Turnstile-less turnstiles tested at Epcot

November 14, 2011, 1:06 PM · At Epcot Disney is testing one of the new elements of the NextGen program. No more turnstiles, no more magnetic ticket scanners, or bar codes! Using RFID technology, guest simply hold their ticket up to a sphere with a Mickey head on it, scan their thumb and walk in.

There are no actual turnstiles, just open space. And there is one Cast Member for every four RFID scanners.

The big questions are 1. How do they prevent people from walking right on in and 2. How to they lock up the park?

I don't have all the info, but the best article I've seen so far is this one from the Examiner.

Also, the article has concept art for future uses of the RFID system. The NextGen project has cost and estimated 3 billion, and has included the Real Life Character Initiative, which has brought us Turtle Talk with Crush, Monster Inc. Laugh Floor, the Kim Possible World Schowcase adventure and the talking, blinking Mickey. But the other half of the program is based on the RFID wristband system.

Each guest will get a wristband instead of a ticket. Where ever guest go, scanners will pick up info on the guest, making an location interactive. This has uses from new Fastpass machines, to waitstaff at restaurants knowing about allergies without asking, to personalized messages on rides and hidden around the park. Before arriving at Disney, guest will enter information like, age, allergies, favorite characters, birthdays or other celebrations, ride preference etc.

As far as anyone knows, Disney is the only company who has invest time and money into this kind of technology, and whenever it is fully implemented, Disney parks will have gone in a completely revolutionary direction, technology and experience wise.

Replies (27)

November 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM · Agh, I can't write a blog post without a typo. Sorry.
November 14, 2011 at 2:15 PM · The lack of turnstiles will mean there's nothing to stop the guest from merely walking forward if something goes wrong with the check-in process. With only one employee for 4 turnstiles, a mob crowd means everyone will just force themselves through. It seems like a $3 billion honor system.

It requires guests to enter a bunch of privacy invading data. I find it unhelpful. This will not make the park experience better. I wonder why Disney is gathering this information. What do they intent to do to improve the guest experience, or is this just about selling stuff?

I'm rather turn-off from it. I might not bother going, or maybe I should enter false data.

November 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM · I'm sure Disney isn't willing to make it such an honor system. There is probably forms of security that isn't part of the testing.

As for the information collection, it would be whatever guest want to share. There is generally a lot Disney already knows with a lot of guest just with purchasing tickets alone. I don't think that sharing birthdays, anniversaries, favorite princess or food allergies is a problem with most people...they end up telling Disney anyway.

Information like credit cards, SSN, or anything like that probably won't even be entered in the system, unless like now if you want to charge things to your room key. Just the wristband instead of a key.

I would say the best application for a demonstration would be the Kim Possible thing, except interactive screens around the park instead of a phone, using the wristbands.

November 14, 2011 at 2:51 PM · Well, this is why WDW is simply testing it at Epcot first before filtering it out to all four parks. Believe me, with the amount of security there is to check bags and other such things...Disney is not going to just allow guests to walk on through.

This will be a trial-and-error with more than likely Disney having more Cast Members present at first to determine if they need fewer instead of vice versa. Chances of someone just walking forward into the park without a ticket or without a valid one are very slim.

November 14, 2011 at 3:06 PM · I honestly really like this. It shows why Disney is so far and above any other theme park industry on Earth. They may not have the tallest coaster or whatever, but their customer service is unbeatable. I'm really excited to see new developments about this technology, especially after the awesome results of other NextGen projects.
November 14, 2011 at 3:19 PM · Sure would be nice if they'd also get rid of the fingerprint readers. Those things annoy the snot out of me.
November 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM · Be careful what you wish for - snot-extractor DNA testing might be the replacement....
November 14, 2011 at 3:48 PM · 1 cast member for every 4 turnstiles means they only need 25% of their current turnstiles team to run this operation. A major savings on Disney's part, but if it actually gets implemented like this...a lot of people are going to be out of jobs.
November 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM · I like how the wrist bands will be customized if only for interaction with attractions. They could possibly know it's your birthday, or anniversary, or if you visit A LOT, or whatever else you would want to disclose to the company.

For example, passing by Mr. Potato Head, he could "play psychic" and say someone's first name only and without actual visual recognition hardware or software state something like "Hey Robert, you again??? How was that Pizza you had last month? I'll let the management know."

I'm sure privacy would be a fear for some people, but I'm also sure that Disney would make many things optional other than your real name, thumb print, etc.

