Authors' Note: In the seventh of a 12 article series themed on where the money is now for “smart” casinos, VizExplorer executives contemplate the potential of real-time location service within a confined space, and how this “inside space revolution” could impact land-based casinos. Please note these articles are meant to stimulate thought and that we are using some deliberately provocative metaphors which should be taken with a grain of salt.

Imagine if you will a world without GPS.

To start, our whole way of navigating around by phone would be quite constrained. While we could look at maps, there would be no turn-by-turn navigation…so if you were lost, you would need to find a street sign or some sort of marker to orient yourself. Companies that rely on GPS functionality, like Uber and Lyft, would not exist. Transportation, in all forms, would be much more difficult and inconvenient.

The point we are trying to make here is that GPS has become so common that it is now ubiquitous; a technology that is woven into everything from cell phones and watches to cars and computers. The widespread adoption and use of GPS systems is all the more amazing when you consider the technology has only been available for public consumption for less than 20 years.

For decades, GPS technology was classified as selective availability (SA) by the U.S. government for national security reasons. In May 2000, at the direction of President Bill Clinton, the U.S government discontinued its use of SA in order to make GPS more responsive to civil and commercial users worldwide. And now, with the government’s decision to launch next generation GPS III satellites without SA capability, it appears GPS will be available to all in perpetuity.

With the future of GPS secure, it is time for the technology to take its next big leap forward, which in this case involves coming inside from the cold.

INNER DIALOG

Bringing GPS-technologies indoors goes by the name real-time locational services (RTLS), and decades after GPS was operational the technology is only now becoming practical. Each RTLS has is nuances and operators wishing to adopt a system will need to choose wisely. What follows is a short primer on the main RTLS technology options, based on the experience of the authors. It should be noted that this is an extremely fast moving field and these data points will change quickly (if not already):

CELLULAR

Frequency of ping: Minutes

Description: Broadcast information from cell phones is used to triangulate the location of the user. This triangulation technique is used by the cellular provider to provide approximate phone location in the outside world.

Identification Ability:  The cellular identification is scrambled by the cellphone, so repeat visitors will appear to be new cellphones.

Accuracy: 50 feet

Requirements: Cellphone

WIFI

Frequency of ping: 10 seconds

Description: If the mobile device has its WIFI turned on, it will periodically look for a WIFI network connection. If the device connects to the WIFI network then it can be monitored for location continuously.

Identification Ability: More modern mobile devices constantly scramble their identification (Mac Address), so the devices can be captured but not effectively monitored for location.

Accuracy: 20 feet

Requirements: WIFI-enabled device

BLUETOOTH

Frequency of ping: 100 milliseconds-3 seconds

Description: If the mobile device has its WIFI turned on, it will periodically look for a WIFI network connection. If the device connects to the WIFI network then it can be monitored for location continuously.

Identification Ability:  More modern mobile devices constantly scramble their identification (Mac Address), so the devices can be captured but not effectively monitored for location.

Accuracy: 20 feet

Requirements: WIFI-enabled device

LAST POINT READ (LPR)

Frequency of ping: Responds to events

Description: LPR systems detect a Radio Frequency ID (RFID) object passing through a portal of some kind, often times a door. There are techniques for determining the direction of movement (such as having multiple LPR readers).

Identification Ability:  Each RFID provides a unique identifier for the object to witch it is attached.

Accuracy: Size of portal

Requirements: Specialized portal reading technology.

PASSIVE RFID MONITORING

Frequency of ping: 1-10 seconds

Description: Passive RFID was hailed to be the future of retail with promise that all products could be tracked and the checkout person would become a thing of the past. However, earlier adopters, such as Walmart, had major issues with the technology and decided against rolling out the system. Today the landscape has changed significantly, and now we have phase array passive RFID tags that are capable of not only reading tags but giving decent locational information in real time.

Identification Ability:  Each RFID provides a unique identifier for the object to witch it is attached.

Accuracy:  A few feet

UWB MONITORING

Frequency of ping: 0.1 - 1 second

Description: Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) is a powered system with some amazing performance characteristics. The physics of UWB allows for extremely accurate real-time information, the authors have worked with this technology in real world environments and we have found it to be extremely reliable and surprisingly robust.

Identification Ability:  Each UWB provides a unique identifier for the object to witch it is attached.

Accuracy: Less than 1 foot

FIVE POTENTIAL USES

Once you have inside space locational services, the whole way we interact with space can change. In the world of technology adoption, the winning use cases are hard to predict so we will give a brief summary of five then explore the one that seems the most esoteric in more depth.

