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Industrial tracking system keeps visitors safe at major North Wales attraction

07 February 2016

While having fun is just what Zip World is all about, safety is the prime concern of the operator, which has installed a state-of-the-art visitor tracking system at its spectacular North Wales sites.

The RFID gateways and nodes distributed around the Zip World sites are based on Banner’s industrial-grade SureCross series of wireless devices

Zip World won international acclaim when it opened Zip World Velocity at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda back in March 2013. Offering riders the closest experience a human being can get to skydiving without actually leaping out of an aircraft, it involves flying head-first for just under a mile, exceeding speeds of 100mph down a mountain and then straight over a cliff, 500ft above the quarry lake, affording spectacular views across the surrounding North Wales countryside.

2014 saw the opening of Zip World Titan at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near the historic slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is the first four-person zip line in Europe where riders have three individual zip lines to complete. The first zip line gives panoramic views of Snowdonia, the second has a huge drop of 500ft and is also the quickest line, while the third finishes at the top of the hill, overlooking the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. 

At the same time that Titan was opened and in the same location, Zip World also opened the world’s first subterranean playground, Bounce Below, an attraction featuring giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels all made from netting and suspended in an underground slate cavern.
More recently, 2015 saw another world first, Zip World Caverns - home to a series of exhilarating underground zip lines, rope bridges, obstacles and tunnels. It has been built in vast caverns that were first excavated nearly 200 years ago and which have remained largely unchanged.

These attractions are currently drawing some 300,000 visitors annually and a key concern of the operator is to ensure the safety of customers as they move around these huge sites. In order to achieve this, and on the advice of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Zip World has installed a high-end RFID tracking system that keeps tabs on every guest during their visit, and in real time.

Standard RFID solutions like those used in warehouse tracking applications were not regarded as being sufficiently robust for this application, so Zip World sought a more sophisticated approach based on industrially hardened software and hardware that would be able to cope with the rigours of outdoor and subterranean environments. Zip World general manager, Richard Manchett takes up the story:

“Acting on the advice of the HSE we required a method of reliably logging and tracking equipment to each of our guests. We quickly realised that this was far from the routine manufacturing scenario and after an exhaustive search we contacted Turck Banner.”

The tracking system devised by Turck Banner features RFID wristbands that each guest is obliged to don on entering a Zip World site. These ‘tags’, based on UHF RFID technology, which provides greater range, register the guest on entry and track him or her through the attraction on a real time basis via a cloud based system. Guests are effectively timed through the experience and any significant deviation – which might arise as a result of someone becoming lost – is flagged as an alarm and staff alerted.

The RFID gateways and nodes distributed around the Zip World sites are based on Banner’s industrial-grade SureCross series of wireless devices, creating point-to-multi-point networks that distribute I/O over large areas. These products are proven in harsh industrial environments and cope well with the conditions at Zip World. The entire network was designed by Turck Banner to integrate seamlessly with Zip World’s on-site software system. Richard Manchett again:

"Turck Banner listened to our requirements and came up with exactly the right system. We were impressed by the quality and durability of the hardware which is vital in the harsh environments that we work in. Furthermore, they were with us throughout installation and commissioning and continue to advise us as our requirements change. Turck Banner has a reputation for delivering reliable system solutions and they certainly lived up to it at Zip World.”

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