Disney World slaps pay-by-bonk stalker cuffs on grown-ups
Cashless payments mean parents cough more cash
Disney World is going RFID, replacing tickets and wallets with pay-by-bonk wrist bands, and offering an enhanced service for those who want to be greeted by name around the park.
The basic service, MyMagic+, is an RFID wristband which identifies each punter, allowing them to store FastPasses and upload credit card details so they can buy stuff without thinking (more than $50 requires a PIN) - and so that Disney can stalk you around the park and "customise" the experience, or, more excitingly, so that Buzz Lightyear can greet you by name almost as if you really were an individual.
Radio tags in wristbands aren't new, and have replaced tickets in many parks around the US - Dolly Parton's DollyWood theme park launched (pre-paid) Sunny Money back in 2007 (making it easier to carry cash while wearing a swimming costume). But Disney's deployment in Florida (other sites to follow later) is significant not only because it is bigger than the others, but also because it will push the technology one step further than everyone else has done.
Virtual queuing is standard stuff these days, but with the My Disney Experience app (connected using the blanketing Wi-Fi), visitors will be able to schedule queuing time around meals, loo breaks and meetings with the costumed characters,. It will also ensure those characters know whose birthday it is, and let Disney know exactly how long you spent doing what.
For MyMagic+ isn't just about making it easier to spend money, though that's a significant motivation, it's also about tracking how people move around the park and what they spend time doing (queuing mostly, from our limited understanding of the venue).
All such places track crowds, using basic CCTV or more advanced tech from companies such as Path Intelligence, but that's anonymous, while Disney's approach will provide all the details.
The company is stepping carefully; the app allows granular control of what's shared at least until everyone gets comfortable with the idea of being greeted by name by a foam princess, and if it turns out that no one wants to share, it will still make spending money in the Magic Kingdom that little bit easier. ®