Walt Disney’s MagicBand


By Maik Sowinksi, Madeleine Sadler, Vladimir Cucu, Daniel Prelipcean

Disney has recently invested over 1 billion US Dollars in an integrated admission ticket wristband that guests wear while visiting the park.  These magical bracelets are meant to take the place of virtually any transaction one would make while inside.  From a server in a restaurant finding your table to a park greeter knowing your name,  these wristbands will collect and transmit data more than 40 feet in every direction.  Park employees have modified iPhones that alert them as to whom they are, where they are located, and even what they want.

Like a miniature version of an IoT, radio receivers in tables, ceilings, monitors, statues, cameras, and more; pick up a signal from the wristbands and then triangulate its location using a receiver in another installment.  In addition to their efficient functionality, they look simple and stylish, made of smooth rubber in a myriad of colors.  Contained inside the rubber of each band is a RFID chip and a radio similar to the ones found inside 2.4 GHz phones.  These radios have enough battery to last 2 years.

The whole program begins long before you even step foot in the park.  When you book your trip online, you give information about your family’s favorite rides and attractions which are then collected, calculated, and reported back to in the form of a carefully put together itinerary that paths the best route for you through the park in order to avoid slow lines and indirect routes.  When buying the entire “MagicExpress” package, visitors also enjoy direct shuttle to the park from airport and expedited baggage shipment direct from the airport to your hotel room.

The thousands of sensors and radios that make up over one hundred integrated systems turns the park into a massive computer, one that is designed to anticipate your desires based on where you are, what you are doing, and what you want.

Big Data in MagicBand:

One prominent player in big data is its younger, more applicable yet somehow more controversial; Internet of Things.  The term Internet of Things (IoT) describes the extension of the internet to objects in the physical (“real”) world: Devices are inter-connected and interact with each other via internet. The IoT is booming and having a huge impact on Big Data systems. The revenue generated by IoT products and services is predicted to exceed $300 billion by the end of this decade. In 2016 already, 5.5 million new objects get connected to the internet every day. According to a study by the Swiss university ETH Zürich, about 150 billion things will be connected to the internet. Then, the data volume produced by the internet of things will presumably double every 12 hours, compared to the current time of every 12 months. This shows that the IoT is really a Big Data issue. Disney’s MagicBands are a good example of how the Internet of Things can be used by big companies: The little bracelets are connected to the internet and interact with other objects in the park and also with “classical” internet devices, such as iPhones.

Threats and Opportunities:

Threats: Privacy Issues and Children Policies:

Although the benefits are clear, the way data is analyzed and most importantly which information is collected is a primary concern for any customer. Firstly, any user is providing directly registration information: first name, surname, country of residence, gender, date of birth and email address (Walt Disney Company). Secondly, by accepting the policies of the Walt Disney Company and middlemen (e.g. websites), the following are “indirectly” collected: transaction information (postal address, telephone number and payment information), IP address, as well as any information from public forums and applications (including chat), where it is “permitted by law to collect this information” (Walt Disney Company). Thirdly, the location information when the customer is on the sites or using the applications is gathered. An important aspect is that Disney products are children oriented, whom have to be protected even more, legally and morally. Thus, some features on the site and applications are age-gated. There are additional steps in collecting data from them, including notifying, obtaining consent and limiting the collection and giving parents or the ability to request access of children personal information (Walt Disney Company). The data thus obtained is used mainly for advertisement purposes and for improving the services and products offered, but also to “detect, investigate and prevent activities that may violate” the policies or be illegal. The personal information is not shared outside the Walt Disney Family of Companies, except in limited circumstances, which includes cooperating with financial institutions, companies performing services on their behalf and involved third parties. But how safe is the data accumulated? The company naturally assures the customers that “the security, integrity and confidentiality” are extremely important and that they “have implemented technical, administrative and physical security measures that are designed to protect guest information from unauthorized access, disclosure, use and modification.” (Walt Disney Company)


“What people call the Internet of Things is just a technological underpinning that misses the point.  This is about the experiential Internet. The guest doesn’t need to know how it happened. It’s about the magic […],” said Nick Franklin, supervisor of the 5 engineers who brought this project to life (Kuang, 2015).  This seemingly friction less experience only enhances what Walt Disney strived for in the creation of Disney World, the sensation of wonder and magic.  By creating a reality out of virtualism, Disney has opened doors to a world of interconnected and integrated data processing in real-time that allows companies to not only personalise offers, but anticipate and fulfill wants and needs.  The Internet of Things allows for what developers call “the era of invisible design”.  Tom Staggs, chief operating officer at the Walt Disney Company stated, “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.”  When they say customers remember more, they mean spend more (Kuang, 2015).


Kuang, C. (2015): Disney’s $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband. Wired. Retrieved

on October 6, 2016 from: https://www.wired.com/2015/03/disney-magicband/

Pal, C. (2015): The impact of the Internet of Things on Big Data. Retrieved on October 6, 2016

from: http://data-informed.com/the-impact-of-internet-of-things-on-big-data/

Helbing & Pournanas (2015): Society: Build digital democracy. Retrieved on October 6, 2016

from: http://www.nature.com/news/society-build-digital-democracy-1.18690

The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved on October 6, 2016




2 thoughts on “Walt Disney’s MagicBand

  1. This is such an interesting use of the Internet of Things, thank you for sharing it! I think this will be a very nice project to work on.
    I have a few points to add to your opportunities and weaknesses.

    First starting with opportunities, as you mentioned the Magic Band creates a whole new customer experience and will definetely have an impact on customer satisfaction. One extension that is possible thanks to the tracking feature of the band is, that it would be easy to find a kid’s location in case it gets lost. Losing a young child in a huge theme park is every parent’s worst nightmare, so I’m sure a lot of them would be attracted by this offer. Of course there again privacy issues are a problem but once the kids wear the wristband they are being tracked anyway, so it is only the extra step about disclosing that information to a desperate parent who is searching for his child.
    After entering their choices of rides, customers get route recommendations that guide them efficiently throught the park, so that they save time. I think it is also important to mention the huge commercial benefit for Disney here. When customers are walking faster through the park, they also have more time to visit shops and restaurants where they spend money.

    One weakness that I thought about is about the route and ride recommendations that are made for the customers. As you mentioned in the blog post, the main target customers of Disney are children. This might be a general concern in Big Data or the Internet of Things but how reliable is information that a 4-year-old child gives about his preferences? Kids usually decide on spot and sometimes do not even know what they want. I can imagine children completely ignoring the route or ride recommendations and simply running to the rides or places that seem most interesting in that moment.

    And lastly I have a question about the MagicBand. Is the information that is gathered during the theme park stay (routes, rides, restaurant, store choices) for example with the tracking fuction then further used for other Disney theme park visits? Or is the wristband only working with one specific theme park? I tried to search for it online but could not find any information on this.

    Here are links to three articles on the MagicBand that I found interesting:





    1. Thank you for your feedback!

      Regarding your questions, they rise indeed some concerns and issues regarding the wristband. Of course, a 4-year-old child is unpredictable and the data acquires is in this sense “less reliable”, but other information can be extracted as well. For example, where certain food or groceries stands can be placed in a more visible and appealing manner, or different decorations can attract differently the customers, and implicitly. These are all marketing strategies, but which should not be targeting the children.

      The wristband will be used indeed in one theme park, but the information will be stored and used for future visits as well, keeping in mind that the actual wristband is still usable. It can be used as well in other theme parks, certainly!

      Special thanks for the links you provided us with! If you want to hear more about a non-that-happy aspect of the Disneyland parks as well, you can read the following article:


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