"Americans' preference for mediated experiences is obvious enough, and I'm not going to keep pounding it into the ground. I'm not even going to make snotty comments about it--after all, I was at Disney World as a paying customer. But it clearly relates to the colossal success of GUIs and so I have to talk about it some. Disney does mediated experiences better than anyone. If they understood what OSes are, and why people use them, they could crush Microsoft in a year or two. [...]
"As I've explained, selling OSes for money is a basically untenable position, and the only way Apple and Microsoft can get away with it is by pursuing technological advancements as aggressively as they can, and by getting people to believe in, and to pay for, a particular image: in the case of Apple, that of the creative free thinker, and in the case of Microsoft, that of the respectable techno-bourgeois. Just like Disney, they're making money from selling an interface, a magic mirror. It has to be polished and seamless or else the whole illusion is ruined and the business plan vanishes like a mirage."
There's quite a bit more about Disney in the essay. If you haven't read it in a while, check it out, it's a pretty good read!
Well that's not even metaphorical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF4NjbIEbW8#t=64s (should skip to 1 minute in)
The metaphorical comparison between the operating systems is one I'll never forget.
The crazy part about the band that scares me is how much you are tracked because of it. After getting back we noticed we had Photo Pass photos, you know the photos after you get off the ride you used to buy. Now these photos are all digital and online, normally requiring you to tap your band at the end of the ride. Well they were just loaded onto our account, we never even scanned our bands for these rides or anything.
At the resorts you can buy a refillable mug, or you are given one on the dining plan. This refillable mug has an RFID chip in them, same with the paper cups. You must place your mug/cup on the sensor below your drink option in order for it to be read and dispense your drink. You can only get so much dispensed in a certain amount of time, or it will just stop dispensing. I also believe they had or used to have a limit per day on refills, I never hit it.
Not to mention their "free" Wi-Fi that they highly promote. I'm curious what all is going on behind the scene and how much is being used. Because they obviously now are tracking what I drink, where I stay, how much money I spend, where I am in the park, what rides I go on, etc.
A lot of that was driven by the cups they sell at the resorts, which used to be something like $15 but as many fills as you wanted for your entire stay. Some people actually brought the mugs back trip after trip and abused the system. I suppose they could do that with the paper cups as well.
But once that was in place, now they needed the dispenser to work with paper cups as well. They couldn't be infinite either (or nobody would buy the mugs) so a limit needed to be set.
They've been tracking people for years (I grew up going to Disneyland and my sister worked there), with cameras, so this is nothing new -- it's just updated technology.
Personally, I think it's cool and interesting.
Are all guests required to use Ticket Tag?
If you don't want to use Ticket Tag, you can simply carry and show a photo ID that matches the name identified with your ticket.
It was 85% well done, when you're actually scanning it can be a bear to get it just right, took a few days to get used to flipping my wrist around awkwardly and had a panic moment when one came off.
2 other things:
1) We didn't experience any of the location oriented deliveries/notifications, maybe they stopped or maybe we aren't special
2) That restaurant is very cool
Source: I played a very very small role in making magic bands happen.
As a techy parent that's one thing that sounded great on paper but I'd be kind of creeped out if I didn't know what was going on.
One of the early ideas being touted by Disney for this technology was the ability for the staff and characters to greet you by name (as read off the MagicBand at a distance) as you approached.
The low-tech birthday buttons are a whole different thing.
Oddly enough, the fidelity of the fingerprint scans wasn't high enough to read 2 of our party's members, so it was an slightly annoying process having to wait for a supervisor to come over and officially clear them.
The process was seemless for the rest of the party (i.e. 10 people).
I was just there at the end of December, but it is all kind of hazy now.
So it uses some sort of direct contact rather than NFC? [Perhaps to make it less easy to clone?]
After the first day we realized if we wore the band a certain way then it was easier to flip the wrist to hold for a connection. The shape is kind of weird and hard to understand the proper way to wear it. I could have been wearing the wrong way from what was intended for all I know though.
Sarcasm aside, we always get a big wad of cash when we go on vacation (and especially to Disney World). It's almost impossible to track your spending if you follow the normal pattern of pulling out your credit card ... this wrist band (in my mind) is to make sure you don't realize what you're spending.
Even the whole FastPass+ idea is meant to keep visitors out of the lines and on the move, which gives them more opportunities to spend money. It was seriously depressing on my last visit to MK/Epcot about how every single open space in the park is now filled with a kiosk or stand selling some type of souvenir or snack.
If anything, mobile payment systems tend to be more accounting friendly. I can pop open my last google wallet purchases trivially. My credit card requires logging into a website or using a fairly crappy mobile app that's often not updated quickly with my most recent purchases.
