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FWi-CaseStudy-WSF-2012

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FWi-CaseStudy-WSF-2012

  1. 1. Four Winds Interactive Interactive Kiosks | Digital Signage Solutions 3012 Huron Street Denver, CO 80202 Toll Free: 877 204 6679 Fax: 720 221 0720 sales@fourwindsinteractive.com www.fourwindsinteractive.com ©2012 Four Winds Interactive, LLC. Images and other content in this document are the property of Four Winds Interactive and may be protected by copyright and other restrictions. Copyrights and other proprietary rights in the content in this document may also be owned by individuals and entities other than, and in addition to, Four Winds Interactive. Four Winds Interactive expressly prohibits the copying of any protected materials in this document. Transportation |ExecutiveSummary Washington State Ferries Innovation can sometimes come from where you least expect it. That was certainly the case with Washington State Ferries (WSF), the largest ferry system in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. What began as a pilot program to respond to the needs of a hard-of-hearing passenger now has grown into a shining example of how using digital display screens can communicate important safety and security information, boost local tourism efforts and generate additional revenue for transportation systems. Lost wallet One of the catalysts for the installation of digital displays on the 22 vessels and in 20 terminals of various sizes was the loss of a wallet by a hearing impaired passenger, who also happened to be an attorney. “The man was very concerned about his wallet, as any of us would be,” says Marta Coursey, director of communi- cations at WSF. “The wallet was turned in by another passenger. The crew announced it over the public address system, but he couldn’t hear the announcement.” While the wallet was eventually returned to him, the incident sparked a realization that hearing impaired passengers were missing other important announcements, too, such as schedule changes for the ferries. Then there was the safety issue. “In Washington State, changes on Puget Sound can be fast and dramatic,” Coursey says. “Other emergencies can crop up as well. The incident with the wallet drove home the fact that we needed to find a way to bring information to all the passengers we carry.” Working with the hard of hearing community in Washington State, WSF determined that a “visual paging system” consisting of video screens running text messages would be the most effective way of communicating with the hearing impaired and other passengers with disabilities. Yet, there were several obstacles complicating what seemed like a simple, straightforward solution.
  2. 2. 3012 Huron Street Denver, CO 80202 Toll Free: 877 204 6679 Fax: 720 221 0720 sales@fourwindsinteractive.com www.fourwindsinteractive.com ©2012 Four Winds Interactive, LLC. Images and other content in this document are the property of Four Winds Interactive and may be protected by copyright and other restrictions. Copyrights and other proprietary rights in the content in this document may also be owned by individuals and entities other than, and in addition to, Four Winds Interactive. Four Winds Interactive expressly prohibits the copying of any protected materials in this document. Overcoming challenges One of the most immediate challenges WSF faced was the nature of its fleet and the overall system. It has a wide variety of vessels and terminals, some dating back to the establishment of WSF on June 1, 1951 by the Washington State Department of Transportation. There was no way a “one size fits all” solution was going to work. Another challenge, common in the current economy, was funding. WSF officials knew they would have to be creative in what- ever solution they developed. For the long term, that meant figuring out a way to use the system to generate revenue to help build out the visual paging project. Washington State Ferries had one major advantage, however, and that was their partner- ship with their advertising and marketing firm, Trans4media. “We have a dynamic group of folks who have been selling advertising on our ferries since 2007,” noted Coursey. Trans4media has generated more than $2.2 million in gross advertising revenue over the past few years. WSF had some existing screens in the Seattle terminal that were originally purchased for Homeland Security, and Trans4media approached the ferries about using that space for advertising to help promote area attractions as well as create more opportunities for revenue growth. “It was Trans4media that brought the idea to us about incorporating advertising into the visual paging oppor- tunity, and they worked directly with the visual paging vendor to make it workable.” Another hurdle facing WSF was declining ridership. Although it serves more than 22 million passengers each year, the numbers have been trending downward with the soft economy. WSF was looking for ways to increase revenue, while providing additional value to passengers in order to reverse the downward trend. Pilot program An ADA work group at WSF decided that, given the limited funding and other challenges, the best approach to installing the visual paging system would be to launch a pilot program to determine what was feasible and practical. Although they reviewed several responses to the RFP they issued, the one that stood out was a proposal from a company called Four Winds Interactive (FWi), recently ranked in the Top 20 on Forbes magazine’s “America’s Most Promising Companies” list. “It was a clear choice,” Coursey says. “Their response was the most innovative and technologically superior, especially consid- ering there wasn’t an established model to work from. No other ferry system has anything like what we were proposing, so there was no template or precedent to follow, nowhere else to look for ideas. Everything they presented proved that they would be able to work with all the nuances and uniqueness of our system and overcome the obstacles we would face along the way.” The pilot began with FWi installing its technology to take advantage of display screens already present on two vessels and two terminals serving a single route. Almost immediately, the scope of the project increased beyond the visual paging system. WSF was making inroads using the display screens for advertising, as well as delivering text-based messages to hearing impaired passengers. Yet, it was not as simple as typing in a few commands. There were some technical issues that had to be solved to allow the crew to shift between simple text-based messages and static, or even video, advertising. This is where FWi really demon- strated its value beyond the technology itself.
