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Disney's $1B Bet on a Magical Wristband (wired.com)
307 points by ghosh on March 10, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments

Neal Stephenson wrote about Disney in "In the Beginning was the Command Line":

"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!

Linux, which is right next door, and which is not a business at all. It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus.

Well that's not even metaphorical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF4NjbIEbW8#t=64s (should skip to 1 minute in)

link: http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html

The metaphorical comparison between the operating systems is one I'll never forget.

Thank you for the link.

It's a brilliant read, never mind pretty good! I think Stephenson has his finger pretty firmly on the pulse, when it comes to understanding the role and impact of technology in society.

Stephenson considers much of his position in "In The Beginning..." to be out of date at this point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Beginning..._Was_the_Com...

I recently got back from my second trip to Disney World in which I had a Magic Band, the first time it was still test phase and had lots of kinks. This time around it worked flawlessly. To get into the park it requires you to scan your fingerprint as well, to buy anything with a credit card linked to your account or use your dining plan requires your pin number. Other than that it's pretty much tap and go.

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.

The RFID refills bothered me. I didn't buy the dining plan/visit-long refillable cup, but when I got a soda at the Gasparilla in the Grand Floridian there was a refill count of either 2 or 3. I kind of fell that if I drop that much on a paper cup, and hundreds of dollars a night on a hotel, they shouldn't be limiting the number of refills I get on my cup of soda during lunch. I don't think I hit the limit to the point that I required buying a second soda, but that it was there bothered me. Though it didn't irk me so much that I won't go back, so they've clearly got it fine tuned.

They've been fine-tuning that for a while.

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.

I'd say the same thing. I know I had to explain the concept to several guests. Just a little frustrating. No way can you make up for staying there by drinking Coke all day.

Limiting refills is just weird when the cup is a larger part of the production cost than the actual drink is.

You are scared because you are being tracked in a theme park that Disney controls... Odd type of paranoia.

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.

In a way, it's mainly just creepy. Five years ago none of this was happening in such a digitized fashion. It's not stopping me from going back again. Outside of Disney I typically don't eat the same type of foods or drink the same things. Some of it was just a little unsettling, especially thinking about my daughter.

I don't think Disney cares about what you eat or drink outside of the park. They care about how you and others behave when you're spending money on their property. I don't think it's any creepier than when a store tracks your buying habits, which many stores do these days.

true... they don't care about you... they're capitalists, focusing on business. They're a corporation focusing on ROI. If only a company would focus on the government, or needy so well.

Magical 1984!

Wait, they fingerprint you?! Wow. Is that part opt-out at all?

Yes, you can opt out of going to Disneyworld.

But what if you feel entitled to go?

Not that I'm aware of, I didn't try. They haven't requested my daughter scan her fingerprint at ages 2 or 3, don't know what age that starts at though. During the testing phase the finger print wouldn't always work 100% of the time, they'd get someone over with basically a tablet with an RFID scanner to let you in.

They don't fingerprint at 6 and 8 either. The finger scan predated magic bands; you had to do it with the plastic card tickets/keys as well.

Update for the interested: you can, indeed, opt out of the fingerprinting.

  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 reads kind of like a fluff/marketing piece but I'll be damned if it wasn't pretty seamless. I have no idea what it was like prior to the bands but the whole experience was clearly made a lot easier by them and the accompanying app (which is pretty solid). I needed my phone and my band, that was really it (well,...snacks, water bottles, strollers etc..)

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

The long range reads are primarily used right now to detect that you were on a particular ride when your photo was taken so when you swipe your band they can pull up your photo for purchase. A lot of the other ideas they had for this tech was never brought to fruition because it creeped out a lot of the test guests.

Source: I played a very very small role in making magic bands happen.

Do you mean like the characters greeting kids by name or saying "Happy Birthday!" if that was a known event?

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.

The greetings seemed to be based off of buttons the kids could wear or if it was marked on a reservation, there was a tick box asking about special events.

On our last visit that had the MagicBands, the reservation step asked for the names of everyone in your family. The bands were personalized with a color of your choice as well as your name laser-engraved on the back. So now Disney has a first and last name to go in the database next to your tag ID.

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.

Sorry, I mixed up the one you were responding to, I'd guess you're correct as that's what I would've felt was creepy sometimes. My kids got overwhelmed by all the Happy Birthday/special greetings on the first day so it was nice to have a way to "turn it off".

