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Old 01-07-2013, 03:38 PM   #1
MassJester


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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.
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Old 01-07-2013, 04:50 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:53 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oathkeeper13 View Post
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.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:58 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 01-07-2013, 07:50 PM   #5
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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.
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Oathkeeper13 View Post
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?
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:26 PM   #7
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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
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:58 PM   #8
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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.
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:16 AM   #9
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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.
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Old 03-02-2013, 02:04 PM   #10
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I'd imagine "mall-like" kiosks, with the Disney flavor
To me, if this is indeed what Disney has planned, is just another line I'd have to stand on. I know many are onboard with the magic band, but I cannot be until I see exactly how this all plays out. So far, I don't see this to be a "plus" for my family.
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Old 03-02-2013, 06:33 PM   #11
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I love most everything about the magic bands and next gen technology except for FPP. The current FP system wasn't broken . . . why try to fix it? Plus in one day you can easily get up to 6 FPs to use, but it looks like they're only looking at 3-4 per day, which is disappointing. Of course, all it'll do is change the way that we plan, and for us good planners, we can esily find our way around these changes. I also don't like the emphasis on smart phones when not everyone has a smart phone. A lot of people save up for years for a disney trip and don't spend any extra on smart phones or things like that. I feel like it'll also create some sort of hierarchy among the guests - those with MyMagic+ and those without. I've never liked the whole ADR system of 180 days out because there's really only a certain group of people that like planning things out that far in advance, and it's pretty frustrating for those that don't. There's an even smaller group of people that wants to plan out their rides this early! Everything you need put into one wristband that you just tap for everything seems really really cool though. Too bad FPP has to come with it, though.
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Old 01-31-2013, 02:56 PM   #12
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How do they verify the correct person is wearing the RFID on entry? I assume they've got a verification procedure but invisible unlike the present biometric finger scan?
There are biometric finger scans at the RFID entry pokes.
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Old 01-31-2013, 03:45 PM   #13
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There are biometric finger scans at the RFID entry pokes.
I hadn't seen a closeup picture to see the finger scanner. So, the RFiD entrance isn't much faster than scanning a ticket?

EDIT: Never mind. I see were there are 3 or 4 of the RFid scanners in place of every turnstile.


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Old 01-31-2013, 03:50 PM   #14
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Talking

So I personally am excited for the change, I know it made it a million times easier to use the RF room key this past trip, and am excited to see what all will come with the MyMagic+ and hope I get to use a Magic Band in December!
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Old 03-01-2013, 06:38 PM   #15
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I am just getting caught up on the RFID thing. Saw a pic on a different thread of a kid wearing a rubber bracelet. So is WDW already using this? I am not concerned about my privacy. They can know what I eat, what attractions I ride, when I stop to use the bathroom, I don't care. What I don't like is the thought of having to be connected to technology in order to enjoy the theme parks. When we go to WDW now, we hardly look at our cell phones (we never bring both into the parks but have started bringing one although not eagerly). We don't have smart phones and don't want them. Besides that, I really don't want to plan 6 months in advance the exact day and time I plan to ride Space Mountain! It sounds just awful to me. The ADR business is just out of control, and when we get to WDW, what we want to eat is often very different from where our schedule says we have to eat. It's just food, so I can handle it. But to take the spontaneity out of experiencing my favorite attractions actually makes me pretty crazy. I doubt Walt would approve of this. I understand the goal is to use the most advanced technology available, but I am very skeptical about how this will work out. I seriously don't want to book my attractions in advance or find that I am a step behind 40,000 other people at realizing an attraction has a low wait time, simply because I wasn't online on my smartphone, but instead was enjoying the parks and my time with my family. This says nothing of what this will do for guests who decide to spontaneously visit the parks or for park novices, who already have a tough time figuring out the best way to "do Disney." Not everyone can plan for months in advance, and many people don't want to. The planners out there already plan, have the touring plan itinerary in their pockets and know all the secrets. Ok enough of my rant. I hope they do a trial of this and it fails.

Quick walks through turnstyles versus ticket taking, fine with me. The rest of it, not so much.
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