Tech-studded bands are the rage at theme parks, giving guests shorter wait times, quick entry to the park and replacing virtually every transaction with a swipe of the wrist.
In this digital world, where everything is hackable and everyone’s movements are already tracked by GPS on cellphones and mobile devices, guests are accustomed to the latest technology and the fast service it provides. Yet, securing people’s personal information is a vital concern.
Walt Disney World sunk more than a billion dollars into researching and designing its MagicBand system, which provides entry to the park and acts as a credit card for all purchases. It gives FastPass access to rides and can be used with Magical Express to bypass baggage claim so visitors can board a bus straight to the park and have their luggage delivered to their hotel rooms.
Wet ‘n Wild Orlando has a waterproof Xpress Band that allows guests to virtually wait in line for slides. Universal announced when Volcano Bay opens next year, TapuTapu wearable technology would allow guests to avoid long lines at their newest water park.
But look closely at the fine print and you’ll find every theme park has a disclaimer.
The security, integrity and confidentiality of your information are extremely important to us,” reads Walt Disney World’s online statement. “We have implemented technical, administrative and physical security measures that are designed to protect guest information from unauthorized access, disclosure, use and modification. Please be aware though that, despite our best efforts, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable.”
Walt Disney World did not respond to a request for information.
The multicolored wristbands are just a glimpse into the future of how technology can improve guest services through shorter wait times and anticipating staffing needs, said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Everything is hackable but Disney spent a billion and half creating these bands and a security was their first consideration,” said Speigel, who is also known as “Mr. Theme Park.”
He compared the current use of bands to the early days of cell phones and said they are constantly evolving and being updated to improve the guest experience.
Several companies selling the bands and the technology that make them work were on hand this week at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo at the Orange County Convention Center.
The British company accesso launched their newest band, Prism, at the trade show, calling it “the most technologically advanced smart park wearable available.” The company, which has an office in Lake Mary, has a line of virtual bands called the accesso LoQueue line, which can be found locally at Legoland and Wet ‘n Wild.
The Prism resembles an Apple Watch and acts as a credit card for purchases but also lets guests control their wait times. A swipe on the wristband’s touch screen, gives guests a place in a virtual line. If a ride is temporarily interrupted, or a show is rescheduled, the Prism will update the guest with a new time. If the watch vibrates and the guest is busy on another ride or eating a meal, they can opt to take a later place in line.
Andrew Jacobs, president of accesso LoQueue and managing director in Europe, said their newest band allows guests to enter the park untethered by cash or cellphone. In fact, he said many parks suggest that guests lock up their phones so they won’t get wet at water parks or get lost on topsy-turvy coaster rides. He stressed that safety and security is their prime objective.
“The entire industry puts a huge emphasis on protecting guests’ private information,” said Jacobs, whose company does not access guest information but uses a secure token or key to transfer the technology to the parks. “The parks hold all the guests personally identifiable information. We’re all motivated to deliver an excellent guest experience and it is clearly in everyone’s best interests to protect guest privacy.”
The technology helps analysts interpret data on which rides and restaurants guests prefer. The bands just make good business sense. People spend less time in line. They’re doing more, which means they’re spending more and are more likely to return.