Just a side note to add about scanning the wristband for a ride's fastpass line or entry into a park: it's a two step process where you put a finger on a finger print scanner and then move on to scanning the wristband. If both are successful, you're let in.

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).

IIRC, the finger print scan was only for entry into the park, not for Fastpass lines.

I was just there at the end of December, but it is all kind of hazy now.

Disney has been putting biometrics on park tickets for a while now to prevent people from selling their unused admission days on the open market and stop the sharing of annual passes.

>when you're actually scanning it can be a bear to get it just right //

So it uses some sort of direct contact rather than NFC? [Perhaps to make it less easy to clone?]

The direct contact for rides and purchases is there to prevent accidental activation -- you have thousands of people walking around with these bands in close proximity. In contrast, when pulling up to the gate at one of hotels, you just wave your wrist a foot away from the sensor out of your car window and it turns green and opens the gate -- no awkward stretching required.

I can't definitively say that you MUST touch but you have to get very close, if not always touching. It also has to be oriented correctly (mouse ears up), there's not too much wiggle room on any of the readers (turnstile, room, handheld). I did assume it'd be a simple swipe but it's more, touch and hold for a second. Sometimes it's almost instantaneous, sometimes I had to take it off to get it to work right.

I don't see how orientation would matter.

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.

I always wanted my kids to have a wristband that's tied to my credit card - good thing there's nothing they'd want at Disney World!

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.

That's absolutely a goal of this program: increase per-visitor spending. Making purchases as frictionless as possible pretty much guarantees that the average will rise.

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.

Only adults have charging privileges and even then you need a PIN (that the cardholder does not need to share).

It would be cool if you could get a text message for the charge amount(if it was over some set limit), location, and possibly itemized bill(since disney does control every system after all), and respond yes or no to allow or deny the transaction.

That's not really a Disney-type move since a) it would slow lines down as kids wait for approval and b) would result in a lot of unhappy kids whenever a charge is denied.

There are a few non-Disney services in Disney. Not many though. Stuff like Starbucks are not directly tied to Disney.

Which of course Apple already does for in-app purchases in iOS family accounts...

My first response to this is to eschew the technology, but in retrospect, maybe getting pre-paid cc's for the kids and linking their cards to those may be a good option. "Here's $200 for the week, don't blow it all on the first day".

Set up a system that limits expenditures. $40 a day max, but previous extra rolls over. Or $20 a half day. Make a few simple options with the ability for a more adventurous parent to customize it.

I can only imagine that, the first time you do this, the entire rest of the week will be Not Fun for the parents.

Probably, but OTOH this could be a useful lesson in financial responsibility for the kids.

I see no way that this is different than using your cc. You can delegate spending privs as you like. Just to yourself, just to adults, etc, and there's a PIN attached. If you can't budget correctly, that's not the problem of mobile payment systems. Personally I can't see the difference between this and credit cards.

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.

Hmm... there's a real need for a credit or debit card app that tracks real time charges. I know authorization holds go through immediately (while actual transfers may take a day) and aren't always the same as spending (i.e. car rentals typically issue an authorization hold at time of rental for more than cost), but, in principle, that should be enough to keep track of likely cash flow in realtime. I'd like to see a bank app that simply takes authorization holds as spending and updates a graph in real time.

Many banks have apps that will send notifications on every CC charge. I have at least three (CapitalOne, Wells Fargo, AMEX).

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.

Google Wallet does this. They sent me a notification in the application, as well as an email that confirms when the charge clears. It also allows me to pay for my lunch through a coworker by sending them money through the app.

Simple is kinda this.

Yup. My phone usually notifies be of a transaction before a teller even hands back my card.

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 love that about Simple. It's what prompted me to stop getting receipts. I used to keep them, "just in case". But I never validated against my bank statement--it's just too much of a pain. This way I can instantly see it's correct and that I have a record of it. I quite like my Simple card.

Yeah, not as scary as a stolen credit card, but my Simple card was used by a bar tender to pay someone else's tab.

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.

Wow. My cards seem to have no more than a 6 month max-time-until-fraud despite extreme care, so I'm sold on this.

Sure it's easier to spend with a a wristband.

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.

I went to Disneyland for the first time last year (so have no experience of it without bands) but the bands really are magical. They are so convenient and unobtrusive. There are several colours to choose from before you arrive at your hotel and you can even get your name engraved on them! As others have said, I never had to use my wallet once as the band is linked to your room which is linked to your credit card. It really is an ingenious piece of marketing tech. Kids love them too, as you can buy and collected little attachments which sit on the wristbands!

