Disney has announced that it will be rolling out MyMagic+ over the next few months, a $1bn system featuring wearable technology which is capable of monitoring visitors and collecting data about their behaviour in Disney World theme parks.
The MagicBand wristbands take big data to another level – they come with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that send signals wirelessly that connects to Disney's database server, meaning the wristbands can serve as hotel room keys, admission tickets and even be linked to debit or credit cards so people can tap to pay for items instantly.
They also enable Disney to keep track of visitors. In a theme park restaurant, users can select their orders on a touchscreen and choose to sit at any table, and the restaurant waiter can look on the system and see where the users are sitting as their wristbands identify them.
My Disney Experience
Disney's head of parks and resorts Tom Staggs told Bloomberg Businessweek that he sees the wearable technology as a way to create a "more immersive, more seamless, and more personal experience", meaning that Disney employees would be able to wish someone a happy birthday or be able to immediately address a child by name.
Visitors could also use the My Disney Experience app or website to plan their trips and reserve slots in expedited queues for popular rides months in advance (called FastPass+), then use the wristband to authenticate that they have a place in the queue once in the park, replacing the old paper reservation slip system.
While making more things electronic-based would be helpful, Disney has received a backlash of complaints from park goers who are upset that the new FastPass+ system of reservations limits the number of popular attractions they can reserve to three instead of six, and that the queues for attractions are still very long.
And what about the tracking issue – do park visitors want Disney to be monitoring them while they enjoy themselves at the theme parks?
Too good to be true?
If it's successful, Disney's experiment could have a big impact on how other large venues and attractions are run, especially if consumers enjoy the ease of having everything contained in on wristband, so they don't need to fear losing their hotel room key or wallet at the park.
However, the idea of putting so much information in Disney's hands is scary, not just because Big Mouse is watching you, but also because the database holding visitors' payment details and other personal information will have to be properly secured, and My Disney Experience could become a big hacking target.
"When you make [the logistics] easier, people tend to spend more time on entertainment and more time on consumables—be that food and beverage, merchandise, etc.," Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said in an investor call in November 2013.
"We do expect this to be a ... growingly positive impact on our business in the years to come."