Mickey wants to know where you are...
by, 04-03-2008 at 08:56 AM (2226 Views)
Upon entering the fictional theme park in author Lincoln Child's "Utopia," visitors are given a small lapel pin that serves as their admission media and tracking device. As explained in the book, park management uses the device to track their movements through the park.
It's been a while since I've read the book, but I recall thinking that the metrics possible through such a system are astonishing. How long does a guest really spend in line for attractions, waiting for a table at lunch, browsing the gift shops.
What little tweaks can the park do to alter pathing through the parks, to draw people out of congested areas and into less frequented attractions - or to get more of them into shops and restaurants.
The technology to do this sort of tracking has been available for years, but never implements on the scale Child suggested in his book. After all, people are already concerned that someone with a high-powered RFID scanner could determine what brand of razor they use without ever stepping foot into their home. It's a tough sell to get consumers to agree to be electronically tracked and monitored while they visit Disneyland.
Certainly, most guests understand that there are video cameras everywhere. However, being caught on camera is a different experience than having something physically attatched to you. At least with cameras there's a perception that you can avoid them if you wish. Not so when your park ticket emits a constant "here I am!" alert to Mickey's wireless network.
Yet, what if Disney offered this tracking device in the guise of a park guide??? What if Disney handed the consumer a hand-held device that would let them navigate through Disneyland? Something that would show their current location on a virtual map of Disneyland, give them estimated wait times of nearby attractions, show them which restaurants have open tables, alert them to the next showing of the parade, or invite them to a character meet-and-greet with Mickey?
Yesterday, Disneyland tested a device that does at least the first two. Some visitors were approached as they entered the park yesterday and given a portable GPS device to play with. I was not selected for this trial, but I saw them in action. So far the device seems to offer little more than a park map with a "You Are Here" icon, but everything else I described above could easily be added with existing technology, some of it already in the parks.
So, are you willing to let Mickey's shadow follow you around Disneyland, if it means you can find out when the line for Finding Nemo gets under an hour? How many perks and features will it take to get you to shrug off your presumed privacy? And do you really care if Mickey knows how often you go to the bathroom?