Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

wdJason McInerney and his wife, Melissa, recently tapped their lunch orders onto a touchscreen at the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort and were told to take any open seat. Moments later a food server appeared at their table with their croque-monsieur and carved turkey sandwiches. Asks McInerney, a once-a-year visitor to Disney theme parks: “How did they know where we were sitting?”

The answer was on the electronic bands the couple wore on their wrists. That’s the magic of the MyMagic+, Walt Disney’s (DIS) $1 billion experiment in crowd control, data collection, and wearable technology that could change the way people play—and spend—at the Most Magical Place on Earth. If the system works, it could be copied not only by other theme parks but also by museums, zoos, airports, and malls. “It’s a complete game changer,” says Douglas Quinby, vice president for research at PhoCusWright, a travel consulting firm.

That would suit Disney just fine, as it expands its global empire of theme parks and kicks up efforts to fend off rivals. The most formidable is Comcast’s (CMCSA) Universal Studios, which this summer will unveil a massive expansion of its hit Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at its parks near Walt Disney World.  More

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