The Happiest Trace on Earth

You think the US government is the only one interested in tracking your every move?

Well gwarsh, you might want to think again. This week Walt Disney World started rolling out a new program called the “MyMagic+ vacation management system“, otherwise known as a repurposed Nike Fuel Band that hooks up to most major smartphones in exactly the same way the exercise equipment does.

For the uninitiated, the bracelet on your wrist becomes your ticket to everything included in your vacation, including access to food, hotel rooms, transportation, drinks, shows, attractions, and ride reservations. Like FastPass on crack, this new system will allow the park to manage when people go where, and keep the flow of tourists as smooth as possible between different areas of the park.

For kids, it also has the added benefit of communicating with Disney characters ahead of their chance to interact. On approach a little boy could be personally greeted by a Peter Pan with a low-profile bluetooth in his ear, or wished a happy birthday by an enthusiastically excited Tigger.

This sort of crowd control is already apparent in the way they’ve managed that system in Anaheim and Orlando. By offering less available seats during peak hours on hot days for rides like Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean or increasing the number during shows like Fantasmic or the fireworks spectacle, Imagineers at Disney are able to better predict where people will be in their park and when, managing the flow of traffic much like an engineer working for the city on stoplights.

magicband

Many concerns have been raised about the plan, including whether the wristbands would be secure against over-the-air spoofing attempts (RFID hacks aren’t exactly unheard of these days), and just how much data Disney was hoping to gather through the voluntary program.

We assume their executives have been hush-hush about the program up until now to reduce the chance of someone already having a crack in the wild before the bracelets have a chance to get off the ground and onto all our wrists, but many analysts are certain it’s only a matter of time before a hotel is raided because someone was able to walk in and out on unencrypted credentials.

Privacy concerns or not, the line to try out the first round of these not-so-stylish wrist accessories is already out the door, and many families are touting the freedom it gives them to let their children off without worrying if they’ll be able to get food to eat or find their way back to the hotel on their own. In the end, the wristbands are an option of convenience in sacrifice of privacy, and just about everyone who buys a smartphone is guilty of the same thing in one way or another.