It is often said that the entertainment industry paves the way for new technologies. I was blown away by how the Disney Magic Bands worked on my recent trip to DisneyWorld.
I like, not love, the idea of making payments with my mobile phone much like the new Apple Pay. However I am not loving that idea as my phone will run out of battery or often does not work properly when I need it to. So the idea of mobile phone payments has not really seemed like the amazing alternative to my wallet as it is made out to be. You may not like my opinion however mobile payments have not taken off. Maybe Apple Pay will be different, only time will tell.
For me I look at it as the difference between my wallet or my phone, they are both the same size in my pocket so what do I care. A very crude comparison I admit, but that is how I see it.
However I just returned from Disney World and after using the Magic Band I came back wanting to use it every day. I also want my entire family to use it every day. I have no desire to use mobile phone payments. The soon to be released, in 2015, Apple watch still requires an iPhone. My wife has an iPhone so maybe that would work for her. I have a mobile phone, non Apple (Samsung), but I would not want to have to buy 3 more mobile phones for my 3 kids (at either around $1,500 for three phones or another $120 or so a month) just so they can use a mobile payment watch or just a type of mobile payment. Therefore the Disney Magic band is ideal for myself and family if they are the current cost of $12 each with no monthly fees, I want to use them all the time.
MagicBand at the Park
Okay here is what happened. I went to Disney with my family, five of us total. We happened to be staying at a Disney resort hotel. On check in I was expecting to be given a couple room keys which are of course credit card style keys. And I had also purchased passes for the parks which also resemble credit cards, one for each person. So having three kids I expected to be constantly worried about losing either a room key or more importantly a park pass.
I had no idea what was about to happen when I checked in. The assistant handed me 5 arm bands that looked like sport watches without the time. My first thought was “great .. more things for me to loose, thanks a bunch”, then he explained how they worked.
He starts, “you put this on your wrist and swipe it against your door and it works as your room key“. So now everyone in my family wears the band and has a room key, they strap very tightly and comfortably to the wrist so my kids will not lose them. Wow I am sold, coolest thing ever, but that was only the beginning.
Then he says, “download the Disney app on your phone and you can quickly associate your park passes with the watches“. My mind was blown. I was able to take each park pass and scan it and assign it to a watch and then hand it to a kid, each one took 10 seconds tops. Now each child, my wife and I, have a plastic band on our wrist. We do not have room keys to lose and we no longer have park passes to lose. Amazing, this could not get any better. But wait there’s more.
“Now we can also associate the bands to your credit card on file and you can enter a 4 digit pin code now for security”. Why in the world would I want that? “Because you can use it to purchase anything, anywhere, at any time and no longer need your wallet here are the Disney parks [dummy]“. (in his defense he did not say ‘dummy‘, he was thinking it I am sure, but he did not say it). Again, mind blown. I entered my four digit pin. I am now officially a super hero. On my wrist is access to my room, access to the parks, and throughout the week I was able to purchase all our food, meals, merchandise, whatever I wanted with my arm band.
Better yet my kids were able to use the bands as well since I shared the code with them. Everywhere we went there was a simple round device, much like a credit card processing machine that you would swipe the arm band against and enter your pin and done, you have paid.
Not only are the Magic Bands convenient but for those of you like me, who are constantly checking my pockets and wallet to make sure I have not forgotten anything, I had an incredible piece of mind as I only had to glance at my wrist to know that I had my room key, park passes, credit cards, cash, wallet, everything I needed. It made my park experience that much more enjoyable.
It was amazing but there was even more to it than that. With the Disney application on my phone I was able to obtain Fast passes for each of us. Instead of having to obtain a Fast pass at a kiosk at a Disney park I could do it in our room before we even entered the park. Not only that but I could obtain fast passes for each of us, different ones for different people and it associated them to the Magic Band. In the past we would obtain passes at a kiosk after standing in line, only to inevitably have someone lose their pass or two. But not anymore, you walk up to the Fast pass line and swipe your Magic Band and you are in. Unbelievable. So convenient.
Magic Band is Magic Indeed
How does it work?
From the Disney site “The MagicBand uses radio frequency (RF) technology to connect guests to their plans and entitlements safely and securely. Guests simply touch their band to touch points in places such as resort room doors, theme park and water park entrances, FastPass+ entrances and cast mobile devices. Purchases require a four-digit PIN. MagicBands do not use GPS technology. Guests’ personal data is not stored in the MagicBand. MagicBands and RF-enabled cards contain only a randomly assigned code that securely links to an encrypted database and associates the guest’s MagicBand or ticket with the experiences they’ve selected.”
Mickey Mouse or Big Data and Cutting Edge Technology Company
Alright, now I have a totally different view of Disney. Disney the company (NYSE:DIS) could be considered as much a Technology company as an entertainment company. Consider how much “big data” Disney now collects. Consider their latest Magic Band and the impact it will have on mobile payments. The Magic Band was introduced into full production in early 2014 and the Apple watch is not due until sometime in 2015 and the Apple watch is tied to the iPhone. So the Mickey Mouse company beat Apple to the punch? WOW.
And get this, Disney has applied for or been granted more than ten patents on the MagicBand. Ba dump bah. Boom. Licensing revenue IBM style. You go Disney.