Disney Is Where NFC Dreams Come True

What's Next In Payments®
3:17 PM EDT January 7th, 2013

Walt Disney World is aiming to turn NFC technology into a Cinderella story.

The New York Times reported yesterday that the giant Floridian theme park is planning a transition to NFC-based payment, loyalty and admission, which could dramatically improve the in-park experience for millions of visitors while simultaneously providing a big boost for a technology that’s stagnated in terms of U.S. adoption.

The NFC system, called MyMagic+, will be available to consumers through rubber bracelets embedded with RFID technology that can store payment card information, grant access to rides and tickets and track consumer purchases, activities and even in-park interactions.

According to Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, the NFC conversion could be “transformational.”

“If we can enhance the experience, more people will spend more of their leisure time with us,” Staggs said. “Small, subtle things can make a big difference.”

The logistical difficulties involved with implementing such a massive infrastructure change are, as the Times points out, pretty significant. Disney has around 60,000 employees at Walt Disney World, and will need to train most to use the new technology. NFC-enabled POS terminals and posts will need to be installed throughout the park, and the bracelets, of course, will need to be produced.

Overall, the transition could cost between $800 million and $1 billion. That’s clearly a ton of money, but Disney World rakes in $12.9 billion in revenue a year, making the transition tenable.

While consumers wouldn’t be forced to use the MyMagic+ system, what’s really interesting about the move from a payments perspective is the increased consumer awareness surrounding NFC that the system could catalyze. In a contained environment where NFC is truly the easiest and most efficient option, consumers are likely to show more of a willingness to use and adopt the technology than they do in the retail world at-large.

Steven Brown, COO for British line management and ticketing systems, may have put it best when he described what such a move could mean for NFC’s adoption.

“When Disney makes a move,” Brown said, “it moves the culture.”

Do you think Disney’s NFC transition will be successful? Do you see it moving the needle at all for mainstream NFC payments? Let us know in the comments below. 

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