Photos: Disney Puts the Magic in Mobile

Service providers could learn a lot by spending the day at a Disney theme park.

That may be the reason that Genband sent them there as part of its Perspectives conference in Orlando this week. I was amongst the group who went to Hollywood Studios, where I saw examples of cloud, big data, mobile advertising, mobile payments, wearable computing devices, and customer experience management alongside the bratty kids, costumed characters and overweight out-of-towners.

Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida was hopping on a late-April Monday.
I'm not just trying to justify going to Disney on company time. The amusement park, and happiest Wi-Fi hotspot in the world, is doing a lot of things right. It has a set of mobile apps that let you track wait times, find your way around the park and plan out your day. What's more exciting is its plan to equip visitors with MyMagic+ rubberbracelets that contain their (or their parents') credit card information for mobile payments within the park and an RFID chip that alerts them when lines have decreased for Space Mountain or to meet Mickey Mouse.

The park can also use the bands to collect information about its visitors to tailor their experiences around their preferences, including what rides they went on, where they ate lunch, what souvenirs they bought, and which characters they lingered around. Cinderella could even greet children by name and wish them a happy birthday, if appropriate.

MyMagic+ is part of an integrated mobile experience that also includes apps and augmented reality-enabled toys. It has the potential to transform the user experience and Disney's business model in the process. By making the customer experience more accessible with shorter wait times, no paper tickets and fewer things to think about, its visitors will (hypothetically) stay longer, spend more and return more often. It's a way of innovating on the experience, not just on the rides and attractions.

And, while the bracelets use RFID chips for the connectivity, they could just as easily use machine-to-machine communications or near-field communication. The implications for the wireless operator that was smart enough to partner up would have been equally huge.

MyMagic+ is a great example of so many of the areas that operators are trying to tackle: It's cloud storage for users' personal data. It's big-data analytics in understanding what users want and what they do. It's mobile payments and contactless interactions. It could also be mobile advertising and promotions well after visitors leave the park, for those who opt in. And, the idea is that it benefits the customer so much they don't care about all the privacy implications.

So, do like I did -- head to Disney World, observe connectivity in action and ride the Tower of Tower four times in a row. You'll want to vomit, but you'll learn a lot. Trust me.

A Disney spokesman says the MyMagic+ bands are in trial stages now, but will officially launch later this year.
For a highly educational tour of Disney's tech prowess (or something like that), click ahead to the next page ... — Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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