It's more useful to see your spending habits than safety. After all, a stolen credit card isn't really worth worrying about when you're not actually out any money.
With CapitalOne I have the opposite problem, in that they keep declining charges and sometimes closing my card for purchases I did actually make myself.
This actually came in handy about a year ago when my number got stolen. I was sitting at my desk and heard my phone vibrate twice in quick succession. It showed 2 charges at a grocery store in Florida (I am in Chicago). I immediately put a block on my card through Simples app and notified Simple about the fraudulent charges. It made a very scary situation easy to handle.
I was able to correct the mistake before anything else happened because I knew before the receipt had printed that the card had been used.
But i could imagine some smartwatch app(or phone app), that really helps you control spending, even better than cash.
For example, an app that has a list of things you really really want to buy, and whenever you are about to pay for a an impulse buy, you're shown that list, and asked if you prefer to save towards that.
"It took one engineer six months to get the tear-away channel just right: It had to be easy to tear, but it couldn’t inadvertently come apart. Meanwhile, the readers had to be intuitive enough for people to instantly know how to use them"
It's amazing the kind of effort true product excellence really takes.
2) Joining groups, and saying who can reserve for whom is still a pain. It probably works GREAT for 98% of people, but we got screwed on three different trips.
3) The way they track photos is great for small parties, but it's a pain for groups that get together, split up, get together, split up, form with another group of people for a few days, split up, etc.
4) Doesn't work on the cruise ships yet. It'll be great when it does.
5) You can book three rides. When you're done with the third one, you can book another one. When you're done with that, you can book another, etc. They don't make this well-known, so we ended up with just 3 rides per day. Could have done more.
6) My wife and I have different reasons to be in the parks, at different times of the year. But we can't have a POOL of park tickets. Nope, you have to pre-allocate the tickets to each band. That sucks. Either that, or let me move tickets between our bands however we want.
The old FastPass system was far better for those who knew how to work it, we used to be able to do FastPass for most of the day and never be in a line for more than 20 minutes, though the new system makes the system more apparent to everyone.
I also had a less-than-stellar time getting into my hotel room with the band. I expected it to be very forgiving and ended up banging my hand against the door at different angles before I got in.
Another complaint is the fit of the wristband. I imagine it will get better as the technology miniaturizes, but it was uncomfortable enough that I wanted to take it off constantly, which is obviously counterproductive.
Overall though, I think they're great. No more hassling with small paper tickets and a unified system for basically every old system you can think of.
The following are my conjectures on how it works. I do not work for Disney or any contractor, but I do work in the field of RFID.
The 13.56 MHz near field RFID is used for payment and entry to the park, and any other time Disney has you hold your band up to something for a transaction. It's near field, so the range is only a few centimeters, which is good for payments and when you want to ensure only one band is being interfaced with. This RFID consumes no battery power from within the band.
The 915 MHz UHF RFID is used for positioning with shorter ranges but near instantaneously. For example, when you sit at a table, my guess is they are using this UHF RFID to find your location (an antenna at each table gives very good indication of who's at that table). Generally range on UHF RFID is a few meters, plenty to detect who's walking up to the dining location if they funnel you through a specific path (called portals in the industry). This is also likely the technology used to detect which car/boat you are in when they take your pictures on the rides. UHF RFID can acquire hundreds of tags per second and consumes no battery power from within the band, which is perfect for quickly detecting who's in range of a given antenna if they are only a few meters away.
Finally, the 2.4 GHz radio. It's active so does consume battery power and the battery inside the bands are tiny, so it cannot be transmitting that often or the battery life would suck. Hence, I believe that the near field interactions reset a timer which runs for a few days to a week to enable the 2.4 GHz radio. Likely this radio transmits every minute or so. Disney do have receivers around the park for this 2.4 GHz radio system and I believe they only use it for detecting rough location of all visitors which is perfect to determine the lengths of lines at rides or to find where a lost kid is in the parks. Once the timer expires (if you've not interacted with any near field readers in a few days) then the 2.4 GHz radio stops until the next interaction. This is likely the only way to get such good battery life and how they can ship the thing to you weeks before you arrive.
EDIT to add: That 2.4 GHz radio probably has a range of somewhere around 30 to 50 meters (possibly more). Some of their receiver stations are in the lights around the park (some with wired Ethernet others with wifi or other backhaul RF networking), others are little black boxes with 100BaseFX (fiber Ethernet for long runs like 1km). This is perfect for knowing crowd density in an area and estimating line lengths for outdoor areas (the UHF RFID could also be used for line length estimation in controlled or indoor areas). Probably they also have some 2.4 GHz receivers installed in the parade floats and vending carts (along with GPS to know where those items are) to collect data for location tracking.
