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The Future of Payments is at Disney World

NFC has been the talk of the town in the payments world these days—and the technology it has created is only the beginning. Who better to demonstrate the endless possibilities NFC enables than the greatest advocate for making dreams a reality—Disney World.

Recently,  posted an article titled “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband.” The article is long and full of details about the cost, development, execution and “magic” of the magic bands, but it also offered a window into the future of paying for anything and everything.

The article (by Cliff Kuang, a writer) begins with a story about a family and their latest experience at Disney World. It seemed innocuous enough—getting the bands in the mail a couple of weeks before the trip, connecting their bands to the Disney mobile app, and planning for their magical adventure by scheduling fast pass rides and meals.

Then, the magic happened. They scheduled a meal at “Be Our Guest,” and headed for lunch. This is where the future of payments began to really shine in the modern-day light. The magic bands were described as “simple, stylish rubber wristbands offered in cheery shades of grey, blue, green, pink, yellow, orange and red.” But, these bands are more than a fashion statement. Inside each is an RFID chip and a radio like those in a 2.4-GHz cordless phone. The wristband has enough battery to last two years.

As the family approached the restaurant, their bands sent a signal to the host (‘Tanner Family Approaching”) who greeted them with a warm personalized welcome (“Welcome Mr. Tanner”) without even asking their names. The Tanners could then sit wherever they wanted. Radio receivers in both the table and the ceiling allowed the server to find them and deliver food (which they preordered through the app) without the clumsy seating, order taking, food running process we see at most restaurants today!

Seamless, powerful technology improving an industry like food service with simple, powerful technology. To make it better, you can pay for everything with your wristband (and a credit card connected to that mobile app we talked about earlier).

You might be thinking, “ok, that is cool, but it is also creepy.” Cliff Kuang offered this insight to combat that eerie feeling you might be getting;

“No matter how often we say we’re creeped out by technology, we tend to acclimate quickly if it delivers what we want before we want it. This is particularly true of context-aware technology. Just consider how little anyone seems to mind now that Google Maps app mines your Gmail. Today, Google Maps is studded with your location searches, events you’ve arranged with friends, and landmarks you’ve chatted about. It’s delightful, and it took hold faster than the goosebumps could. The utility seems so obvious, your consent has simply been assumed.”

The look into the future of payments gets deeper when other areas of the park are explored. The band has been described as “a modest kind of super power that wields access to the park!”As soon as you step off of your plane, you can scan your way onto Disney’s Magical Express bus to be taken to your hotel. Your wristband also serves as your room key if you are staying at the Disney Resort. Once at the park, your wristband is your ticket to get in (no more paper, scanners, turnstiles). And finally, once in the park, you can buy your kids stuffed animals, cotton candy, and all of those bottles of water with the tap of your wrist.

It’s not only convenient it is fun! Just tap the little Mickey Mouse head on your wristband to the Mickey Mouse head on the payment kiosk. Green light and a pleasing chime respond confirming your payment! If something goes wrong the light goes blue, (never red—red indicates something is wrong and nothing is ever wrong at Disney World). It’s seamless, enjoyable payments from your wrist.

Sound far-fetched? It did before Apple Watch and the payments ability of Apple pay and Google Wallet!

Walt Disney Company’s Chief Operations Officer, Tom Staggs puts it this way “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he says. “That’s how we think of it. If we can get out of the way, our guests can create more memories.”

According to Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Resort in 2008 when the project was in early stages of development, “The goal was to create a system that would essentially replace the time spent fiddling with payments and tickets for moments of personal interactions with visitors. The MagicBands and MyMagicPlus allow employees to ‘move past transactions, into an interactive space, where they can personalize the experience.’

This is the future of payments. Making the paying process so seamless and enjoyable, that time originally spent managing the details of swiping a credit card is replaced with the opportunity to provide excellent customer service and increase the quality of customer experience—which is why people (both children and adults) just can’t wait to get their wristbands in the mail!


Dustin Hickle

Dustin graduated from Grace College in 2012. He is a social media expert and marketing strategist, who is excellent at juggling multiple roles for 212 Media Studios and PayProTec.

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