I'm not too sure about only having 1 for 4 "turnstiles" as I can see mobs getting out of control... I know I wouldn't want this in DLR since people try to sneak their way in a lot.

November 14, 2011 at 4:56 PM · Okay, but with wristbands, what I do put into the FastPass machines?

And if I just hold my wristband up to the FastPass machine, can everyone else in my group give me their wristbands so I can go get their FastPasses, too?

Because if people can't remove their wristbands for such things, we're going to be clogging FP lines, and eliminating one of the elements of a great visit strategy ("you go here, while I get the FastPasses there...").

Other things to consider: What about print-at-home tickets? Fully-staffed turnstile lanes would have to be devoted to accepting such tickets and exchanging them for wristbands (as they do now for paper tickets).

And what about annual and seasonal passes? Again, I would presume that we'd need removable wristbands for those, but what about the discount benefits we get with APs in Downtown Disney, etc.? Or the parking tollbooths? Would they have to be able to read the wristbands, or would we continue to have to carry a card, too?

November 14, 2011 at 5:17 PM · The thinking behind all of this is reducing the people who are supposed to implement the new system. Expecting customers to do the work is in fact an honor system. At Disneyland, there are no more Annual Pass picture taking. The customers are supposed to upload their own pictures. I suppose it works if it does.

All I know is if there is a loophole, on occasion, I may take it. With no turnstiles, it is just too easy to fake a confused look or look like I already did it with a fake pass.

Disney has gotten too big for its own good. Too many employees. They have to cut back. I guess they found a way. Instead, they need more security to ensure people don't obviously bypass the rules, but maybe they do anyways.

November 14, 2011 at 9:25 PM · Hi, I'm the author of the article from Examiner and for those concerned about how the wristbands and everything else will work? Don't worry just yet.

This "NextGen" initiative from Disney is only in the very early stages of release. The ideas and concepts have been in the works for a couple years now and only Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (to be released in Jan) and the new RFID turnstiles (so far only at Epcot) are what's been released. Mind you, these are all in test-phases too.

Disney is going to perfect it all before rolling it out in full. So questions like FastPasses...can they be exchanged, etc... and seasonal or annual passes...and other such things will be figured out before the full release.

As for cutting costs, Disney is doing that in some respects but they're not intending on letting anyone go. Disney is still hiring even just seasonal help of which I will be upon my move to Orlando in a month.

Thanks for linking to my article Skipper Adam, truly appreciated.

November 14, 2011 at 9:25 PM · this is a little invaseive to me It is like being admited into a hospital instead of going to a themepark. As far as those scanner rye playland has the scanners you scan a wristband that acts like a ticket and it subtracts points. Bad thing though they are prone to over heating and alot of them do and it causes even more of a line then if you had tickets or turnstiles but that is just me I guss
November 15, 2011 at 12:20 AM · RFID methods will eliminate many of the problems associated with magnetized cards, particularly bottlenecks caused by demagnetized cards that don't read properly. I can't tell you the amount of times I've witnessed cards that don't read properly because people have kept them in their wallets or crumpled them up. And if they pull off the technology properly, it will be much quicker to swipe your wristband at a Fastpass stall than to put your card in the machine. Yes, it eliminates the strategy of one person collecting the passes, though I'm sure they'll figure out a way to incorporate that eventually.
November 15, 2011 at 8:13 AM · I think some of you are missing the big picture re: nextgen and Fastpasses. The new system will prevent you from getting Fastpasses for party members, but that's ok because physical Fastpasses will go away entirely. Instead you will book your Fastpasses in advance electronically (as soon as you book your hotel, with priority determined by your room rate) and stored via RFID on your wristband. No more running to Soarin or tsm for Fastpasses, time windows will be strictly enforced, and you can know whe you'll ride space mountain 6 months in advance. Fun! ;-)
November 15, 2011 at 9:07 AM · Disney does it again! The future!
November 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM · I used the new turnstiles today. They really are a cool tech. Though having to do the finger print scan right afterwards just makes it feel just as the same as the regular turnstiles.

I'm excited to see how the wristbands play out. I'm sure their are some good ideas behind it.