All in all, Disney are executing the wearables and RFID systems exactly as they are best envisioned. It's awesome! (if a bit scary)
You can search for any FCC transmitter on the FCC website: https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm
This is very useful if you want to see how things with radios inside them work. Most companies do not restrict the internal photos and user manuals from being posted publicly by the FCC (although you can do so).
Also, I imagine to determine if the guest is still in the park and if so which park, what part, or which restaurant, etc even if the guest is not swiping any RFID readers. I also think they probably have issues with people hiding in the park after closing and such and I'm sure this helps security find people who do this. Confused elderly person comes to mind as well.
I wonder if this system extends to places like Downtown Disney or Disney Boardwalk and the hotels? Then it becomes a scary privacy issue when its just not theme park goer management, but something that extends beyond the theme park's gates.
>This is perfect for knowing crowd density in an area and estimating line lengths for outdoor areas
Accurate density metrics and tracking of crowds must be invaluable. I bet Disney sits on lots of interesting data. I wonder if people migrate to certain types of rides at certain parts of the day or which rides they ride first. Or how these changes when you have younger or older kids, etc.
I also prefer wearing one of these than giving up my thumbprint, which is the current system. That's always made me nervous. I'm sure its stored forever in some database which is trivially tapped by other organizations.
I have no idea what kind of fingerprinting system is used.
My friend also said that the near field RFID is used to unlock your hotel room, at least in some of the hotels. Which is neat since you don't need anything other than the band to enjoy everything at Disney, but probably would be a fun target to reverse engineer :)
The governments of the world would like this, no?
“If we can get out of the way, our guests can spend more money.” - FTFY.
But it's really astonishing how much more convenient and enjoyable it made the vacation. No need to slog a camera, wallet, etc. I was surprised that even the smallest out-of-the way Disney feature (Magic Express at the airport, entry into the resort pools, e.g.), they still had a way to scan the magic bands.
If we did end up spending more because of it, it wasn't much more. And it might just be worth it.
All in all I think it's really really amazing what they are capable of doing.
I brought my own camera - the pre-positioned photogs were nice to have (and had better equipment than me), but I still enjoyed being able to take my own pictures.
Until Disney gets drones to take pictures for you on-demand, you are still going to want to bring a camera (smartphone or otherwise) to the park.
Why then didn't you need a camera - do they have photogs around the site?
2. Third party vendors will hate these bands--if they required to implement them? Why--because so many skim the till. It's easy to do with cash.
Edit: At the time of filing, the only existing patent was for a "single use RFID hospital bands" which was made to be disabled when removed and non-reusable (similar to existing non-RFID hospital bands).
The article mentions a $1B investment. I would think the band and reader hardware are the smallest part of that investment with the bulk of it in the how to apply the information in developing new park-specific processes and retraining employees.
I think I agree with your point, but to rephrase I say the real value (for theme parks and resorts) would be easing the ability for patrons to make payments, purchasing data, the ability to track/locate patrons (lost kids, people injured in ski resorts, ect...), and the general logistical improvements of operations (being able to see what seats/rides are open, the exact number of people in line, redirecting people to other areas of the park, ect...). This is all very basic data available in most existing RFID software packages.
edit: found it https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8839888
Here's a 2004 article about using them in Legoland:
I wouldn't be surprised if Disney was simply waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea.
We've probably been talking about RFID as people tracker for almost 20 years. Personally, I'm really getting sick of the whole "they stole my idea" bullshit from young entrepreneurs. You aren't as clever as you think.
Hospitals are mazes for patients and there are so many obvious ways to improve the experience. But as a provider, moving from transactions to moments with patients would reinvigorate the practice.
"The goal was to create a system that would essentially replace the time spent fiddling with payments and tickets for moments of personal interactions with visitors. The MagicBands and MyMagicPlus allow employees to “move past transactions, into an interactive space, where they can personalize the experience,”
They are free to replace so it's not too big of a deal.
you can pay for everything in the park with your magic band (I think you might have to stay in a disney resort for that to be the case)
I'll admit, its really nice, I never take out my wallet if I can just have them scan my wrist
Do Disney do the IAP trick of having their own "coins" to insulate from displaying proper prices too?
Not when I was there last year. Lots of customers still don't use the bands, as they're for people staying on resort property only. So everyone else has to do things the Old Fashioned Way.
(to a lesser degree I'm that way with cards too)
How did they spend a billion dollars on this system, though?