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MassJester 01-07-2013 03:38 PM

MagicBand
 
Interesting NYTimes story:

January 7, 2013


At Disney Parks, a Bracelet Meant to Build Loyalty (and Sales)

By BROOKS BARNES


ORLANDO, Fla. — Imagine Walt Disney World with no entry turnstiles. Cash? Passé: Visitors would wear rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information, snapping up corn dogs and Mickey Mouse ears with a tap of the wrist. Smartphone alerts would signal when it is time to ride Space Mountain without standing in line.

Fantasyland? Hardly. It happens starting this spring.

Disney in the coming months plans to begin introducing a vacation management system called MyMagic+ that will drastically change the way Disney World visitors — some 30 million people a year — do just about everything.

The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behavior. Disney is betting that happier guests will spend more money.

“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” said Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts.

The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.

Did you buy a balloon? What attractions did you ride and when? Did you shake Goofy’s hand, but snub Snow White? If you fully use MyMagic+, databases will be watching, allowing Disney to refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages.

Disney is aware of potential privacy concerns, especially regarding children. The plan, which comes as the federal government is trying to strengthen online privacy protections, could be troublesome for a company that some consumers worry is already too controlling.

But Disney has decided that MyMagic+ is essential. The company must aggressively weave new technology into its parks — without damaging the sense of nostalgia on which the experience depends — or risk becoming irrelevant to future generations, Mr. Staggs said. From a business perspective, he added, MyMagic+ could be “transformational.”

Aside from benefiting Disney’s bottom line, the initiative could alter the global theme parks business. Disney is not the first vacation company to use wristbands equipped with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips. Great Wolf Resorts, an operator of 11 water parks in North America, has been using them since 2006. But Disney’s global parks operation, which has an estimated 121.4 million admissions a year and generates $12.9 billion in revenue, is so huge that it can greatly influence consumer behavior.

“When Disney makes a move, it moves the culture,” said Steve Brown, chief operating officer for Lo-Q, a British company that provides line management and ticketing systems for theme parks and zoos.

Disney World guests currently plod through entrance turnstiles, redeeming paper tickets, and then decide what to ride; food and merchandise are bought with cash or credit cards. (Disney hotel key cards can also be used to charge items.) People race to FastPass kiosks, which dispense a limited number of free line-skipping tickets. But gridlock quickly sets in and most people wait. And wait.

In contrast, MyMagic+ will allow users of a new Web site and app — called My Disney Experience — to preselect three FastPasses before they leave home for rides or V.I.P. seating for parades, fireworks and character meet-and-greets. Orlando-bound guests can also preregister for RFID bracelets. These so-called MagicBands will function as room key, park ticket, FastPass and credit card.

MagicBands can also be encoded with all sorts of personal details, allowing for more personalized interaction with Disney employees. Before, the employee playing Cinderella could say hello only in a general way. Now — if parents opt in — hidden sensors will read MagicBand data, providing information needed for a personalized greeting: “Hi, Angie,” the character might say without prompting. “I understand it’s your birthday.”

The data will also be used to make waiting areas for rides (“scene ones” in Disney parlance) less of a drag. A new Magic Kingdom ride called Under the Sea, for instance, features a robotic version of Scuttle the sea gull from “The Little Mermaid” that will be able to chitchat with MagicBand wearers.

“We want to take experiences that are more passive and make them as interactive as possible — moving from, ‘Cool, look at that talking bird,’ to ‘Wow, amazing, that bird is talking directly to me,’ ” said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering.

Guests will not be forced to use the MagicBand system, and people who do try it will decide how much information to share. An online options menu, for instance, will offer various controls: Do you want park employees to know your name? Do you want Disney to send you special offers when you get home? What about during your stay?

“I may walk in and feel good about giving information about myself and my wife, but maybe we don’t want to give much about the children,” Mr. Staggs said. Still, once using the MagicBand, even if selecting the most restrictive settings, Disney sensors will gather general information about how the visitor uses the park.

Rumors about MyMagic+ have been circulating on Disney fan blogs for months and offer a window into the likely debate over the service.

“Although I know this type of technology is making its way into every facet of life, it still makes me feel a bit creeped out,” wrote Jayne Townsley on StitchKingdom.com.

Pam Falcioni, another StitchKingdom user, had the opposite response. “I think it sounds awesome,” she wrote, adding, “As far as ‘Big Brother’ watching over us as we wander the parks, anyone worried about ‘real’ privacy wouldn’t be wandering around a theme park full of security cameras.”

