Theme park takes visitors to RFID-land

A Florida park helps parents keep track of kids with radio ID tags from Texas Instruments.

A Florida theme park is helping parents keep track of their kids--by giving them wristbands embedded with high-tech radio signal technology.

Wannado City issues the radio frequency identification (RFID) wristbands to all visitors as part of general admission to the park, according to a release from Texas Instruments, the maker of the wristbands. The theme park opened last month in the Fort Lauderdale area.

The wristbands contain special microchips, or RFID tags, that wirelessly signal their whereabouts to reading devices throughout the 140,000-square-foot facility. Visitors can locate other members of their group by using touch-screen kiosks throughout the park that are linked to the system, called SafeTzone's Real-Time Locating System.

People have used RFID technology for years to track and identify livestock and lost pets. More recently, it has been put to use to monitor humans , and hospitals and prisons have begun to use RFID wristbands to keep tabs on patients and inmates.

One company, called Applied Digital Solutions, is even experimenting with injecting RFID chips into people's arms. Mexico's attorney general grabbed the headlines last month when the Mexican government announced he'd been injected with the company's chip to give him access to high-security facilities. The country is also studying the technology as a tool for combating kidnappings.

Businesses are finding new uses for RFID technology too. Wal-Mart Stores, Albertsons and dozens of other major retail chains and consumer goods manufactuers are slapping RFID tags onto merchandise with the hope that the technology will help them juggle inventory efficiently. Pharmaceutial makers are examining RFID systems as an antidote to the counterfeit drug trade.

Texas Instruments said it and its partner RF Code have installed the SafeTzone's Real-Time Locating System tracking technology at Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., Wild Rivers Water Park in Irvine, Calif., Dollywood's Splash Country in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Wet 'n Wild in Las Vegas.

Steamboat Springs Ski Resort in Colorado also plans to install the system. A LegoLand in Denmark is using similar technology to reunite kids separated from parents at its amusement park.

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