This is scary and exciting depending on your perspective: Disney rolled out WiFi in the Magic Kingdom, a major element of its NextGen upgrade. “The future is here” is an overused ad blurb. But for Disney, it’s true.
The Wifis give visitors quick Internet access, but the true upgrade is Disney’s smartphone app empowered by the Wifi’s download speed. Simply put: Park visitors have easy access to information thanks to a new iPhone and Android app, Disney Mobile Magic. Yes, guests have fast access, which is good, but easy access is the beauty of the upgrade. A visitor can stand anywhere inside the Disney park and get fast info based on his location at that second.
The full impact, over time, boggles the mind. Because Disney now has free Wifi access for all guests (you must agree to Disney’s terms before gaining access), it can pinpoint your location within about five feet. The connection to each guest can lead to many great things, and it sounds as if Disney is even developing park tickets that can be tracked. It might have trouble if Mom holds all the tickets while the kids scurry around Tom Sawyer’s Island, but the exceptions would be few.
The cool part
The phone app empowers visitors to know what’s nearby based on their current location. They can see the rides and – really cool – the approximate line wait times. With another tap or two, they can see the nearby restaurants, what they serve, and the meal price range. With another tap – this is really, really cool – they can make a dining reservation. If you prefer to look at a map than read a location, you can pull up a map.
The phone app isn’t a great pre-visit park planning tool – check out other pages on FAQOrlando.com for that – but it’s a great after-you’re-inside-the-park planning tool. Much of the Disney park app, in fact, doesn’t work outside the park.
The scary part
On the flip side, Disney will become Big Brother and track each guest’s movement. As guests walk through the park, they’ll switch their phone connection from one WiFi to another, which Disney can track and, thanks to software, could know with the punch of a button that you’re in a store shopping for Christmas ornaments. In theory, Disney could decide to track you all day. What did you ride first? How long did it take you in the rest room? How many menus did you read before deciding on a restaurant?
Disney introduced free WiFi at its resorts recently too. (Expect to pay for it at most non-Disney Orlando hotels, at least for now.) If Disney blankets the resort with free WiFi, a big computer somewhere will know where every guest is at all times.
The functional part
The chance that Disney will track you and you alone is miniscule, but the company will certainly track crowd movement. And data, once stored, can be pulled up to answer a myriad of questions many years from now. The retail division might, for example, want to know what percent of Winnie the Pooh riders shop for a few minutes in the exit-line gift shop and what percentage breeze on through. Given the result, they could decide to expand the gift shop or make it smaller.
On a day-to-day level, Disney could discover that its daily crowd is bunching up in Adventureland and quickly add capacity to its high-profile rides. Or it could do something that entices part of the crowd to move elsewhere.
How the data can and will be used is experimental for now – even the addition of WiFi, which can be expected in every Disney park, is still unofficial. Still, the first foot of Disney’s great NextGen innovation has arrived. Prepare yourself.