The logistical challenges involved in pulling this off are extensive. Disney has 60,000 employees here and many must be retrained to use new technology. Already, Disney has installed free Wi-Fi at Disney World, a 40-square-mile area, so smartphone users can access the My Disney Experience app more readily. And all of the new procedures must be communicated to Super Bowl-size crowds daily.

What happens if your MagicBand is lost or stolen? Park employees will be trained to deactivate them or guests can use the My Disney Experience app, a Disney spokeswoman said. As a safety precaution, Disney will also require guests to enter a PIN when using the wristbands to make purchases of $50 or more. “The bands themselves will contain no personal identifiable information,” Mr. Staggs said.

Mr. Staggs said Disney’s board decided to move ahead with the technology upgrades in February 2011 only after identifying multiple ways in which the initiative could expand profits. “If Disney can drive more value from existing infrastructure by layering on technology, that is extremely powerful,” said Mr. Brown of Lo-Q. “They can’t just compete by building new rides; it’s already a theme-park arms race out there.”

Disney expects MagicBands to turn into a big business in and of themselves; the company plans to introduce collectible sets of MagicBand accessories and charms.

Prodding guests to do more advance planning, combined with the tracking of guests as they roam the parks, will help Disney manage its work force more efficiently. More advance planning will also help lock visitors into Disney once they arrive in Orlando, discouraging people, for instance, from making impromptu visits to Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Some cosmetic changes to the parks are included in the initiative’s cost. For instance, eventually guests will no longer enter the parks through turnstiles. Instead, they will tap their MagicBand on a post. Mr. Staggs explained that research indicated that guests — particularly mothers with strollers — viewed the turnstiles as an unpleasant barrier. “Small, subtle things can make a big difference,” Mr. Staggs said.

Oathkeeper13 01-07-2013 04:50 PM

I am really excited about this. So long as no one is required to wear the band I see nothing wrong with it. The band has the potential to streamline a lot of the ticketing areas, and could lead to a fun more interactive process. Having my information collected is just a small price to pay for better service. I for one look forward to using them. I downloaded the my disney experience app not knowing that this would be happening, I wonder if this will be available when I go next week. Personally I also hope that the data collection could curb the less desirable behavior of guests, maybe get some of those line cutters in order.

11290 01-07-2013 05:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oathkeeper13 (Post 47114279)
I am really excited about this. So long as no one is required to wear the band I see nothing wrong with it. The band has the potential to streamline a lot of the ticketing areas, and could lead to a fun more interactive process. Having my information collected is just a small price to pay for better service. I for one look forward to using them. I downloaded the my disney experience app not knowing that this would be happening, I wonder if this will be available when I go next week. Personally I also hope that the data collection could curb the less desirable behavior of guests, maybe get some of those line cutters in order.

If you get the band as your ticket, you will have to wear the band as tickets are "non-transferable" and you will have to have it on when you come through the touch-pad entry. It is "tagged" to you.

Oathkeeper13 01-07-2013 06:58 PM

I was referring to the fact that the article said no one would be required to use the band in the first place. So if someone is concerned with their privacy they can opt for a paper ticket instead. For people like me who aren't particularly concerned with privacy a band seems a lot faster and more practical then a paper ticket.

Disco 01-07-2013 07:50 PM

Cool, I'm excited too. I find it interesting that people are so worried about their privacy with these. I would garner that 90% of them already share the same information with the Disney website or using by using the key cards or even by checking into the resorts.
I can understand a little about security issues but given they haven't spilled any details about encryption and steps taken to protect information, it would be a little premature to worry about it.
Biggest plus for me is with the new system they expect people to be able to ride 20% more attractions a day. Add that the characters, interactive queues and animatronics interface with you personally and you have a lot more entertainment.
Hopefully acquiring fast passes is more stream lined as well. Having to send someone off to collect passes is a grind.

3happydancers 01-07-2013 08:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oathkeeper13 (Post 47114279)
I am really excited about this. So long as no one is required to wear the band I see nothing wrong with it. The band has the potential to streamline a lot of the ticketing areas, and could lead to a fun more interactive process. Having my information collected is just a small price to pay for better service. I for one look forward to using them. I downloaded the my disney experience app not knowing that this would be happening, I wonder if this will be available when I go next week. Personally I also hope that the data collection could curb the less desirable behavior of guests, maybe get some of those line cutters in order.

What happens to those who do not have the electronics to participate in downloading the my disney experience app?

Combos 01-07-2013 08:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 3happydancers (Post 47116335)
What happens to those who do not have the electronics to participate in downloading the my disney experience app?

