How Disney is using IoT to create a seamless and enjoyable vacation

The most “Magical Place on Earth” just got even more magical. With the ease of access to characters, over the top rides and attractions, crazy cool water parks, beautiful resorts and pools (and don’t forget the food…oh the food!), I didn’t think this place could get any better, until I discovered the MagicBand.

Pre-planning: Learning about the tools

Not having been to Disney for nearly 15 years, we had no idea what we were in for – other than a lot of walking. We’re a very techy family, so it was inevitable that we were going to use every asset available to us to make our five days at the parks and Polynesian Resort as easy and fun as possible.

We started planning months in advance, and boy did we do our homework. We learned as much as we could about things like FastPass+ to bypass the lines, we downloaded the “My Disney Experience” mobile app and we bought MagicBands for the whole family.

The “My Disney Experience” app is phenomenal and extremely well thought out. It really creates the central point for your entire vacation by truly streamlining and enhancing your experience, which is usually the case with a well written and intuitive app. As you can imagine, all the basics are included in the app like hotel reservations, dining details, park maps, character meet and greets, etc.

We received our MagicBands six weeks prior to our departure and at the time how no idea how effective they would be.

Putting the tools to use

When we first arrived at the Polynesian Resort and checked into our room we were a bit surprised to find that they didn’t give us a room key – insert first great feature of the MagicBand. Every Disney property uses the MagicBand as a room keys. You simply hold your wrist up the room reader and your room unlocks. This meant one less thing to carry with us (or risk losing), and our kids had a blast being able to use their wristbands to open the door.

We already thought the MagicBand was cool after checking into our hotel, but it wasn’t until we walked into Epcot on our first day exploring the parks (no ticket required…just scan your MagicBand!) that I realized how well Disney had integrated their technology. We first entered Epcot and had multiple pictures taken by a Disney photographer at the entrance. Before we walked off, the photographer asked to scan my MagicBand. It seemed strange, but within minutes of leaving the entrance those same photos appeared within the mobile app (including one with a superimposed Disney character standing next to us). Disney achieves this through Wi-Fi enabled cameras that upload the pictures immediately for processing and then delivered right back to the mobile app using the same Wi-Fi network.

Win one for Disney (and my family)!

Next, it was time to test the FastPass+. We ran to our first FastPass+ ride and lo and behold we all scanned our MagicBands at the ride check in to confirm we had a reservation and jumped right on. Throughout the day we used the mobile app to navigate the fastest paths between rides and also used the app for booking more FastPass+ reservations. This significantly reduced our waiting time for rides. In one day at Magic Kingdom we rode 18 rides – all without waiting in line on one of the biggest weekends of the year at Disney.

Win again for Disney!

In addition to serving as our room key and tickets, the MagicBands also became our wallets. Anytime we needed a drink, a snack or even our meals, we just simply scanned of our MagicBands. Any merchandise we wanted to buy; we used our MagicBands. Even getting access to the resort pools requires a MagicBand, and did I mention they are waterproof?

By the end of our trip we had become so reliant on the mobile app and the MagicBands that it was almost difficult getting used to carrying a wallet and not having every ounce of info at my fingertips.

Applying the Disney experience

The way Disney has adopted technology, both infrastructure and software, is second to none, and in my mind, this is the power of the Internet of Things (IoT): streamline an experience, automate a process and bring data forward to make it readily available for a user. We can apply many of the same elements of Disney’s customer experience approach to our personal lives or in the business world. As factories focus on improving operational efficiency or cities look to attract residents, businesses or tourists we will all find elements of IoT at the center.

Making these IoT concepts a reality will require investments in Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity and deployment of sensors (think about the thousands of MagicBand readers at Disney). It will require a well thought out backend data management plan and analytics capabilities to make meaningful use of the data being gathered and software will need to be deeply integrated into all these systems. Whether it’s for machine-to-machine communication/action or for a user to gleam insights and ultimately make decisions (again, think about Disney and which ride I’m going to go on next based on availability of FastPass+ or a low wait time).

With so much talk of IoT and the outcomes it can deliver, to actually experience it in action to such a degree at Disney was, for lack of a better term, “magical.”