Microsoft cited an interesting case study that highlights how Microsoft's software has helped other companies in their business operation. In the case of Royal Caribbean, Microsoft posted how their software has assisted in point-of-sales and food-safety inspections.
Microsoft's software has helped the cruise line improve profitability and cut its operating costs. This is accomplished by reducing food-inspection time from five to two hours as well as improving workflow throughout the ships.
Royal Caribbean began development of a new software solution when it was building its Oasis-class ships in an effort to improve the systems with a few key goals: improve the systems that support customer service, improve workflow, improve food safety and speed passenger payment transactions.
Microsoft's solution was to implement 35 handheld devices on Royal Caribbean's ships to monitor food and cooler temperatures and deploy an integrated POS solution based on Windows Embedded Compact, Windows Embedded POSReady, Windows 7, Windows Server and Windows Mobile.
Microsoft claims its solutions for Royal Caribbean are
Automatic alerts for cooler malfunction
Reduced time to generate temperature compliance reports
60% reduction in time to complete temperature checks
Seamless integration of POS, digital signage, interactive TV and photo gallery
Royal Caribbean offered an inside look at how they use software to manage their fleet of cruise ships to CIO.com. It's always interesting to see how Royal Caribbean manages to perform its daily operations given how many thousands of passengers it has to accomodate.
The case example begins with Allure of the Seas, where Royal Caribbean director of software engineering Jose Machado and IT manager James Defendis offered a tour of the ship's IT resources.
Royal Caribbean provides the software to run the hotel, from reservations to guest relations to point-of-sale software at the shops. In addition, Royal Caribbean provides Internet for guests, email for employees and, as well as software to count the number of checked-out towels at the pool.
As an example of how Royal Caribbean develops its technology quickly, the 32" wayfinder LCD screens throughout the ship are developed using emerging Linux touchscreen technologies. To get this product to their ships quickly, Royal Caribbean essentially "rents" expertise to accelerate the development process. The applications that will never be seen by guests, on the other hand, including staff email, the reservation system or the towel check-out, have a lower priority, he says. They need to function, and the cost of maintaining them needs to be stay lower than the cost of a rewrite.
Royal Caribbean has deployed iPads to every suite onboard Allure of the Seas as well as Oasis of the Seas. Challenges with having iPads work the way the company want popped up immediately.
Beatriz Rivero, the project's program manager, describes operational challenges such as testing streaming video on multiple devices on a floor running simultaneously. (To address this, Royal added routers and reserved extra bandwidth.) The devices also have cameras, which pose a privacy risk: Next week's guests seeing last week's guests personal photos. Royal deals with this by treating an iPad like a pair of bed sheets—each device is replaced with a fresh one and wiped. Meanwhile, the technology group is working with vendors to lock down local-save features.
Royal Caribbean has struck a deal to have CA Technologies provide integrated and automated IT management solutions that aim to improve the guest experience aboard all of its cruise ships.
The deal will simplify IT management both on shore and onboard the cruise ships. Royal Caribbean will use a range of CA Technologies solutions, including application performance management, infrastructure management, automation, and project and portfolio management.
Royal Caribbean is planning a massive IT upgrade program to modernize its legacy applications that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months.
Royal Caribbean Chief Information Officer Bill Martin commented on the deal, ""Our investment in technology has increased dramatically. Thanks to CA Technologies Business Service Innovation approach, we have transitioned our focus from maintaining IT systems to delivering new, innovative guest services with speed and agility. CA Technologies has enabled us to transform our IT organization and address the high expectations guests have as a result of the trend towards consumerization of IT. Guests want wireless access to the Internet from their smartphones, tablets, laptops and game consoles the second they board the ship to access a range of services; it's imperative that we provide them the best possible experience with those services."
CA Application Performance Management helps Royal Caribbean ensure quality of service and quality of experience for its Web sites. CA APM enables the cruise company to identify and resolve potential problems before they cause downtime and disruption for guests.
