Disney’s “Magic Bands” Project Will Have Incredible Data

Posted By Debbie on April 8, 2013

I’m a major Disney geek… mostly Walt Disney World in Florida more than Disneyland or the movies. I feel like I grew up in WDW, and going there is like going home PLUS mountains of fun and great food.

Right now, when you visit Disney, you get a key card. This opens your hotel door. If you bought park tickets, it’s your park ticket. If you are approved for room charges, you can use it to eat, buy souvenirs, etc… all over the whole of WDW (parks, hotels, shopping). Want a FastPass for a ride? Your key card does that too.

Disney is finally and slowly releasing a new technology they started announcing last year. Magic Bands. Does everything the key card does but in a wrist band. The wrist band has RFID, so some people are concerned about what data Disney will have and how they will use it. I’m not concerned because Disney won’t have my social security number, bank account number, or anything really personal. It’s not like Disney will use what they learn about my behaviour to lobby the government to take away my rights.

Magic Bands will also combine Disney’s PhotoPass. This is a bar coded pass you get when Disney photographers take pics of you. You can use this card to see your pics as various kiosks or online. Disney then wants to sell you those pics individually or as a package burned onto a CD. I’ve bought the CD at least 3 times. Now, I won’t have to carry my key card AND my PhotoPass since the Magic Band will cover both.

But they will know every move I make around their property.

Disney will know how long I waited for Soarin, and they will do that without handing me that red card (the way they do now). This means wait times are literally crowd-sourced and will be more accurate. They will know how often I go to the bathroom and which ones.

They’ll figure out I’m wild about retro EPCOT souvenirs. They’ll know I have to eat one Mickey ice cream bar per trip. And one meal in the Morocco restaurant per trip. They’ll know I never wait for or watch a parade.

They will know more about their customers than possibly any other company on the planet.

And then I hope they use this to improve the experience for me and everybody else.

If Disney can then tie this say to my cell phone via texting or an app, they can tell me where to get the best retro EPCOT stuff. They’ll know which are my fave rides, so maybe they can tell me when the waits are shortest. They’ll know I don’t have kids and can travel any time I can get the time off. Maybe they can make me a special offer to come when they know they’ll be slower than more peak times.

They’ll see me ordering gluten free things, and maybe can suggest other places to eat with good choices that match my diet.

I’m saying maybe things can be personalised. Yes, there’s a time on your vacation to just have fun and go with the flow. In my dream world, you opt in or out to their personalised suggestions. But for someone like me who is at Disney even for a day or two every year or two, I might want them to help me efficiently cover my fave things.

Disney are also the masters of making you want stuff.

A boring grey Magic Band will be given to you for free when you check in. But you can buy upgraded bands… character designs… personal etching on the back of the band. I think many families will buy the upgraded ones. You’re on vacation! Kids will want the pirate and princess ones!

Disney has played with RFID before.

I’ve seen two examples of Disney playing with RFID before, and I liked both.

One was Pal Mickey. Anybody remember him? He was a stuffed animal plush Mickey. You could buy different outfits for him. But no matter what he wore, he was your park guide. He reminded you when parades were happening. He told you when you were close to a character photo/autograph opportunity. He asked you trivia questions while you waited on line. OK that last one wasn’t RFID but the other two were. I thought it was darn clever.

The other was in the new Beauty and the Beast restaurant in the new Fantasyland in WDW Florida. You got this wacky looking plastic thing they said was a rose. You attach your order to it via a computerised ordering system, and then you sit the rose on the table you pick. They know where you’re sitting, and deliver food to you. Clearly that’s RFID too.

The Magic Bands can now do these things too, especially if Disney ties them to your phone for info and updates. I think that’ll happen at some point (or even a readout on the band, who knows). But they could know where I’m sitting in the dining room by having each table read the bands sitting at it.

I’m excited about this. I hope to try this out maybe even later this year.