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The most popular wearable functioning in the world right now isn’t the iPhone, it’s Walt Disney World Resort’s MyMagic+ band at the company’s theme parks in Florida.

It doesn’t tell time or load apps, but it allows guests to pay for anything from a souvenir in a shop to a can of soda to a full dinner, and gives them access to theme parks, faster lines, and their hotel room too. On the back end, Disney can even track movement so that it learns more about crowd movements at its parks and how it can make everything faster.

Fast Company’s story “The Messy Business of Rebuilding Happiness” was published today and it offers an unofficial guide to the development and implementation of the band. Based on six months of reporting and both on- and off-the-record interviews, it offers excellent insight into a project that Disney likes to talk about, but only in Disney speak.

Read the full story here.

We’ve pulled out the points that offer insight into both what it took to get the device into the wild, as well as where it’s heading.

  • Disney’s board gave unanimous approval to the project after assuring Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that it wouldn’t be used to track children.
  • The project began in 2008 as part of In 2008, the “Next Generation Experience project,” focused on keeping the parks from not becoming quaint in a new high-tech era.
  • Trion:Z, a SkyMall product, inspired the MyMagic+ wristband idea.
  • Outside consulting came from Accenture, HP, and Synapse, as well as Frog Design, which played a bigger role.
  • Updating to MyMagic+ cost $80 million.
  • The earliest bill-of-materials estimate for the MagicBand was $35 each. Paper tickets cost three cents.
  • Disney’s famed Imagineers were the biggest obstacle to the Frog Design Team.
  • The project went beyond just a bracelet at times, including a cart that would take a guest’s luggage through airport screening.
  • The $1 billion budget was approved in February of 2011.
  • More Imagineer strife: “Sources claim that during a test of whether long-range sensors at the Haunted Mansion ride could identify the MagicBands worn by customers going by at high speeds, Imagineers purposely sat on their hands as the ride zoomed along, to make it harder for the sensors to locate their bands.”
  • 30 million square feet of Wi-Fi coverage was installed throughout the parks to support connectivity for the device.


Photo Credit: Disney's MyMagic+ bands and the RFID-enabled iPhone check-out system at a Walt Disney World resort restaurant. Skift