Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

Description: Jason McInerney and his wife, Melissa, recently tapped their lunch orders onto a touchscreen at the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort and were told to take any open seat. Moments later a food server appeared at their table with their croque-monsieur and carved turkey sandwiches. Asks McInerney, a once-a-year visitor to Disney theme parks: “How did they know where we were sitting?”

Source: businessweek.com

Date: March 7, 2014


Change is always tricky for Disney, especially at its parks, where introducing a new brand of coffee can spark a revolt by fans. Unhappy mouseketeers last year began a petition drive to keep Disneyland in January from pulling the Billy Hill and the Hillbillies show after 21 years (it didn’t work). Others marched on the park’s City Hall in 2004 after recalibrations made to the Mad Tea Party ride in the name of safety slowed it down.

MyMagic+ promises far more radical change. It’s a sweeping reservation and ride planning system that allows for bookings months in advance on a website or smartphone app. Bracelets called MagicBands, which link electronically to an encrypted database of visitor information, serve as admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards; a tap against a sensor pays for food or trinkets. The bands have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips—which critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things.  READ REST OF STORY 

Questions for discussion:

1.  Why is Disney investing in this RFID technology and why is it important?

2.  What potential applications do you see for RFID technology and in what industries will this add the greatest value?

3.  Comment on the statement “critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things.


60 thoughts on “Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

  1. shane

    1) Why is Disney investing in this RFID technology and why is it important? They want to get a better understanding of their client basis and start to collect a data base that will help service their customers better with each visit based on the information they have gathered on that guest from previous visits.
    2. What potential applications do you see for RFID technology and in what industries will this add the greatest value? I see this being great in the hospitality industry and within the healthcare system. This could add a great value in cases of emergencies and other situations where information of a person is vital.
    3. Comment on the statement “critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things. I believe that it is kind of creepy but at the same time a good thing to have in the customer service industry. If we have the valuable information of the customer we can then service his or her specific needs more affectively. Leading the customer to have a better experience from our services.

  2. Mark(Xiangyuan Ma)

    This RFID is a really cool technology. I have lived in a city with over 30million population. Therefore, I have a lot of experience to waste time wait in lane when I go out especially the parks. With this technology, people’s life would become way easier. It would save a lot of time for people and make the company more efficient. However, $1 billion is a lot of money and most of the company can not afford it, but it definitely will pay off. That’s probably why rich people become more rich. There are many industries can use this technology such as movie theatre, hospital, airport , and all the entertainment industries. However, every coin has two side. If these information falls in to the wrong hands, the consequence would be serious. Just imagine some that hate you have all of your information which included where you will be at any time. Also the private issue would be huge too. The celebrity would even harder to get away from paparazzi. However, those should not be the reason that stop us to advance. Disney can spent some money on secure these information. All in all, I believe this technology will have a bright future.

  3. bayo adejumo

    Disney is working towards the future of RFID, using RFID in Disney would improve the management of traffic in the park, this would also go a long way in improve security in the park. I believe Disney has pioneered a more general use of RFID which would increase the use of RFID by more parks and industries.
    This technology if it reaming successful in parks like Disney and other high populated parks, it would largely be embraced in schools and stadiums, making it easy to manage the crowd that people that visit stadiums for football or basketball matches.

  4. yuxuan.hou

    this article talks about that Disney is investing 1 billion dollars in a useful of REID technology,based on the analysis of the article, for my personal idea, i think Disney attempt REID technology could take an advantage in the completely market. this technology based on magic and sounds special effects. form the business aspect, Disney provides a high volume theme park could be bring both benefit and coefficients.it could be improve employee quality, reduce costs , and even attract more customers .not many companies like Disney has lots of money to develop REID technology, so this is a huge advantage for Disney to get
    competitive benefit on its area

  5. Julie Anderson

    1. Why is Disney investing in this RFID technology and why is it important?

    2. What potential applications do you see for RFID technology and in what industries will this add the greatest value?

    3. Comment on the statement “critics derisively call spychips because of their ability to monitor people and things.

    Disney is investing in the RFID technology to stay competitive in the marketplace. They have been the ideal family vacation park for years and want to stay that way. It is a very smart business decision in the way that it makes every aspect of the park run more efficiently. Being able to anticipate traffic to coordinate staffing, predict buying behaviour, and generate customized menus will allow Disney to maximize even more profit. This is all before you consider the fact that visitors have their debit and credit cards hooked up to their passes. With this technology it becomes even easier for parents to indulge their children on the magic of Disneyland. This technology itself fits right in with the magic theme, because children will view it as such. The possibility of a completely personalized experience is exciting for children. Imagine your favourite Disney character greeting you by name and wishing you a happy birthday. It will heighten the experience, and make a moment the kids will never forget. I think that the nickname of ‘spy chips’ is accurate thought. They can track your movement to a specific table, so obviously they are monitoring your movement. There are always dangerous sides of a revolutionary technology, and there must be safeguards in place to ensure that the MyMagic+ wristbands are only used to enrich the experience, not to invade on visitors privacy. If visitors only need to supply as much information as they feel comfortable with, I don’t think they will have issues with the “spy chips” if it becomes an essential part of the magic of Disney.

