Social Media And Real-Time Search Meet the Real World (And Snow)


When the Colorado ski resort Keystone opens for the season in November, it will offer a new experience that ties in social media with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and location-based services through Facebook and Twitter.

The online and mobile technology platform, EpicMix, connects friends and family on and off the mountain in Vail, Colo. The ski season pass or lift ticket, enabled with RFID technology, puts the skier in the social experience. Ski resorts have relied on RFID to provide access to lifts for years, but when the Keystone Resort opens in less than 38 days, the application will tie into software that connects a community through a portal dashboard online and mobile applications.

RFID readers on the mountains record speeds, run times, performance, and location through software and a semiconductor chip in the lift ticket. To see a map of the runs, skiers simply access the information online or through a mobile phone. The software collects all the information and knows the skier's endurance level and frequency of visits, providing lead generation for marketers and advertisers.

Skiers can keep track of friends on the mountain and runs on the go either through Android or iPhone applications and location-based services. The mobile app gives tools to message friends and provides weather and traffic updates. Achievements are rewarded through EpicMix pins that skiers can share with friends through Twitter or other social networks, and display online in Facebook. The pins have been created for hundreds of milestones. As accomplishments are achieved, the skier unlocks a new pin that is added to the collection. A trigger allows the skier to share that pin with friends automatically.

The potential to send automated Twitter posts and have them indexed in Google or Bing real-time search engine feeds provides another outlet for marketers to promote the resort. If powder is dumped on the mountains and skiers earn badges, those tweets are picked up by search engines that tell others who monitor the slopes about the beautiful ski conditions.

Technology visionaries in the advertising and marketing space have been talking about this integration for years. Similar to the infamous BMW Mini Cooper ad that identified motorists on billboards driving by, the resort's application will have an option to experience an intimate relationship with the skier.

Engineers at ODIN designed the back-end software and RFID infrastructure. The data collected through the ultra high-frequency (UHF) RFID tag embedded in the ski lift ticket is filtered through the software's operating system. Patrick Sweeney, ODIN CEO and author of RFID for Dummies, says the technology collects and transfers the data, pulling it into the user interface for skiers to see.

It's an opportunity for resort marketers and potential advertising partners like Rossignol to communicate with skiers one on one, offering personalized promotions and deals. Skiers opt-in to features depending on their preference. "Within the next five years, every mobile phone will have an RFID reader built in," Sweeney says. "Apple has two RFID patents, but from what I understand they plan to use near field communication technology, which limits the read range to about an inch."

After a conversation with his good friend and former Apple CEO John Sculley earlier this year, Sweeney believes Apple could make a major mistake and lose a huge market opportunity with the G5 iPhone by embedding NFC rather than UHF RFID technology.

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