Mall of America has earned a national reputation for entertaining guests. From musical acts to celebrity book signings to fashion shows, Mall of America is the Hollywood of the Midwest. Along with coverage in many national and local broadcast and print media outlets, Mall of America has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and TLC. By hosting more than 400 events each year, the Mall has become the place where fans can meet and greet their favorite celebrities or take part in interactive, one-of-a-kind events.
The Mall of America’s ticket scanning system needed to be replaced with a new system that allowed for more flexibility and better features in how guest tickets are scanned. Its fixed-podium- based system required guests to be scanned in at a single point for each ride, and it forced guests of all sizes to position their tickets or wristbands in one spot, which could be uncomfortable for some people. The podium-based system was also not responsive enough to scan guests at a rate that prevents back-ups at peak times. Its limited interface did not always provide workers or guests with accurate or timely feedback. Finally, the fixed system did not allow for front-line workers to easily provide credits to guests in order to correct errors.
We worked with the client to design and build the new ticket scanning solution. During an initial planning and design phase, we assisted the client with specifying the requirements and selecting an enterprise-class mobile device and platform for the solution. Next, we designed the functional workflow and user interactions necessary to support the project requirements. We also designed the aesthetic appearance of the application interface, incorporating brand guidelines from the client. Finally, we devised a custom software architecture for the application, including a custom database and API along with integration with a third-party back-end ticketing system to support the mobile application. Along the way, we developed a prototype application to prove that key aspects of the planned architecture were feasible.
The feature requirements for the new mobile ticket scanning solution included authentication and role-based feature authorization, ride selection and lock, ticket scanning and validation, session scan counting and reset, ticket use history, and ride refund crediting. Another key feature was the ability to operate the ticket scanning application while the device was offline. This feature enabled ride operations to continue even if there were problems with the system wireless or back-end infrastructure.
We developed the new software using a highly collaborative and iterative process that provided for regular and substantive feedback from the client. This process enabled us to give the client regular hands-on demonstration builds of the application as it was developed. And we were able to use the feedback from the client to refine the software to fit the client’s needs. We also pushed a minimally viable product into live field testing as quickly as possible, taking it out of the lab and into a production environment and the hands of the eventual end users. This feedback loop proved to be invaluable.
In the end, we developed a native Android application targeted at a Motorola MC40 device with a built-in barcode scanner. We also developed a custom database and web service API using Microsoft technologies (SQL Server and ASP.NET Web API) to support features that were not provided by the third-party back-end ticketing system. The Android application integrated with both the custom API that we developed and the API for the third-party ticketing system.
The mobile ticket scanning application that we developed in partnership with the client solved many of the operational challenges of the legacy fixed-podium-based ticket scanning solution. The new application decreased ticket scanning time, removed physical barriers and challenges in interactions between guests and ride operators, created an easy to use interface, empowered the ride operators to make fast ticketing changes, and eliminated multiple locations for capturing information. The net result was a better guest and operator experience.