  6. Britney Anderson

    Disney has chosen to invest RFID technology to improve the efficiency of its operations and to provide a more personalized, enjoyable experience for its guests. Disney’s MagicBands can serve as “admission tickets, hotel keys, and credit or debit cards,” which provides convenience for the consumer. As Disney’s CFO mentioned, by making purchasing methods and guest experiences easier, people will be more willing to spend money on merchandise, food, etc. This has the potential to increase the revenue per guest visit. RFID technology also gives Disney flexibility in their operations, and allows them to focus resources where they are needed most, such as which restaurants to serve or when to increase staff at rides. Overall, RFID can provide Disney with a huge competitive advantage over its competitors.

    The use of RFID is growing, and it is being used in more and more applications. RFID is used heavily to improve the efficiency of logistics and the supply chain. RFID can help businesses keep track of what product they own, and where it is at any given point in time. RFID also has potential applications in agriculture. Animals can be tracked with RFID tags, and food shipments can be tracked to ensure food safety and makes product recalls much easier. RFID also has large potential in the health care industry. Human health records can be stored in a RFID tag, and implanted into people, so that a person’s health records are easily accessible. Also, RFID tags can be used to track people as well. For example, some companies use RFID tags to track the location of their employees on company premises. The application of RFIDs continues to grow, and many industries are realizing the benefits that this technology can offer.

    I do not think that all RFID tags should be labelled as “spychips.” The ability to track people and things provides many benefits. However, there are some security and privacy concerns with RFID usage. It is important that personal or sensitive information be protected appropriately, such as using appropriate encryption standards. I think that the benefits of RFID usage outweigh the risks, as long information is protected and used for intended or appropriate purposes.

  7. Nothando Ngwenya

    The reason that Disneyland is investing in this new technology is admirable, however there is nothing that is convincing of the fact that it will help run business any smoother in the famous theme park. The article speaks of employees addressing children by name and being able to say happy birthday,and although I have never been to Disneyland myself, I am pretty sure of the fact that a parent who needs this to be done for their child would make it happen. No one wants to be followed as they do what it is that they are doing, but here Disney is proposing something that seems to be leaning more towards high-tech stalking. Instead of helping people enjoy their experiences, this is making it more likely for people to just cautiously go through the motions and be done with their days. Plus, I think that this removes the whole experience that people need when they go to Disney, or anywhere really. It is great to go to a place and wait forever to get on a ride or to be served as this adds value to what people are doing. They get to appreciate something else before their rides and then they feel that extra enjoyment when on the rides as they feel like something that has been truly earned. It is pretty much like an employee who gets a bonus-they enjoy it only if they worked hard for it and then earned it, not if they just walk into the bosses office and it is suddenly right in front of them. There is no value and no joy in that. There is also the fact that it does not give people memories of unnecessary frustrations to laugh at on a day when this has all passed. These bands do not only have a risk of taking away the public’s feeling of safety, but they are also capable of harming personal lives. The last fact I will touch on is that there is a possibility of these bands being adopted by another organisation or being who could use them in a way that is very clearly harmful to the public, and a much greater one at that. Just like nuclear power that was invented for good reason but, now poses nothing less than a threat, tracking bands could do the same thing. It is important that we keep our world as humane as we found it and not try to fix problems that are not there, and worse of in manners that are more likely to create more problems and risks than if the “solutions” had not existed at all.

  8. Ekow Botwe

    Investing in RFID will provide an enormous advantage to its competitors and also provide more effective customer service for the purposes of identifying and and tracking every customer. of course this will prevent lineups during peak times. This technology is versatile and can also store a lot of information. According to a report that studied by a Hong Kong Professor, it was concluded that the RFID enhanced supply chain performance and increased profit as well. This technology could be beneficial in service industries such as hospitals, hotels,, transport etc.For example in the health industry the RFID can give doctors the ability for quick access to patient records and also the assurance of accounted merchandises for small businesses and large alike, and also help the government to conduct tax for tolls in this technological day and age. In contrast there are underlying factors which may hinder the use of this technology such as how expensive for it to be maintained and how it takes for it to be programmed even thought it is beneficial. Disney might find it relatively cheap to install and maintain but small and medium scale establishments will find it a little too expensive to use in their firms. “Critics derisively call spy-chips”: because of their ability to monitor people and things are very true. This technology can be referred to as a highly invasive technology because privacy issues can be flawed. the ability of these chips to collect personal information is not a good idea. Though it allows for the collection of information, those information could be compromised and in turn have devastating effects. I believe that if laws or legislation are made and enforced regarding the integrity of the data being circulated, this technology would be very beneficial.

  9. Samantha Mazury

    I think the ultimate reason they are investing in this new technology is to improve the customer experience through a more efficient and personal level of customer service. I believe this is really important for Disney because it gives them a big competitive advantage over other competing theme parks. And by implementing this new technology it makes Disney even more pleasant and ‘magical’ through a more personalized experience. Which will also in turn improve their profits, which what company doesn’t want that?

    I see so many different applications of this new technology! For example the health care industry could really benefit from this type of personalized tracking device-system. It could improve efficiency in waiting rooms, efficiency in tracking patients throughout the hospital, track incoming and outgoing patients, improve the meal service in hospitals, etc…I also see this RFID technology being useful in the retail industry, because they could market certain items towards you by knowing want you like and dislike. Also, similar to Disney, the entire Hospitality industry could utilize this technology to their advantage. The opportunities are really endless with this RFID technology as it is so versatile that most (service type) industries could probably find some sort of beneficial use from it.

    I completely agree with the statement that this is like a “spychip”, but I more so lean towards the positive argument that using these spychips would enhance the consumer experience. As long as enough privacy protection measures are implicated, I can see this technology being more of an advantage than something to be feared.


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