  3. 3. 3012 Huron Street Denver, CO 80202 Toll Free: 877 204 6679 Fax: 720 221 0720 sales@fourwindsinteractive.com www.fourwindsinteractive.com ©2012 Four Winds Interactive, LLC. Images and other content in this document are the property of Four Winds Interactive and may be protected by copyright and other restrictions. Copyrights and other proprietary rights in the content in this document may also be owned by individuals and entities other than, and in addition to, Four Winds Interactive. Four Winds Interactive expressly prohibits the copying of any protected materials in this document. “Whatever problem we uncovered, FWi was able to solve it,” Coursey explains. “That was typical of our experience with them. They were never stuck on whether something could be done or would be easy to do. They did what every great business does – find a way to get it done. Their business approach was also a perfect match with Trans4media’s drive and creativity; they demonstrated the power of public/private partnerships. Best of all, they didn’t lose heart in the face of a lot of folks who resist change,” mused Coursey. Early success As the pilot program went on, the first thing that became apparent was that it had solved the original issue. The hearing impaired community in the Seattle area was delighted that its members now could see the messages that formerly had been audio-only, such as announcing that vessels are departing and arriving, warnings about weather concerns and other stan- dard ferry communications. This system allowed WSF to fulfill its customer service commitment as well as a legal obligation. But that was just the start. WSF had FWi create a loop with a series of standardized messages that are always presented, including a welcome message from the Governor of Washington State. The system also has the ability to allow the crew to create custom messages and alerts on the spot, such as: “Will the owner of a black Ford pickup return to your vehicle? Your alarm is going off.” But the added value came as WSF realized what it could do for its communities. “Half of our passengers are commuters who ride the ferry to and from work on a daily basis,” Coursey says. “The other half comes from around the world to ride the ferry for the once-in-a-lifetime Washington experience. They may have seen it on TV or in a movie, or read about it in a book. We’re giving local businesses the ability to communicate with a captive audience and offer suggestions on what to do when they reach their destinations. As we roll out the system to more vessels, we expect more advertisers to take advantage of this unique opportunity.” Much of this capability is driven by the flexibility of the FWi system. Although the project is just moving out of the pilot stage now, WSF already is looking at ways to expand the information it delivers. Among the additions being considered are weather information, a live news crawl at the bottom of the screen, and applications such as an interactive trip planner that will allow passengers to select ads and destination information based on their personal preferences. A huge leap forward For example, a tourist interested in local wineries could select that option from a menu. The system would then serve up a list of local vineyards and related businesses, along with paid advertising. Passengers that had boarded the ferry without a plan, or a full itinerary, would be able to use the display screens to help them get the most from their visit. Frequent or, in some cases, real-time updates could alert them to special offers for the day or the week to pique interest. “Four Winds introduced us to a whole new world of possibilities, a tool we can use to build for the future while exponen- tially increasing the advertising opportunities that Trans4media created for us. That was unexpected,” Coursey says. “Apps such as the trip planner will not only help us when they’re incorporated, they’ll also help local businesses that have
  4. 4. 3012 Huron Street Denver, CO 80202 Toll Free: 877 204 6679 Fax: 720 221 0720 sales@fourwindsinteractive.com www.fourwindsinteractive.com ©2012 Four Winds Interactive, LLC. Images and other content in this document are the property of Four Winds Interactive and may be protected by copyright and other restrictions. Copyrights and other proprietary rights in the content in this document may also be owned by individuals and entities other than, and in addition to, Four Winds Interactive. Four Winds Interactive expressly prohibits the copying of any protected materials in this document. struggled in the sagging economy. They’ll be able to reach customers who might not have discovered them otherwise, and at a time when they’re making the final decisions on what to do when they arrive. It’s a quantum leap over anything we would have been able to do given our financially-strapped system.” Setting an example One additional benefit WSF gained from the pilot program was proving to the maritime industry that despite some of the limitations facing the public sector in these economic times, customer service, marketing and revenue generation can still be state of the art. “You never know what the ripple effect of a project like this will be,” Coursey says. “Many of the best and brightest staff at WSF have stepped up to participate because it’s an intellectual and technological challenge, and may contribute to inno- vation in other areas.” Next steps Withthepilotasuccess,WSFisnowlookingathowtorollouttheprogram,logisticallyandfinancially,totherestoftheWSFsystem. On the financial side, the DHS grant that enabled the purchase of the initial display screens several years ago has run out, and WSF along with Trans4media will attempt to increase its advertising revenue significantly to help fund the build out to all the vessels and terminals along 10 routes. As for the logistics, WSF has created a technical group to make modifications to the original plan. They are looking at the regulations and requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to their regulatory agency, the United States Coast Guard and the Passenger Vessel Association to ensure that all maritime obligations are met. In the meantime, FWi is going through the layouts for each vessel and terminal to recommend the most expedient approach to a full rollout. The latter is not without its challenges. For example, Wi-Fi access is not consistent across the entire ferry system and isn’t available in some long stretches. That means that real-time news and weather updates won’t be available during that period, so information delivery on those vessels will have to be planned accordingly. In addition, no two of the 22 vessels in the fleet are exactly alike, and vary in age from relatively new to some that are 60 years old. The 20 terminals in the WSF system range from a small, unmanned shelter to large buildings that process thou- sands of riders each week. The FWi Solution will need to work with all of them. But Coursey remains optimistic. “It has been fun working on this initiative,” she says. “I would encourage other agencies to consider this tool. It is definitely worth the effort to make this technology available, because we can help communities and customers by presenting visu- ally appealing information that helps those with disabilities and provides a revenue source. There are so many possibilities to explore. It’s exciting to think where we’ll be in another year.”

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