October 2012 – The Orlando Business Journal reports that Disney filed a request with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FTC) for a radio-frequency wristband. (In the US., the FTC must approve new radio-wave bands.)
The current name for the wrist-radio (shades of Dick Tracey) is Magic Bands, and Synapse Product Development LLC in Seattle is developing it.
To date, that’s the full story. But any Disney application for a wrist radio must come with intelligent speculation, and here it is:
Who will use the wristbands
The wristband could be a substitute identifier for people who don’t carry a smartphone and use the Disney WiFi system. (And perhaps the Disney park app.) If smartphone users suddenly got the ability to reserve a Fast Pass (ride reservation time) from their phone, what do the people using a non-Internet phone (or no phone) do? The Magic Kingdom and other parks would suddenly become a land for the more well-to-do, and perhaps dysfunctional for foreign visitors who don’t have compatible technology for the apps. An optional wristband could solve that problem.
It might come with a deposit because it’s hard to imagine a radio band being extremely cheap. Or it may be like the glasses at 3-D movies where you pay a bit more for the ticket but it includes glasses that you’ll never use again.
Other speculators – I’m not the only one – believe the wristbands might go to season passholders as a substitute for their current tickets. And perhaps they will. Perhaps they’ll have an option: Use your phone or the wristband.
What the wristbands will do
More speculation: The wristbands would be able to do almost anything that requires identification. If a guest has a dinner reservation, there would be no need to check in. Upon arrival, the restaurant knows you’re there and will call when a table is ready. At reserved Fast Pass rides, guests could enter the correct queue without showing a ticket to anyone. If trying to sneak in, perhaps a buzzer would go off, or a recorded message in Mickey Mouse’s voice, saying “Ha – ha. Sorry. You can’t use this line.”
Driving guests may be greeted by name at the entrance to their hotel. Room doors could automatically unlock upon arrival. Dinner checks could never appear as meals get automatically charged to a master account or deducted if you bought one of the Disney meal plans. Lost children could be found; special diet conditions could be noted; the list goes on and on.
Disney would also gain a lot of control over crowds. If every guest is tracked either through a phone or wristband, people sitting in some control room could track crowd flow on an interactive map that makes crowd flow look like ants heading to a picnic. Employees or more vehicles could be added to popular rides as less demanding ones pull back.
Or the wristbands could currently be a good idea that doesn’t work.
Until Disney officially announces a rollout, however, we do the only thing we can – we speculate.