I'd imagine "mall-like" kiosks, with the Disney flavor

3happydancers 01-07-2013 08:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Combos (Post 47116531)
I'd imagine "mall-like" kiosks, with the Disney flavor

This may not be good (for me!)

My family has simple tracfones; no plan so no unlimited anything. Oh well.

CurlyJo224 01-08-2013 02:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 3happydancers (Post 47116907)
This may not be good (for me!)

My family has simple tracfones; no plan so no unlimited anything. Oh well.

I've got a smartphone, but the latest I've heard from Disney is that there's no intention of extending My Disney Experience to Windows phones. So it's useless to me, too.

MrRomance 01-08-2013 07:38 AM

I am excited about these changes and I feel that the real Disney fans who cherish the guest experience Disney offers will be equally excited. Let's take a look at what these changes mean for interactions between the guest, attractions, characters, CM's etc. Isn't this what real Disney fans love and what makes children fall in love with all things Disney? For their favourite character to "know" them before they get there. It's pure Disney "magic".

As far as the information gathering/privacy is concerned, do guests to the Disney parks not know that this kind of tracking has been going on for decades both at Disney parks and in other settings? From the moment you enter WDW, you have security and cameras all around you, your ticket is used to enter a park, to gather fast passes, if you use a KTTW card, where you go, what you buy, what you eat, is already tracked or trackable. Your dining reservations, the celebrations you add to the reservation etc. It's all "in the system" somewhere. The difference here is that Disney are being very open about the fact that information will be used for marketing purposes.

The only thing I see this doing is combining all of that information into one system, rather than it being spread across various systems. The benefit for the guest experience is bigger than the interactive elements too. It will allow Disney to mobilize the right number of buses, the right number of CM's etc. where they are needed. It will help with crowd control, line length and line jumpers etc.

There are so many positive elements but in order to bring them to the guest, information about the guest is needed. It's a very basic principle when you think about it. It is inevitable that it will raise some concerns over information control and privacy, but if you bring this down to the most simple of levels, I can't send you a card for your birthday if you keep the date private. I can't give you something that will be helpful to you or something you will like if you don't tell me what you need or enjoy. Inevitably, this does bring concerns over information control, sharing and privacy, but providing there is an opt-out (which there seems to be) then I think a lot of people will find this change a shining example of Disney Magic.

Husurdady 01-17-2013 10:52 PM

And just think all the jobs that will be lost.......and all the $$$ WDW will be saving....are we happy.....NOT! :sad2::sad2: :sad2:

ParrotBill 01-23-2013 10:41 AM

I am looking forward to all the potential tie-ins. We already know there will be charm bracelet like add ons. How about:

MagicBandTinFoilMickeyHat (for those with RFID privacy concerns)
MagicBandUnderwear (to soak up the sweat under that thick MagicBand)
MagicBandFebreeze (freshen up that stinky band after a few days)
iMagicBand (iPod interface)
MagicBandHealthAlert (monitors blood pressure and reminds you to take
your vitamins)
MagicBandBlueTooth (get status updates from your band in your ear
only available in Stitch voice)

11290 01-23-2013 08:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Husurdady (Post 47225604)
And just think all the jobs that will be lost.......and all the $$$ WDW will be saving....are we happy.....NOT! :sad2::sad2: :sad2:

Actually, there are more CM's working the "new" turnstiles (touch pads) than were working the same amount of the "old" turnstiles, at least in MK. Won't really change much in other areas either. FP will still have to have CM's at kiosks to deal with the people that don't have the "magic Band" and will be using the regular tickets that will have issues.

scubadiver 01-27-2013 07:13 PM

Damn, I will have tan lines now!!!:rotfl:

bcrook 01-27-2013 07:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CurlyJo224 (Post 47119054)
I've got a smartphone, but the latest I've heard from Disney is that there's no intention of extending My Disney Experience to Windows phones. So it's useless to me, too.

You can do everything online at the my Disney experience web site. Then you use your band to access everything.

The disadvantage would be you would miss out on all the special offers all day long in the parks. But who knows if they will be of any value. For example you could walk by a park sensor and then get offered a FP for laugh floor. But, that really wouldn't be terrible to miss. You wouldn't be able to change your FP reservations on fly.

It looks like the intent is to get everyone on the band. If you want to experience the new interactive experiences, you will need a bracelet. If you want to book a reserved parade spot or use fastpass for belles tales, you will need a magicband. FP+ is only available with the band, so it coud be tough getting the FP for the popular rides.


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