In 2017, CES continues to reflect the expansion of technology into all sectors. A few years ago, few would have expected a travel brand like Carnival to be giving a keynote at CES, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association, during a briefing on overall industry trends. And yet, “digitization is changing the way we vacation,” he said.

When Carnival CEO Arnold W. Donald takes the stage for his CES keynote, he’ll focus on the new Ocean Medallion, a disc the size of a quarter designed to help the brand to take guest personalization to a new level.

The device, which can be worn as jewelry or discreetly pocketed, “uses a guest-centric, Internet of Things approach to enable guests to maximize their experiences in real time based on their choices and preferences,” according to the company. The first ship to be fully outfitted with the new system will be Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November 2017, with others to follow.

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Ocean Medallion

The Ocean Medallion, paired with an app called Ocean Compass, functions as a kind of digital concierge for guests. For example, servers at all dining locations could know in advance about a guest’s dietary restrictions, favorite cocktails or wine preferences.

The app might also alert a guest of an upcoming activity based on their interests. An adventurous guest, for example, might be reminded to book a shore excursion such as kayaking or hiking, while a wine lover could be informed of an upcoming tasting.

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Ocean Medallion Class cruise will debut on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November 2017

A network of 7,000 sensors throughout the ship enables these functions, as well as others such as easily locating friends and family. The medallion also allows guests to enter their rooms without the need to tap the device, pay for items throughout the ship without additional cards or money, and embark and debark more easily. For security, crew members can verify each guest’s identity by referencing a photo that appears on their own screens along with each transaction.

With the Ocean Medallion, Carnival is betting that travelers’ desire for personalization will outweigh concerns about security and intrusiveness. While the brand hasn’t yet said much about advertising, the same kind of data used to tailor the guest experience could also be used to deliver targeted messages.

But the self-contained setting of a cruise, in which people are more relaxed than usual, may prove to be an ideal testing ground for this sort of user interaction. “As long as you benefit the guest, they don’t mind sharing” personal information, John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival, told the New York Times.

Carnival’s announcement doesn’t only reflect the travel industry’s growing affinity for technology; it also signals a shift in wearable tech. This year at CES, the wearable conversation about is no longer focused on the perennial “battle of the [fitness tracking] bands.” Instead of vying for permanent wrist real estate, companies instead are creating innovative wearables for specific use cases.

For more, read our post on The Future of Festivals and Experience.

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