I sometimes wonder why park map brochures are still printed in huge quantities. Most everyone has a smartphone, and most every major amusement park operator – including Disney, Six Flags, and Cedar Fair parks – have dedicated park apps.
In addition to interactive park maps in those mobile apps, ride wait times have become more readily available and can really save the frustration of walking halfway across a park only to find your favorite ride has a two-hour wait or, worse yet, is shut down completely.
As a guest, tons of in-app and real-time park information may feel like a bit of magic and, more and more, it is becoming so. Moving beyond the wait time cards used in Disney World (see here for more information about how that works), amusement parks are finding new ways to integrate technology tracking to improve your experience.
BLIP Systems, based in Denmark, for example, is pioneering automated queue management technology (dubbed “BlipTrack”) that works by detecting the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal of guests’ mobile devices. BlipTrack works via sensors placed at strategic points in amusement parks and in ride lines. Those sensors detect anonymous device ID’s from mobile devices, and by re-identifying those ID’s from multiple sensors, ride wait times emerge via the movement patterns of guests waiting in line. Those ride wait times can be displayed at the entrance to ride queues or the data can be fed into amusement park apps.
Naturally, some might wonder about the privacy of being tracked via their smartphones.
“The system is passive and only measures wait times and flow by time-stamping guests’ phones as they move around the park,” Christian Carstens, Marketing Coordinator with BLIP Systems, told me. “[BlipTrack] reduces frustration and enables guests to maximize their time in the park…the sensors are passive and only detect mobile device ID’s, which contain no personal information.”
To-date, BlipTrack has been installed primarily at the most popular of ride attractions, those that typically have the longest wait times, at locations in Denmark and the United Kingdom. Currently, they’re also working on placing sensors at two major attractions in the United States, one in California and one in Florida.
It’s a great option, it seems, for park operators seeking a passive solution to ride queue tracking, though not the only one available. For example, Cedar Point just started offering in-app wait times for the 2016 season, a move that park management held off on integrating until they could also offer free WiFi throughout the park. Cedar Point does it manually, though: ride operators and attendants, who can estimate ride wait times based on varying queue lengths, call in those estimates to a central operator who updates the app’s information.
Presumably, Cedar Point’s system might be slightly less accurate than BlipTrack’s technology, which measures the exact time difference between the signals its sensors receive from guests’ smartphones. However the line tracking is accomplished, though, it is a huge benefit, and wait time inaccuracies of a few minutes are unlikely to anger anyone.
It’s worth noting that these kinds of technologies could, though don’t necessarily, make ride lines shorter. (Amusement parks using BlipTrack and other such technologies have the information to plan rides, shows, shops and more to help better distribute guests through their parks and, thus, prevent overwhelming wait times at certain attractions.) Mostly, they simply provide a pretty accurate idea of wait times to help you make informed decisions as you navigate amusement parks.
To actually avoid facing those frustratingly long lines, time-tested tips include getting to the park early, planning your day in advance, avoiding weekends if possible, and eating meals during off-hours. More on those tips here. And, before you go, check your device’s app store to see if an app with wait time information is available for download.