Lost at Sea.
November 23, 2011 3 Comments
My good friend Mitch tweeted something recently that really got me thinking:
It’s a really interesting article about the number of people who disappear every year on cruise ships. While I am not a big fan of cruises (my aunt likes to say they are full of the “newly-wed, over-fed and nearly-dead.”), this is definitely not making me want to set foot on board another cruise ship any time soon.
But it also sparked an idea in my head on how to prevent these tragedies and improve the overall cruise-going experience at the same time. With a little help from our good friend technology.
The fundamental problem seems to be that there are a lot of people on the ships (and they ARE “ships”—never boats. Never. I got chastised many times at my first big agency job for mixing up the two on a cruise ship account) and they are moving about 24 hours a day, in a big space. People can go to a random railing, lean over to *relieve* their sea sickness (or over imbibing in fruity umbrella drinks), lose their footing and go right over. And that’s the non-evil possibility. There are also the cases of the foul play. People can dispose of a body easily in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean, and no one will be the wiser (at least, that’s the plan). As illustrated in the article, it’s often impossible to know when the person disappeared, which makes it very difficult to piece together their last moments.
Hold that thought for just a minute. Another problem on-board cruise ships is that while you only pay once, there are TONS of small transactions throughout the cruise. Meals, drinks, snacks, shopping, etc. All billed to your room. There’s lots of receipts to sign, etc.
So let’s combine the two. When people come on board, issue them a bracelet, key ring, or some other token that they can keep on their person at all time. Using NFC (near-field communication) tied to your room, you can swipe your token to pay for things. You could even use it as a keyless entry system to your room. But these tokens could also contain an RFID chip that activates when the token crosses the barrier of the edge of the ship. the instant you go overboard someone would be notified. The ship’s crew would know exactly who was overboard, where they went over and when. Alarms could be sounded instantly, the ship could stop, search and rescue could commence.
There are of course some potential problems with this system.
- What if someone drops their token overboard by accident? Sure other passengers might get annoyed if their ship has to stop for a false alarm search and rescue mission, but isn’t having a system in place to monitor when/if someone goes overboard better than the (current) alternative?
- What about the tipping? If you aren’t signing a check to your room every time you eat, drink, or buy something, will you leave off the tips to the staff? They could just add a gratuity to each transaction.
- Are there privacy concerns? People wouldn’t be tracked. The RFID in the tokens wouldn’t be active at all times. Only after crossing over the side of the ship.
- Could someone steal your token and rack up charges? Probably, but someone could also just bill a bunch of stuff to your room if they overheard your last name and room number. Also, if you know that this token functions as your wallet, you will probably keep pretty good track of it.
- If you really want to off your spouse, you can just make sure you take the token before throwing him/her overboard. True, but most of these crimes are probably crimes of passion and not pre-planned. Anyone who really wants to off their significant other will probably have a better plan.
- Cost. How much will this add to the cost of cruising? Assuming the tokens are reusable and not too many of them are lost, whatever costs are incurred will amortized over many, many cruisers and should be negligible. Plus, what’s the value of a human life?
This seems pretty simple. How do we make this happen?