no screen, no buttons, and nothing to get confused by, it just works without you even having to think about it. You don’t have to charge it, monitor it, or even turn it on or off. If it’s lost or stolen, the owner or any crew member can deactivate it or replace it instantly.
It works as part of a huge network of 7,000 sensors on board the ship that function like a GPS system to help you find wherever you need to go. The device syncs with Carnival’s Ocean Compass, a smartphone app, or can be used on special kiosks on the ship or via in-room TVs. You select your destination on the ship and, with your Medallion knowing where you are, the app walks you right to where you need to go.
Carnival also says that there’s also no personal information stored on the Medallion itself, so there’s no risk that someone might try to hack it.
Bottom line: A cruise ship is like a tiny floating city. Soon, that city will be packed with sensors that take payments, open doors, and control almost every aspect of each passenger’s life. Today, our actual cities are beginning to look the same way, with touchless payments, smart homes, and cars that know how to get us to our destination better than we do.
So how long before we’re all wearing little discs that let us pay and play without worrying about our wallets? Amazon’s new Amazon Go corner store in Seattle lets customers walk in, take anything they want, and walk out without even visiting a checkout. The seamless integration of wearables with vacation life on select Carnival ships might actually be the future for all of us before long.