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Originally published Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Disney to use data-encoded bracelets

The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behavior.

The New York Times

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What privacy is there to worry about when you're in Disneyland? There are security... MORE

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Imagine Walt Disney World with no entry turnstiles. Cash? Passé: Visitors would wear rubber bracelets encoded with credit-card information, snapping up corn dogs and Mickey Mouse ears with a tap of the wrist. Smartphone alerts would signal when it is time to ride Space Mountain without standing in line.

Fantasyland? Hardly. It happens starting this spring.

Disney in the coming months plans to begin introducing a vacation-management system called MyMagic (PLUS) that will drastically change the way Disney World visitors — some 30 million people a year — do just about everything.

The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behavior.

Disney is betting that happier guests will spend more money.

“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” said Thomas Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts.

The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal-data collection.

Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic (PLUS) will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.

Disney is aware of potential privacy concerns, especially regarding children. The plan, which comes as the federal government is trying to strengthen online-privacy protections, could be troublesome for a company that some consumers worry is already too controlling.

But Disney has decided that MyMagic (PLUS) is essential. The company must aggressively weave new technology into its parks — without damaging the sense of nostalgia on which the experience depends — or risk becoming irrelevant to future generations, Staggs said.

Aside from benefiting Disney’s bottom line, the initiative could alter the global theme-parks business.

“When Disney makes a move, it moves the culture,” said Steve Brown, chief operating officer for Lo-Q, a British company that provides line-management and ticketing systems for theme parks and zoos.

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