Carnival CEO Arnold W. Donald holds up the Ocean Medallion during his keynote presentation at CES 2017. Image via Ocean Vacations

APEX Insight: Cruise company Carnival Corporation has unveiled a wearable medallion that uses beacon and sensor technology to deliver a seamless guest experience on the high seas. Similar technology is beginning to emerge in innovative airports looking to improve the passenger experience.

Delivering a seamless, personalized passenger experience is not just the purview of the airline industry. “We recognize that each guest is different,” said Arnold W. Donald, CEO of Carnival cruise company, “and the things that make them happy are different.” Donald delivered a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, and introduced the company’s Ocean Medallion, a wearable tech platform that gives cruise ship guests “easy access to everything.”

“We recognize that each guest is different, and the things that make them happy are different.” — Arnold W. Donald, Carnival

The Ocean Medallion, slated to debut aboard Princess Cruises in November, can help guests embark and disembark from the cruise ship, order food and drinks, explore various parts of the ship and interact with one another. Unlike other personal concierge services, all of this can be achieved without users even having to touch their Medallions.

The little blue disc is just the most visible part of a pervasive network of sensors that communicate through near-field communication and Bluetooth technologies. The medallions work in conjunction with Carnival’s Ocean Compass, an information portal that can be accessed online or via ship kiosks, stateroom TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops or the crew’s handheld devices.

“It will power our guest experiences like never before.” — Arnold W. Donald, Carnival

“It’s simple. It’s personal. It’s elegant,” said Donald, “and it will power our guest experiences like never before.” Those keeping tabs on travel tech trends may have already encountered beacon and sensor technology at airports. Orlando International Airport boasts shorter wait times thanks to the installation of SITA’s Day of Operations technology, a network of sensors that measure passenger devices to keep accurate tallies of foot traffic, and Miami International Airport, the world’s first fully “beaconized” airport, facilitates real-time wayfinding while notifying customers of targeted deals and offers. Last month, Los Angeles International Airport become the first airport to track and dispatch wheelchairs for passengers with reduced mobility using Bluetooth beacon technology.

Cruise lines have full control of the end-to-end journey experience, while airlines must navigate a wider array of restrictions and data security concerns. Even so, airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are already enlisting the help of beacon technology for tracking baggage and providing real-time flight and boarding formation. Providing a persistent, touch-free interface that limits friction between customer touchpoints would surely be a competitive advantage for the airline that gets there first.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.