  • Wayfinding—With the ability to track all devices inside a casino, directing customers to the amenity, table or slot machine of their choice becomes easy.  Maintaining wayfinding with RFID or UWB monitoring means the days of having to constantly update a slot floor map are no more.
  • Dispatch—In addition to tracking the location of all of our devices, we can track the movements of our front-line team members while they are on the casino floor. Thus, with dispatch, one can provide an “Uber-like” experience for customers waiting on a team member to, for example, pay out a jackpot.
  • Security—Security can use locational services to better protect the casino from theft, from both team members and from customers.
  • Smart Interactions—Once all of our devices and team members are tracked via RFID or UWB, the next step is to incorporate all this robust data with our already robust customer behavior data. This means we can track, in real time, the relationship between customers, devices and team members. When this information is combined with historical data, data science and predictive data modelling, we can begin to build a system of smart interactions between our casino and our customers.
  • Augmented Reality—Augmented Reality (AR) is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device. The augmentation takes place by adding graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements to the natural world as it exists.

REALITY CHECK

In our opinion, Augmented Reality is just plain cool, and while it seems almost unapproachable, once you open your augmented reality phone, it is very intuitive to use.

When considering Augmented Reality technology in a casino, operators should take into account the additional components that are required for a successful AR experience. Specifically accurate map floors, real-time data, location tracking and a hand held device.

In the following stories we will review ideas of how augmented reality could work in your casino.

Application 1—Casino Celebration

In this application the casino is equipped with huge screens on the casino floor and outside the building. Players and prospective customers can “check out” the casino floor to see what is happening.

An AR Celebration event can be floorwide, area (slot bank) or machine specific. It can be tied to a specific event (a jackpot) or time (Chinese New Year). It can also result in player’s actions (for example additional free play bonus).

Now, let’s assume that a gigantic jackpot is won on the floor.  Here is the process a casino could use to leverage augmented reality and celebrate the jackpot in a new and spectacular way:

  • We begin with the real-time data, retrieving the jackpot machine location as well as the associated slot machine data like the game theme.
  • We then move on to player information, retrieving his/her host and sending a notification message to the host. We can also look at other behavioral and demographic data about the customer, perhaps leveraging anonymized data to craft a message like “A special MyCasino player from Arizona has just won the Big Gigantic Jackpot!”
  • The property then sends a jackpot notification message to all mobile apps users that are within five miles of the property.  In addition, if the casino leverages ChatBots, which the authors have explored in previous articles, then the ChatBots can spring to action and communicate to the customers for whom the jackpot is relevant (for example, if it’s a slot theme similar to one that the customer plays).
  • Then we can use augmented reality on the mobile apps as well as the big screen outside the casino to project flying dragons all over the casino floor, where the dragons are coming from all areas of the casino and slowly moving towards the winning machine.
  • Simultaneously we can send a trigger to the floor audio system to play celebration music across the floor.
  • Finally, the augmented reality can show exploding coins coming out on top of the winning machine. The coins can be seen by all customers watching the screens.

Application 2 – Real-time data overlay for players looking for that special slot machine

In this application, the players can leverage an augmented reality app on their mobile device, and the casino can provide data that is specific to that player’s historical and real-time behaviors. 

For example, a player may indicate (through a host, through the app or during a ChatBot interaction) that when they come to the casino to look for “hot slots” to play.  To this player, a hot slot is one where a recent jackpot has occurred.

The augmented reality app can then place little fire symbols of varying size (based on the size of the jackpot) above any slot machine that had a jackpot in the past six hours.

A different player may decide that the slot machine for them is one that is “due,” one that has not had a recent jackpot.  For this customer, a big green flashing arrow can appear above machines with no jackpots in a timeframe that is relevant for the historical jackpot behavior of the game. For example, a game that historically averages a jackpot a week would get the green arrow if a jackpot has not hit in the past two weeks.

Finally, a player may choose the “Let Us Recommend” mode of the application. In this mode, the augmented reality app can study the play behavior of that player, as well as all the other players and make targeted recommendations to the player using the app. For example, if the player has shown a preferred level of play for Game of Thrones slots, the app may identify those players of Game of Thrones also typically play Orange is the New Black machines.  For this player, the augmented reality app will show two gold stars above Game of Thrones, and one gold star above Orange is the New Black.

We see that the possibilities for Augmented Reality as nearly endless. This certainly is a common trait of the coming Inside Space Revolution—a series of applications with endless possibilities for creating a one-to-one relationships between casinos and their customers.