I think I’ve seen the future and it looked pretty good. We visited Disney World last week and experienced their new Magic Bands.

magic bandThe band is issued to guests and it is used for several distinct purposes in the park. They are mailed to resort guests in advance or can be picked up upon check in and they stay with the guest when they leave. It seems that they are mapped to an individual and can or should be used across different visits.

The purposes that I saw include:

  1. Grant access to hotel rooms on the property.
  2. Map park tickets purchased to the band to then allow the wearer to enter the park by presenting the band to a reader. No tickets or other ID required. However, after the band is scanned, they want a finger print scan which is probably used to make sure the same band isn’t used by more than one person on that day. No pin or other identifier is needed.
  3. Purchases at WDW are completed by having the band scanned and then entering a pin number. Note that one has to have a credit card mapped to the band in advance to allow such purchases. The purchase requires both the band and the pin number.  The pin number is set by the wearer when the credit card loaded.
  4. And, some places in the park, custom experiences are mapped to the band and that person. In Epcot at the Test Track participants can design a car then after riding the ride, the performance characteristics for that designed car are graded against others. In short, part of the experience is customized and remembered in the park. The end of this is hard to imagine but I’m sure Disney is on it. The list of possible customization experiences are endless. I would guess this same thing is being done elsewhere or will be soon in the park.

Wearing the band probably let’s Disney track where people go in the park and they can do that by age, home, where they are staying, party size, etc. Again, the possibilities of data mining are endless.

The benefit to the park visitor is that you literally do not need to have money or credit cards or room keys to spend time on the property. You can buy souvenirs, food and whatever with the band, it allows you in the park and it opens your hotel door. It is an amazing experience to spend a few days where this is literally all you need.

I’d love to better understand the underlying security model, but I suspect Disney is on it.  And, some will be concerned about their privacy as Disney tracks their movements. However, it seems to me that you are choosing to go to the park and you can choose not to go.

Upon leaving at the Orlando airport, I had to go back to credit cards and cash. The women in front of me buying a drink paid with cash and then walked off with $1 bills falling on the floor. Somehow she didn’t close her wallet correctly. I would have rather paid with the band. I saw another person still wearing his in the airport. Guess he didn’t want to take it off.

Overall, an amazing glimpse into the future. Kudos to Disney for this advance.

Comments welcome.

3 thoughts on “Magic”

  1. Hi Mark,

    This is very impressive. Disney is a walled-garden where all the transaction points are trusted. Security is probably not a major concern, but privacy is. Disney must have implemented good controls for both. I am curious as to how this concept can be extended outside the walled-gardens, where the transaction points can not be trusted. I think the state of Estonia started a mobile-pay system where the people can pay for services provided by the state (parking, transportation etc.) using their mobile phone. That system is tied to the state issued ID cards, and uses a thumb scan for verification. They must have put in lot of controls in place to ensure that the transaction points, which are available in public spaces, can not be compromised. I wonder if they will extend this mobile-pay system to non-state service providers.

    I read about the @N attack on your twitter stream. In that particular case the attacker was not interested in stealing money from the victim’s account, but instead they socially engineered the payment system to hold hostage the victim’s web assets. The victim had to relinquish his @N twitter handle to gain back control of his web assets. Lack of proper security controls in the online transaction system are to be blamed partially. In this case both financial institution and the web service provide are well-known and well-established entities. If they can’t get the security controls right, how can we expect smaller vendors to place proper controls.

    This will be an interesting space to watch.


  2. And you are right about the walled garden for Disney. But it is a great implementation and I’m anxious to watch how they further customize and develop the platform. Imagine further customizations on rides based on your id. Or imagine the ability to find a lost child or parents to track where their kids are in the park. Lots of interesting possibilities.

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