Disney World, the Magic Band and Apple Watch


A few weeks back I went to Disney World. It also happened to be about a week after I received my Apple Watch. The two may seem unrelated but Disney World is foreshadowing what Apple Watch will be in a few years.

When you buy a ticket at Disney World you have the option to also purchase a Magic Band. The Magic Band is an NFC wrist band that serves as your identity while you're at the Disney World Resort (and Disneyland for that matter). You use the Magic Band to enter the park, sign up for Fast Passes, Pay for Meals/Souvenirs and even to create magic.

An example of such magic is at the "Be Our Guest" restaurant. When you enter the restaurant you wave your Magic Band at a touch screen kiosk and order your meal. The payment is automatically charged to your account, and the kiosk directs you to find a table. You sit at the table and a few minutes later your meal arrives. It really does create a moment of delight wondering how they knew where to take your food.

How? The table you sit at is a little thicker than a normal table in order to house an NFC reader. When you sit down it notifies the staff where to bring the food. When you are done eating your table notifies staff to clear the table. 

Disney is on an entire new level of user experience design. They used technology to make a highly efficient restaurant but also make a delightful frictionless user experience. What does this have to do with Apple Watch?

Apple Watch has only been out a month, so we are in the very beginning of the ecosystem. In a couple years Apple Watch will be as central to your everyday life as the Magic Band is when you are at Disney World. Apple Watch is emphatically you, bringing an increased level of security. Essentially while wearing the watch you are a walking 2 factor authenticated user, that opens up an entire new world of possibilities. 

In the not to distant future you will checkout at Whole Foods, pay with your watch and walk to your car. You will wave your hand at the trunk and it will open. You wont need a car key anymore. Better yet, your car knows whether you or your spouse is driving and adjusts the seats and climate for you. When you get home your garage door just opens. When you're all out of the car it simply locks. The best part of this story is that you didn't have to interact with a single UI.

All of this is possible with Android Wear of course, and Android watches came out first. However, only Apple can truly unlock this future. They started laying the plumbing for this years ago. Passbook came in 2012, TouchID/CarPlay came in 2013, HomeKit/HealthKit and Apple Pay came in 2014 and of course Apple Watch in 2015. This year, rumors are swirling that Apple TV/HomeKit will be central to WWDC. Once Apple ties your phone and watch to your home most of the above is possible within a year. The car is a few years away but Apple has been laying the infrastructure for it for years. 

After this story becomes a true story, I would expect brick and mortar retail to have a small renaissance. If we can remove friction from the physical world the web as we know it will feel antiquated.