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In this week's feature, Mike and Mark discuss the new patent application filed by Disney on August 30, which would expand on their existing Fastpass patents. News of the patent was first broken by Jim Hill of jimhillmedia.com last week.
Mark gave an overview of some of the new features described in the patent, including the ability for you to:
After Monday's Park Update was published, Mark received an email from Todd Swanson, a former employee of two different major U.S. cell carriers, who noted that it's not really possible to determine precise locations using cell phone tracking, partly due to the technology and partly due to FCC regulations and privacy laws. He suggested that Disney might instead give a guest a GPS unit or other proprietary device to track them with.
Mark noted that he thought that Disney might try to track people fairly closely using their cell phones by using other related technology with cell phones (iR, Bluetooth, etc.) to track people's movements, similar to what it could do with Pal Mickeys and other devices. It's possible that Disney will also give people PDAs (most likely iPAQs through their HP partnership, or maybe devices similar to the handheld closed-captioning devices that they've rolled out) to carry around the parks with them.
Mike noted that people who register with a certain service and walk around the Mall of America can have special offers sent to their cell phones via Bluetooth as they walk past participating stores.
Another interesting features would be the ability for Disney to send you related promotional information or discount coupons related to the attraction that you've got a Fastpass for.
The feature that has generated the most outcry on the discussion forums across the Internet, though, is the ability for Disney to create a hierarchy of priority and functionality based on several different types of segmentation. For example, Disney has indentified several methods of segmentation in the patent application. The spending per guest at hotels, those staying at Disney resorts than other resorts and seasonal differences can be factored.
Mark noted that the text in some of the diagrams make it seem as if the first implementation of the new features might be at the Tokyo Disney Resort. (Diagrams use the Indiana Jones Adventure and Journey to the Center of the Earth attractions as examples.) This doesn't surprise Mark, since advanced cell phone features are still much more popular in Japan that in the United States.
Some quotes from the patent application:
Mike talked about the schemes that Universal uses to segmenting the usage of their Express Pass.
Some description of the hierarchical segmentation from the Disney patent application [Related Applications #0143-0165]:
Mike suggested that Disney might try to use segmentation to provide benefits for frequent guests to Walt Disney World ("Worldphiles" in Disney marketing-speak). They've been trying to come up with ways to extend extra benefits to regular visitors for a while, and this might be one way to do it.
Mark suggested that they might use the "premium return times" feature to allow Annual Passholders to get premium access to attractions shortly after they open, or people on special packages to get exclusive access during certain times of day. According to the application Disney could also use the system to allocate access to dining and show reservations, which could allow them to limit dining at premium time slots to certain groups of people.
Mike wondered whether this could make getting a Fastpass even more complicated. Mark noted that some posters on our MousePad discussion forums have noted that this could make it easier for people to get Fastpasses because there can be plenty of on-screen help and people wouldn't be backing up the line at the Fastpass machines while they figure out what they're doing.
Mike was concerned that the need to plan all Fastpasses in advance could make planning a Walt Disney World vacation even more complicated than ever, with Fastpasses joining Advance Dining Reservations in having a crush with people grabbing all available slots as soon as they become available and those who go to the park without having made all of their plans in advance will be left out in the cold as nothing will be left available.
Mark noted that the learning curve for planning a Disney vacation has been getting steeper, and this will just help that trend continue. It was noted that it would be good for guidebooks and trip planning sites.
Mike noted that he wanted online dining reservations before advance Fastpasses. Mark pointed out that this is being piloted at the Contemporary Resort right now, and if the pilot is successful, it could be rolled out to everyone via the Internet once the proper back-end infrastructure is built.
Mark is torn over whether or not this is a good thing. The increasing focus on the need to plan everything in advance is causing the spontaneity of a theme park visit to die a horrible death. For those who need to have everything planned out in advance and follow set touring plans, this will be a big help. For those who enjoy having spontaneous adventures and wandering the park and making decisions on the same day, it could mean the end of all choice.
Mike envisioned Disney geeks sitting by their computers and phones as reservation windows open, making their Fastpass reservations and trying to get through to the Dining reservation line (for that Cinderella's Royal Table reservation) simultaneously.
Mark also pointed out that "A goal of this disclosure is to improve the desired functionality needed to derive increased guest satisfaction, additional revenue opportunities and resort differentiation." [Related Application #0036] and discussed all of the possible implications of that goal.
Mike thinks that Disney will use the promotional messages to help to push whichever merchandise is not selling well or which dining location has available capacity.
Mark noted that the various options would decrease the number of no-shows and optimize the throughput of the attraction.
Mark explained that, while it's too late to keep Disney simple, it's now a question of how complicated can it get. He noted that the new system could make things easier for those who can plan ahead, and that it will increase Disney's flexibility to handle attraction breakdowns.
So now the question becomes "Will Disney implement any of the ideas in this patent, and if so, how?"
Mike and Mark also noted the number of typos, errors and inconsistencies in the patent application, which seemed a bit sloppy for a company like Disney.
Mark tried to figure out how Disney would use the tracking feature, which is described [Related Application #0255] as:
Other examples of the use of the disclosure include the ability to have a patron's or user's cellular telephone or wireless device be tracked as that person moves around the facility, or defined area. For instance, this provides for locating guests or patrons and for the central facility computer to track the location of guests and patrons, and make recommendations as necessary to those persons. In an entertainment environment, when a particular attraction is non-functional for instance as a priority system or at all, the recommendations can suggest alternative attractions or activities to the patrons. Such alternatives can be accepted on a priority basis in lieu of the unavailable priority services for the non-available attraction."
So what do you think about this new patent? Do you think that Disney is likely to implement any of these features in the near future? Do you think that they would be beneficial features, or would it make things even harder? Let us know by sending an email or calling our toll-free feedback line (1-866-939-2278) and let us know what your favorites are!
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