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RFID chips on kids makes Legoland safer

Silicon | June 25 2004

Parents taking their children to Legoland theme parks this summer need not worry about losing little Johnny, Jesper or Johan thanks to advances in RFID technology.

Children entering the parks will be fitted with an RFID bracelet that can be tracked anywhere within its boundaries - meaning that should they run off and find themselves lost, the parks' staff will easily be able to track them down and alert parents via SMS.

The scheme launched in Denmark last month and if successful it's likely to be seen in other amusement parks in the group - such as Legoland Windsor in the UK.

The 'Kidspotter' scheme represents the latest in a string of innovative uses for RFID technology. However, not everybody is convinced that Lego's motives are as well-intentioned as the reassuring marketing for the scheme would suggest.

Leo Steiner, vice president for on-demand sales at IBM, who works closely with RFID, said: "Lego will now know exactly where each customer is, how long they are spending in each area and which products are proving to be most popular."

The knock-on effect of parents' making use of the scheme could be a more concerted and insightfully targeted marketing campaign for the perennially popular Lego brick toy sets.

But are privacy concerns simply a case of worrying for the sake of it? If it means their children are safer and never truly 'out of sight', then reciprocating with a little more marketing data is something many parents may not begrudge.

Debbie Allen, a mother of two, told "When you go to these theme parks, you tend to spend so much time trying to keep your children by your side that they get resentful and a little frustrated. If I were given the chance to feel a little more relaxed, I would jump at the opportunity; if they then used the information they had for marketing then I really don't see the harm."

As for concerns about privacy or manipulative big business taking advantage of safety concerns, Ms Allen feels they are unfounded. "I don't think it is manipulative," she said. "I think everyone gets something out of it. We get to be more relaxed and they get to improve and increase revenue."

If anybody is likely to abuse the system, it will be parents who take advantage of it to really let their children wander, according to Ms Allen.

"My major concern is that some parents might use it as a 'babysitting service'," she said.

A spokesman for Legoland Windsor said of the Kidspotter system: "This isn't something we're going to see in the foreseeable future but it may well be something we look at adding beyond 2004 or 2005."

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