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Disney Invests $1 Billion in Wearable Tech for Theme Parks
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
March 11, 2014
Disney Invests $1 Billion in Wearable Tech for Theme Parks
By Michelle Nicolson
TMCnet Contributing Writer

In an effort to make visits to its theme parks a little more magical, Walt Disney (News - Alert) World Resorts has invested $1 billion to roll out its MyMagic+ program, which combines wearable tech with crowd control and data collection technology.

The program, introduced late last year, is still in its infancy, with interested visitors volunteering to test it out. If they sign up, they’ll receive a MagicBand bracelet that contains their admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit card information.

With a quick tap of the MagicBand on a sensor, visitors can pay for food or gift items, open their hotel doors and gain access to the parks themselves. Disney’s overall goal is to improve the theme park experience for their guests, which means people will spend less time waiting for service and more time spending their money.

"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.," said Jay Rasulo, Disney chief financial officer, in a November investor call. "We do expect this to be a . . . growingly positive impact on our business in the years to come."

In addition to the financial rewards, data collection technology is set to help Disney manage its park operations. MagicBands also monitor the visitor’s location via radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which the company says will help them determine staffing levels at rides and character photography spots as well as inventory control levels at stores and restaurants.

Disney’s MagicBands bracelets encompass admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit card information. (Source (News - Alert): Disney)

In exchange, Disney offers customers alerts on restaurant menu changes or last-minute openings for reservations at popular attractions. It also allows Disney employees to personalize the experience for visitors, perhaps wishing a child a happy birthday or addressing a guest by name.

"The implications for big data and for personalization are extraordinary," said Douglas Quinby, vice president for research at PhoCusWright, a travel consulting firm, in an interview with Bloomberg (News - Alert) BusinessWeek. "It could radically change interaction between customers and the company."

Another one of the appeals of the new program for visitors is the FastPass+ program, which allows MyMagic+ users to reserve the park’s FastPass tickets to popular rides as many as 60 days in advance of their visit. Guest can also change these FastPass+ selections on the go.

This part of the program is an extension of Disney’s original FastPass system, introduced in 1999, which allowed visitors to insert their admission passes to get a timed ticket. Again, this alternative ticketing system helped visitors avoid long lines at popular attractions, thereby freeing up their time to shop and eat.

Last, but certainly not least, the MyMagic+ program will help Disney accommodate more people during its busiest times. The new system reportedly helped the Magic Kingdom accommodate 3,000 additional daily guests during the Christmas holiday season by reducing congestion around the most popular attractions, according to Robert Iger, Disney chief executive officer.

"I'd say the biggest impact is, one, being able to accommodate more people because it's just more efficient," Iger told analysts in February. "And second, enabling guests to have a substantially better experience than they've had before because they're doing more."

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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