Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Disney’s Electronic Wristband Illustrates Why Big Companies Push Contactless Wallets

An electronic WristBand will track people around Disney World; contactless wallets like Google’s allow similar data collection in the real world.

Disney just announced an electronic wristband for visitors to its theme parks that neatly illustrates why companies like Google and cellphone networks are pushing the idea of using contactless technology in phones for payments, tickets, boarding passes and more. The short answer? They want data.

Disney’s MagicBand can be used to “tag” into rides, hotel rooms and pay in stores (Credit: Disney)

Disney’s MagicBand, an ID tag that uses Bluetooth and contactless NFC technology, is being introduced at Walt Disney World in Florida. It replaces a person’s ticket and can be used to tag into rides and other attractions at the park. It can also be used to open a guest’s hotel door, and to pay in stores at the resort. In the future, the Bluetooth link will make it possible for you to wander up to an attraction or Disney character and be greeted using your first name.

To sum up, a person opting to use a MagicBand could find their stay much more convenient, and perhaps even leave their wallet back at their hotel. It’s a very similar pitch to that made by companies including Google, and the consortium of major cellphone networks, Isis, for contactless “wallets” based on near field communication chips (NFC) built into phones.

However, Disney’s MagicBand program has significant benefits to the company, too. The MagicBand collects valuable data each time it is tagged or used to buy something, providing a new perspective on what Disney’s customers are doing at the resort. It becomes possible to do things like look for relationships between the attractions and rides a person visits, or the characters they meet, and what they spend money on in the gift shop. Disney could look for signs of the social dynamics of groups of people that arrive at the park together.

Disney has plans to install devices that use Bluetooth to log any MagicBand that passes by, said Thomas Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts, Wednesday. People will be able to opt out of that part of the data collection he said, but whether data logged when a person actively tags a band would be treated in the same way wasn’t mentioned.

Using a contactless wallet app on your phone could provide similar data harvesting opportunities. A person using one might get to leave their wallet at home, and could pay for stuff or provide tickets and boarding passes with a tap of their phone. The provider of the wallet app would get a detailed feed on where its users went, what they were doing and what they spent money on.

Some people will be wary of such data collection, many more probably won’t care. Putting that issue aside, though, Disney’s MagicBand sounds like it is genuinely useful and thanks to the company’s ability to ensure everything inside its resorts works with the technology, could make your stay at Disney’s resort go more smoothly. The stuttering progress of NFC wallets and the like outside the magic kingdom – despite the hype (see “Google Wallet, Who’ll Buy In?”) – is to a large degree because the real world is a much messier place. Neither Google nor the cellphone carriers or other companies pushing their own MagicBand-style wallets can yet offer something that works in every store, with every bank and in every place. For now, the benefits of contactless wallets are much clearer to the providers of them than to consumers.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.