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Mickey wants to know where you are...

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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?


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Updated 04-08-2008 at 12:45 PM by AVP

Disneyland , Featured


  1. olegc's Avatar
    this I believe is similar to the WDW tests they conducted. My guess would be that the desired applications on the device, or the data collected, would be different between parks. AND - they would not have to use GPS. Doesn't the park today use embedded pucks in the ground to track floats during parades that is then all controlled from one show building? what would stop the park from installing these in hidden areas all throughout so they could track when you "pass" a point in the park.

    IMHO the initial applications are data collection and later analysis, and maybe alerts about shows or maybe entertainment. The "unfair" part comes when they start to offer things that regular park guests may not be aware of and, as Kevin Yee always says, this will create more of a "planned and guided" experience instead of discovery and randomness. I like to plan - but not every single minute and all of my movements. They will have to be very up front with what they collect, how they use it, and how long they plan to hold on to it. My concern is that if they entice people with free stuff - then the lowest-common-denominator guest will just accept it - and try to sue later for someone using information about them (to no avail).
  2. AVP's Avatar
    Encountered another test yesterday, and this time I was able to get a slightly better look at the unit. They come from Fun Finder GPS (link), a company that currently operates the service at the Grand Canyon and has a whole list of "coming soon" venues including the Phoenix Zoo.
  3. ellisfamily's Avatar
    I think it's a great idea! Im sure it would help them figure out where weak/strong areas are and where they need to improve. Maybe help them handle long lines better and know the not as much traveled paths to have characters appear and give more interaction with surprised guests!