Carnival Corp. unveiled an ambitious plan to use its Ocean Medallion wearables and Ocean Compass Internet of Things Network earlier this month at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas. It was a very interesting example of a non-tech company embracing technology to provide consumers with ongoing experiences, rather than one-time products.
The wearables can do everything from unlocking your cabin door to allowing you to pay for drinks and receive them anywhere on the ship. One of the key players behind that plan to install interactive systems and wearables on 100 cruise ships is The Experience Engine (TE2), a San Diego, Calif.-based company that creates experience platforms-as-a-service. I interviewed Scott Sahadi, CEO of TE2, about how they helped make the software behind the project happen.
“Consumers want this,” said Sahadi. “They want a better experience. Even if it’s a hospital, they want a better personalized experience. There’s a lot of complexity in making that happen in real time.”
TE2, which is about three years old, was founded to bring an element of personalization that connects the physical world and the digital world.
“We are trying to bring personalization to the physical world the same way that Amazon’s recommendations made ecommerce over the web much more personal,” Sahadi said. “We wanted to remove friction, create amazing experiences, and build a platform to do it.”
TE2 pitched its platform for use in places such as theme parks, buildings, stores, and cruise ships. Sea World in San Diego was TE2’s first customer. Marketers can look at a map of all the anonymized consumers using a wearable, and then exploit that data. If consumers have a time-limited pass that’s about to expire, the marketer can offer that consumer a special deal to renew their pass. The marketer can do other things that help enhance that guest’s experience in the park in real time.
With Carnival, the idea is to connect the products and services that a brand has to offer consumers. Each Carnival ship will have more than 4,000 sensors that provide data to the xIOS, or the Experience Innovation Operating System.
TE2 had to orchestrate the software to glue the Ocean Medallion and Ocean Compass together and work with those sensors. The company had to create systems with identification, authentication, security, and anonymization of data. TE2 worked with hardware provider Nytec, which had to make sure the back-end was capable of serving around 11 million cruise passengers a year. All of this is invisible to consumers.
“The culmination is what you saw at CES,” said Sahadi, who went on stage to talk about the software with Carnival CEO Arnold Donald during a CES keynote. “We really like the visionaries at Carnival. It’s hard to be innovative as a multibillion-dollar company. Arnold Donald gets it.”
Sahadi believes that the data orchestration platform used by Carnival can be applied to a variety of different vertical markets. The company is working with a quick-service chain now. It will also work in the healthcare, education, and hospitality markets.
“Everybody wants an elevated guest experience in the physical world,” Sahadi said. “They want a more personalized experience with a mobile device, wearable, or connected kiosk. When you are in the moment having an experience with a brand in the physical world, the question is how do you get more out of the brand in that moment when you have a captive audience. We want to match the consumer with service that brand offers at that time. When that happens, you get a big win.”
For instance, consumers who have a good experience with digital-physical tie-ins will give the brand a higher Net Promoter score, which means they will recommend it to friends.
TE2 has raised $8.5 million, and it is raising more soon. CES represented Sahadi’s chance to start telling the company’s story with its biggest customer.
“Carnival is a leader, and they are setting the bar for how others must compete,” Sahadi said. “If you aren’t making your customers feel like they want to come back, you probably won’t be competitive in the long run.”