Royal Caribbean uses CA Spectrum(R) and CA Virtual Assurance for Infrastructure Managers to manage its on-board network and data center devices. The integrated solution, used on SL class and OA class ships, enables Royal Caribbean to monitor its infrastructure across multiple platforms via user-friendly dashboards that help the organization drill down to identify and fix the root cause of a problem before it impacts guests.
Royal Caribbean also uses CA Client Automation to track networked assets and deploy software upgrades remotely to help minimize the need for IT staff to travel around the ship and ensure devices remain continuously available.
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas was designed with technology in mind to make the ship easier to navigate for the passengers and crew onboard through tools like RFID, facial recognition and handheld wireless devices for a variety of purposes, including emergency responses, food safety, point-of-sale (POS) transactions and passenger service.
Royal Caribbean vice president of information Technology, Santiago Abraham, spoke about the important of technology on the ship, "We were keenly aware that we were building the biggest ship in the world and we wanted to make sure the experience nonetheless was an intimate one, and eliminate any sense that you are on a massive ship."
To help get passengers around the ship and find their way, Oasis of the Seas has over 300 digital, interactive signs that people can use to access maps, get directions, see scheduled activities and check in real-time the occupancy level of restaurants.
"The digital signage helps our guests navigate the ship," Abraham said of the system, whose touchscreen devices use Windows 7 on the front end and tap SQL Server and other Windows server products on the back end. "You see guests interacting with it on a pretty continual basis very effectively."
Royal Caribbean's IT department also automated retail transactions and food inspections on board with PAR Technology terminals and tablets running software from Agilysys and the Windows Embedded OS.
The technology helps food inspections be done in two hours instead of five thanks to devices that have temperature probes and readers to scan RFID tags on the food containers.
The Point of Sales and food inspection data is instantly fed to back-end Microsoft SQL Server databases where it is automatically analyzed and acted upon, whether it's to replenish low inventory in a store or to order that a food container be discarded.
From Microsoft's perspective, Royal Caribbean has achieved in Oasis of the Seas the "intelligent system" vision of the Windows Embedded products, in which client devices are used to gather data that is then stored on the back end and analyzed for operational improvements.
Abraham said Royal Caribbean is very satisfied with the way the IT infrastructure in Oasis of the Seas helps passengers and staffers without being intrusive or complicated.
"We were trying to have technology help our guests in terms of their experience on board, whether it's boarding the ship, learning more about activities or planning their day, but we also didn't want to be 'in your face' with the technology, so it's all very embedded in a lot of different elements," Abraham said.
Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein was interviewed by Travel Weekly about the new found importance social media has both for Royal Caribbean and its passengers.
"Social media has become an overwhelming force in our society today. It is perfect for us. We are in an environment that overhwhelmingly satisfies guests. They want to share their experience with others who are not on the ship with them. They want to do that with video, pictures and postcards, things that take bandwidth that is hard for us to provide now. "
Goldstein indicated that Royal Caribbean is putting more emphasis on advertising its cruises in the social media realms. Specifically, Royal Caribbean is investing in Facebook, banner ads, paid search and other ways of getting into the online environment.
The importance in using social media by travel companies to spread the word while on vacation is an emerging trend. Recently Walt Disney World announced it will roll out free WiFi internet access in its theme parks, which will help facilitate the use of social media in its parks. Perhaps Royal Caribbean is in a similar grouping.
Royal Caribbean's Chief Information Officer, Bill Martin, will speak at FSTECNexGen foodservice technology conference in Miami on September 9-11, 2012.
Martin will give a keynote speech regarding the challenges Royal Caribbean encounters with providing all types of technology solutions on cruise ships.
Martin's speech will take place on September 10 at 8am and is titled, "Technology on the High Seas." In the speech, Martin will share his experiences overseeing the various types of technology that Royal Caribbean cruise ships utilize, including attracting and incenting guests,supporting various types of food and beverage operations, efficiently handling accommodations, running cutting-edge entertainment productions and providing travelers with the connectivity and tech options they're looking for.
