By: Jennifer Devitt on March 17th, 2015
Is Disney paving the way for wearable technology in the real world?
Walt Disney. He was a dreamer, an Imagineer, and an innovator. He loved to think about what the future held. Walt Disney himself said "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." In 1966 Walt Disney coined the term "EPCOT" or "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow". EPCOT opened to the public on October 1, 1982.
With Mr. Disney's early documented love of innovation and technology, it should come as no surprise that Disney is operating outside of the box when it comes to advanced technology within its theme parks. Specifically, I am speaking of the technology functioning in almost every corner of Walt Disney World. The technology tied to the company's "Magic Bands". Do these seemingly simple bands give a glimpse of what might be possible with wearable technology like the Apple Watch?
When Disney first started working on the technology for these little bands it started as a beta for what was then deemed "Fast Pass Plus". In 2012 our family was eligible to participate in the small beta testing of what would soon develop in mammoth form. We were offered the opportunity to choose from only a small sample of experience in advance, and only on a select few days of our stay. We chose to participate. The system naturally had some small hiccups, but for the most part showed promise. Then came our trip in 2013. Being onsite guests we were able to participate in another beta testing, this time for the "Magic Bands" themselves. You can read my review of that trip here. We have experienced two successful trips utilizing the bands and the correlating "My Disney Experience" app.
Now, you may be asking what does this have to do with the regular world and everyday life? Enter Apple Watch. So far, there are many questions surrounding the way Apple Watch will fit into daily life. There is intrigue and yes some bewilderment. Many wonder what purpose it will fill in our lives. I think there is great potential in healthcare. I also think there is great potential for real world implementation.
Wired Magazine offered a very in-depth discussion on how Disney created the technology and what it hoped it would achieve as well as the endless possibilities going forward. Disney, a company that is dedicated to innovation invested over $1 billion dollars in this vast technology system. Don't think for a minute that has not caught the eye of businesses in every industry, especially technology companies. Disney is using sensors connected to a plethora of systems to make your stay more magical, less of a hassle and a dream come true. And, while they are at it they are discovering how guests prefer to experience the park, what areas, stores and rides are most intriguing to guests to better plan for the future.
I recently read an article on FastCompany about a "magic band for hospitals". ID bracelets in hospitals are nothing new. Why not follow Disney's lead as this article suggests and streamline information via that band. The possibilities for this technology are endless. Employers in varying industries can use these types of bands or wearable technology to track access to secured areas and equipment. Wearable technology can assist in travel one day by storing our documents within a secure system with multi-step verification systems. Healthcare opportunities are vast. From monitoring serious health conditions to fitness tracking and medical research.
Disney's Magic Bands function as park admission passes, hotel room keys, digital wallets and more. Hotels around the world are experimenting with apps that via smartphones open their guest's doors. Apple Pay and other digital wallets are changing the way we pay for everyday items. Mobile and web-based technology can connect many different systems as well as streamline businesses, create new jobs and industries.
I have no doubt that firms in many industries have been knocking on Disney's door for access to their technology cased within this band. I also have no doubt that there are countless technology firms trying desperately to utilize the concept to streamline unknown facets in the real world. Just like the small sample beta test Disney offered back in 2012 to a select group with a small sample of experiences, Apple is offering a small window of what the Apple Watch has to offer. When just prior to his death in 1966 Walt Disney laid out his concept for what is now known as EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) I am sure he had no idea that Disney World as a whole would function as an experimental community via Magic Bands. Imagine using similar technology at professional sports events, in workplaces, factories, research labs, banks, airports, etc. Technology is buzzing all around us, with the right keys, connections and security provisions the possibilities are endless. Let's all follow Disney's lead and keep innovating and expanding with technology.