Love this quote:

"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.

1) You still can't see how many frickin days you have left in the parks when you're at home. Are you kidding me?

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 bands are nice for people who go casually, maybe once a year at most. People who are really into the parks or go more often feel the weak spots more.

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 wish I had known that it was possible to book more than three fastpasses per day. Thanks for the heads up.

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.

Inside the magic band are 3 radios: 13.56 MHz near field RFID (what's in your credit card's swipe to pay), 915 MHz passive UHF RFID (what's in your timing bib if you run a 5k race or what Walmart uses for inventory tracking), and a 2.4 GHz active radio.

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)

Your comment about locating lost kids with the band reminds me of a conversation overheard on the bus at the park. Three mothers were complaining over the behavior of their kids. One said she half-considered losing her kid in the park to get a break. One of the other mothers said to be sure to take the band away from them first or they'll get him back to you faster. Laughter ensued.

Also, if you care to read the FCC documentation, take a look at FCC ID: Q3E-MB-R1G1

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).

How is the grantee code and product name split up? I tried both Q3EMB R1G1 and Q3E MB-R1G1 without success. Thanks.

It's "Q3E" and "-MB-R1G1" The hyphen between Q3E and MB-R1G1 is required.

Usually the first 3-5 characters are the grantee code and the rest is the product code. For this product, Q3E is the grantee code for Disney.

>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.

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.

From talking with a friend who recently visited and had a magic band, they still do require the finger print in addition to the magic band in order to gain entrance to the park.

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 :)

Quote: "If Disney decides to install those sensors throughout the park, a new world of data opens up. They could have Mickey and Snow White find you. They might use the park’s myriad cameras to capture candid moments of your family—enjoying rides, meeting Snow White—and stitch them together into a personalized film."

The governments of the world would like this, no?

One of the joys of the internet economy is that citizens fund the development of the surveillance state (or at least the technology necessary for it) through their own private-sector consumer purchases.

> “If we can get out of the way, our guests can create more memories.”

“If we can get out of the way, our guests can spend more money.” - FTFY.

My first reaction to the magicbands was pretty cynical, like this.

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.

Wait, how does the Magic Band replace a camera?

The RFID chip / GPS locator inside matches up against data for the camera operators. I imagine when a family and camera operators data "matches" that indicates they stood still for a picture and I'm sure DIsney tries to find every opportunity like that to display those images to the visitors as a chance for them to purchase memories they hardly realized they were making during a picture they didn't realize they were taking.

All in all I think it's really really amazing what they are capable of doing.

It doesn't really. There are photographers throughout the park that will take your picture then scan your band. You can then buy said pictures.

Or as Wyldfire mentions elsewhere, you can get a prepay package that includes every single picture or video you happen to be in. Even the pictures for the rides are included and you don't even have to worry over it.

You don't need a band to use these photogs. When I was there in 2012 they gave me a card with a code on the back. I took a picture of it with my phone and stuck the card in my backpack. There's a disney site that hosts the photos for about a month, you create an account and add all the codes to your account. Then you can buy whatever pictures you want (or download the previews if you don't need the full res pictures).

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.

I don't really understand your use of "slog" here, do you mean carry?

Why then didn't you need a camera - do they have photogs around the site?

They do. We paid for an "all you can eat" photography package. There's many photographers at each park (usually near something fairly scenic), and whenever we were inclined, we'd pop in front of the photographer, click, swipe, and off we went to the next destination.

Entire thing had me thinking "How did Huxley get it so right ~80 years ago?"

Both are true and valid. Making the process seamless benefits the company and the customer.

1. Yea, I feel the real reason is Revenue collection.(It just might backfire when parents get back home and look at that bill. "Sweetie--I think we will introduce to kids to camping next year?"

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.

I wrote on HN about patenting a "reusable RFID wristband" and attempting to work something out with Disney in ~2007.[1] The response on HN was fairly predictable...I am a patent troll. Though I think this sheds light on the reality that it takes a lot of money to bring certain products to market and this is why, in certain instances, patents can be useful to the little guys who in some instances can not practically bring a product to market (I don't own my own theme park, ski resort, ect...).

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8838362

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 band is just the ID device, the real value is how & when that ID process happens and gets wrapped organically into many different processes in the park - and that's not something that a small inventor would likely have the context to correctly wrap around just the hardware. Nor does it seem like something the original patent would be general enough to exclude.

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.

>the real value is how & when that ID process happens and gets wrapped organically into many different processes in the park

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.