Bill Martin is a 28-year cruise industry veteran and is responsible for shoreside business systems as well as onboard technology. Under his leadership, Royal Caribbean has received various awards from technology media for their innovation in the use of guest technology. Martin has held various executive and management positions in operations, decision support and revenue management during his career.
"We're excited to offer these diverse perspectives on the latest trends in technology," said FSTEC Chairman Rob Grimes.
O3b Networks announced it has signed a multi-year deal worth multi-millions of dollars to provide Royal Caribbean with high-speed satellite-delivered broadband service. By the summer of 2013, Oasis of the Seas will benefit from O3b's enhanced connectivity at sea that claims it will be like being connected to fiber at home or in the office.
Royal Caribbean will be the first cruise company to utilize O3b's new maritime offering O3b Maritime, which delivers the reach of satellite and the speed and latency of fiber at a fraction of the cost of conventional providers. O3b is enabling maritime service providers to offer affordable fiber-like capacity across the Caribbean and ocean regions around the world. Providing unparalleled bandwidth, O3b's steerable satellite beams will provide cruise industry passengers ultra-fast Internet communications throughout their voyage.
Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein commented on the deal, "Royal Caribbean is committed to delivering the most contemporary vacation to our guests, and that includes pushing ahead for onboard technological advances that offer the modern conveniences that guests enjoy on land. This milestone agreement with O3b Networks enables us to provide our guests with unprecedented Internet service at sea aboard Oasis of the Seas and potentially in the future aboard other ships in our fleet."
Microsoft's recent announcement of upcoming Windows 8 tablets will cause some businesses to take a look at their tablets in business. The new Microsoft Surface tablet may have some novelty to it right now but is it enough to get companies to change?
Royal Caribbean CIO Bill Martin made the decision to put iPads in every stateroom in its most recently renovated ship. When asked why Martin chose iPads, he responded, "That's what the hotel team wanted." However, Martin did note that the choice could change in time if viable Windows tablets came into the market and Android tablets gained in popularity and stability.
If companies like Royal Caribbean are going to invest in a new tablet deployment, such as giving them to all of their salespeople, the company will need to know that the tablet they choose will be supported and around for a while. Apple doesn't provide the kind of long-term product roadmap IT teams are used to getting for enterprise software, server, and PC lines. But for Martin at Royal Caribbean, the lack of a roadmap wasn't a big issue. "It's more around our confidence that the product has a viable life," he said. Apple's iPad has that.
Royal Caribbean has selected managed communications specialist Harris CapRock Communications to handle its fleet-wide communications.
The five year deal provides hybrid satellite and terrestrial communication systems that will enable Royal Caribbean to improve overall communications performance while enhancing guest experience and crew morale.
For its part, Harris CapRock will deploy a fully managed VSAT and terrestrial communications system that will enable access to Royal Caribbean's corporate network and business applications, broadband internet, and telephony services.
The hybrid service combines Ku-band, C-band and shore mobile connectivity, designed so that the ships can switch from one preferred platform to another to maximise service availability and avoid downtime. Each ship will be equipped with two or three of Harris CapRock'sstabilisedVSAT antenna systems.
Agilysys has developed systems based intelligent Microsoft Windows Embedded solutions, in order to streamline the flow of information collected on Oasis of the Seas and optimize the quality of passenger services (catering, maintenance, points sales / services).
About 325 Point of Sales (POS) terminals by EverServ 6000 and 50 tablets were deployed on Oasis of the Seas, allowing personnel to collect, centralize and share all the information collected on passengers to be more attentive to their requests. The collection of such information flow is crucial to ensure such quality of food on board (temperature of the dishes in the many dining rooms), to optimize the travel time for passengers on board, put in place of personalized promotions and mobile payment methods, etc.