Disney creates the happiest data mine on earth

An image of Disney's NextGen RFID FASTPASS bracelet, also known as a "MagicBand."

Okay...so how's this for a fantasy? You take the kids to Disney World, or go yourself, and there are no turnstiles to deal with. No epic lines at Space Mountain. And you've got reserved front row seats for the fireworks.

Magic?

No. More like Disney's new MagicBand.

Come spring, visitors to Disney World will be given wristbands with chips that hold credit card numbers, FastPass codes and other personal information, like your child's name and birthdate.

So, for instance, when your little princess meets Snow White, Snow will know her name.

“It’s really Big Brother being brought to the theme park,” says Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services.

And Speigel means that in a good way. He says Disney’s new MagicBands -- which are equipped with radio chips -- will let the company do things the industry has only dreamed of doing.

"It’s enabling Disney to understand, watch, follow, track the guest and then utilize the information -- not only during their visit -- but for future visits during the years to come,” Speigel says.

University of Chicago Prof. Robert Grossman says Disney is using technology that’s not terribly different than what’s on most smart phones these days. He isn’t concerned Disney will abuse this additional data. 

"The company has a very good reputation for handling information safely, for having a very rich consumer experience,” he says.

A lot of attention is being paid to the new marketing power these wrist bands will give the company.

But Len Testa, author of the "Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World," says thinks the company is taking the longer view.

“If you go stand in one of the lines at Walt Disney World, everyone is looking at their cell phones,” he says.

Testa says if Disney wants to be relevant in today’s digital, interactive world --- Mickey better know kids' names.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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