I remember that not too long ago, somone commented on HN that he basically pitched this idea to Disney but they declined and said the idea wasn't really good. I hope he shows up and tells us his story.

edit: found it https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8839888

The idea has been around forever, probably from the moment someone figured out how to attach a unique ID to a radio transmitter. I pitched the idea myself (half-heartedly) fifteen years ago which puts me 7 years before this guy. And others commented with their prior art.


Yeah, here's a company saying an amusement park was using their RFID wristbands in 2006:


Here's a 2004 article about using them in Legoland:


Was it a proper pitch or an unsolicited idea? If it was a proper pitch then I would agree. If it was unsolicited then I would imagine it was more like they already had the idea in the works and he took their generic, noncommittal, or whatever response as a sign they weren't interested in that particular use of the technology. Most companies are smart to not react to unsolicited ideas as to avoid being accused of stealing the idea if they had already thought of it.

I wouldn't be surprised if Disney was simply waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea.

Reminds me of people who send scripts to sitcoms then complain they've been "ripped off" when a similar storyline emerges. Considering there are something like 6 or 7 unique sitcom plots and only so many possible pairings, its pretty obvious that "invention" here is non-existent. Oh you also wanted Rachel and Ross to get together? You don't say.

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.

There's a pretty ugly culture around IP.

So soon we forget about this last discussion "Ai Weiwei Is Living in Our Future" : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8824691

That's the one of coolest things in Disney World and worth the extra money you'll pay for that (about US$ 14). It's really impressive how does it work and how it gets connected to other services, like restaurant reservations, 'fast-pass' and memory maker management.

At the moment it's free if you stay on the property in one of the resorts. It also acts as your room key.

The idea of a "magical wristband" isn't much different than Great Wolf Lodge using their magical wands. Kids love it and it gets deep into their parents pockets.


As a doctor, the first thing that popped into my mind when reading this is how transformative this would be in the hospital for both patients and providers.

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,”

One difficulty with the bands is that, unlike a regular hotel with a magnetic (or even RFID) wallet sized card, this needs to be placed on your wrist every morning. I've needed several replacement Magic Bands because I am used to walking out of my house/hotel room and just checking for my wallet, cell, keys and knowing I'm good. Usually a hotel card would be in my wallet and it is not an additional check.

They are free to replace so it's not too big of a deal.

Don't worry, we'll soon have ones that you never lose because you can't take them off.

I don't understand. You leave the magic band in your hotel room and need to have it replaced? Why not go back into the hotel room and retrieve the original?

The hotel room being far away is one issue. Also, only so many people are authorized to let you back into your room. If that person is not available it can be a long wait and even if you are at the front desk of the hotel the room might be a 10 minute walk from there so the front desk person can't leave to walk you over there. A new band is often faster.

Because hotel room is probably 30-90 minutes away when you discover you left the wristband behind.

None of the content is online, but in either the winter or fall 2600 there's a pretty decent tear down / analysis of the wristband.

Winter 2014, it's $6 on Amazon Kindle. http://smile.amazon.com/2600-Magazine-Hacker-Quarterly-2014-... The article is called "Recon on Disney's Magic Band."

Yep, thanks, that was it.

the magic bands combined with smart watches make paying for things with your phone seem far more feasable

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

It would be interesting to see how revenues have increased due to band usage - the act of taking out your wallet or handing over cash or using a card act as a good barrier to excessive spending, making this mindless (just hold your hand near here) strikes me as a big win for Disney.

Do Disney do the IAP trick of having their own "coins" to insulate from displaying proper prices too?

> 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.

Annual pass holders get these too.

I was definately a little more mindless with my spending

(to a lesser degree I'm that way with cards too)

I wonder how aggressively they mine the tracking information in real time. It would not be hard to recognize both "child separated from parents" and "parent movement matches search-like behavior", for example.

How did they spend a billion dollars on this system, though?

Isn't this really a bet on turning all of your data into streams and moving to do everything in real time? If it is, I whole heartedly agree!

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear kids :-)

so they could be modified to monitor the health of their customers and wouldn't that be amazing. If someone is experiencing a life threatening situation employees could move in and discretely do a visual check and if confirmed react so much faster.

Oh man I want to be a kid five years from now.

"Be Our Guest, here's your food tray". They spent all this time, effort and money on technology but give people a tray to eat off. Why not just put bowls on the floor FFS.

Ha! Well spotted. I think they're just rectangular lipped plates, though.

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