The Disney RFID revolution has been coming. Testing, rumors, and analysis made this morning’s New York Times article no surprise for most Disney aficionados.
According to the Times article, Disney will, as rumored, be using RFID wristbands to facilitate guest experience. The wristbands will replace everything from tickets to room keys to credit cards, allowing guests to access attractions with a tap of the wrist against a Mickey-Head icon. Dining reservations, FastPass access, PhotoPass options, and reserved viewing for parades and shows will be tied to the wrist band. The wrist-band will also allow guests to charge against a credit card on account, with purchases less than $50 automatically deducted and charges over $50 requiring entry of a PIN.
What is “new” is the level to which Disney plans to integrate the RFID into standard park experience. Information on the RFID band will be used in personalizing interactions. Characters and cast members will be able to access guests’ names and celebrations, allowing characters to greet guests by name without prompting or cast members to offer a birthday treat without being informed of the event. Furthermore, Disney has already taken steps to integrate that personal touch into attractions. The advanced Scuttle animatronic discussed in our Journey of the Little Mermaid post is programmed to pick up RFID data and interact with individual guests, speaking directly to them.
The announcement comes on the heels of a new website roll-out and the announcement of Fastpass +, a new online booking system for Disney Fastpasses and attractions integrated with a smartphone app. The new system aims to allow advance planning (booking of FastPasses up to 60 days in advance) and on-the-fly changes using the app. Ideally, the new RFID wristbands would work seamlessly with that system, allowing FastPass and reservation data to be updated and accessed on-the-go. The system, website, app, and in-park RFID is known as MyMagic+ or My Disney Experience.
The new system offers incredible potential, allowing Disney to move its personal magic to a whole new level. With the RFID information, every guest could feel that Disney truly was a place all about them, a place where “everyone knows your name.” Furthermore, the potential convenience of having plans and reservations for an individual or a group consolidated in one place would be unlike any other park offering. And, of course, there are the potential advantages for parents. RFID bracelets could allow them to give their children “budgets” in the parks and, theoretically, even allow them to know where their children are at any given time.
But with that potential comes risk. The new integrated system places Disney in the dangerous waters of personal information and privacy. Personalizing guest experience at a “Disney” level requires collection of a great deal of information, frequently information about minors. Disney counters those concerns with the assurance that guests will have granular control over what data is shared for each member of their party. So, for example, adults could share a wide variety of personal information while only children’s names are shared. Furthermore, lost or stolen bracelets can be deactivated by cast members. What remains unclear however is how long Disney will retain the data offered and how it will be used. Furthermore, the RFID system will allow Disney to gather massive amounts of data on spending habits, in-park behavior, and crowd flow. Will that data be used to target marketing to particular guests or make offers based on spending or behavior? Will guests be comfortable with targeted advertising integrated into their SmartPhone app?
And, of course, there is the question of practical application. Although this system is in its infancy, Disney is infamous for high ideals and technical difficulty. In the past year alone, guests suffered with website crashes, closed telephone lines, and poor technological management in the events leading up to the premiere of the new Fantasyland. Disney acknowledges that cast members will need extensive training to smoothly integrate this new technology; what happens if the system has issues? Will pre-planned Fastpasses, character greets, or dining reservations simply be unavailable?
Only time will tell how magical this new experience will be , but there is no doubt that as RFID technology arrives, it will change the park experience in profound ways. Check back tomorrow as we begin breaking down what we know about this new system.
UPDATED INFO about the new system has emerged! Learn more here: Disney MyMagic+ RFID Roundup
What do you think? Which part of this new digital pixie dust has you most excited?