November 15, 2011 at 10:44 PM · I'm a little jealous because I can't use the new gate since I get in with my work ID. Not that it is a big deal, but anytime I get to be part of testing I love it.
November 16, 2011 at 12:55 AM · Great idea imho. For those that have highlighted the checking-in skipping concern; rest assured Disney will have seen it and have planned for it. I'd suggest something like readers at the entrances and in the queues of rides to 'verify' your bands have been checked-in. If not you'll be pulled from the queue and asked to check-in there and then. I'd say they'll imbed some kind of induction loop that you have to pass through before going on a ride (or something like that). As for the FastPass concerns - again, the simple solution is to have more generic readers that allow FastPass for any ride while still ensuring you only have 1 active at a time (or whatever the rule it). If Disney want to know my name, my kids names, our birthdays, our character preferences, ride preferences, and any other visit related stuff - and if that makes the experience better - I'm all for it. Why is that a bad thing? This technology will make my childrens' (and my) enjoyment of the parks so much better. Coupled with the Talking Mickey technology which I can only hope will become more prevalent, this could be amazing. If it's used properly Mickey in 1 park could know that Mickey in another park has spoken to your child that day. How 'magical' would that be?
November 16, 2011 at 5:36 AM · I would be torn regarding the GPS capability. However, the positive side would be for children, if the bands can be scanned whereever the guest is located, that would make the safety of the children better. Kids that are lost would be located quickly.
November 16, 2011 at 10:15 AM · As I was once reminded, the wristbands would be passive, not active. So you could have a record of the latest recording station that registered the wristband's presence, rather than a true broadcast of the band's current, exact location. Better than nothing, still.
November 16, 2011 at 11:08 PM · Just so people know, Disney costumes are all tagged with and RFID card. When we check a costume out, we simply scan out ID, hold our costumes over the counter and it know exactly what we are taking. When toss the used costumes in a bin, and it scans them back in automatically.

The cool part though is the actual laundry service. There is a system that sorts darks/light/delicates for wash, and after, it scan to sort by location, gender and size. All they do is bring it back and place them on the rack. Pretty amazing what use RFID has.

November 18, 2011 at 9:16 AM · Hello, Minority Report. I don't think i like the idea of being outed or harassed every step that I take. But I do like the idea of being able to track your children, in case something happens.

Someone mentioned SS# - Disney should not have this. You should only give out your SS# when mandated by law or necessary for tax purposes. Disney falls into neither category. Places that have no business asking for it - doctors (unless medicare/caid) only want an easy avenue for debt collection.

November 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM · Someone earlier feared people would just push their way through. However, the current turnstiles don't prevent you from just walking in either. They're not locked like they are on a subway system. All they do is sound an error noise if someone walks through without scanning. Without the turnstile there is clearly an electric eye in its place. It's just one less moving part.

At the Orlando parks the turnstiles are already staffed with about 1 person to every 4. How is this any different?

I also don't understand how this can be called a part of their NextGen project. Is that term used because the tickets used have changed? As for the entry gate it's just a natural evolution or modification to the current ticket scanning and entry system. That part isn't revolutionary.

November 18, 2011 at 3:51 PM · I like this idea. Anything to get people into the park smoother & faster so they can start spending their money...er um...having fun! No but really, I love it!! I hate having my kids (and me) outside the park...so close you can smell it, but you are waiting in a long line just to get it. I also love the wristband idea, because the dang fingerprint scanners (while a great thing) are a pain when your 8 year old's finger only scans sometimes! :)

For season pass holders they could give a snap on/off wristband. Which could be a great selling point that you get a cool wristband with your season pass. I also love the ability to track in the park. For the reason mentioned above...kids. They get lost/misplaced they can track them. Also, if they put in a program that you can list people that are allowed to leave the park with them (and you can update it if you brought family not typically with you). So then if the child's wristband is tracked leaving the park without one of the authorized people security could jump all over it.

November 18, 2011 at 5:11 PM · They are part of Nextgen because the RFID elements in the tickets will are part of the RFID interactive elements around the park. There won't be separate tickets from the NextGen RFIDs, they'll all be connected. It is the next step in theme park gate evolution, but it is what will be used to recognized guest all over the park.
November 19, 2011 at 10:14 AM · I have to say I'm really excited about this. Re: privacy concerns--don't tell them anything you don't want them to know. Is it really an invasion if the owner of the property you're visiting knows where you are? If some stranger is in MY house, I definitely know where they are at all times. I think they'll be more likely to ask who your favorite character is than something embarrassing. Mr. Potato Head might ask how your pizza was, but he won't ask how your prostate surgery went.

As far as using this as a reduction in work force, think ahead. Fewer workers in one job frees up cash to spend on other areas of the park. Want more construction/expansion/renovation? Well, cutting the turnstile force allows the company to relegate those funds to other areas... areas that will have to hire people.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive