News Column

The Palm Beach Post, Fla., Frank Cerabino column

August 26, 2014

By Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Aug. 26--I'm trying to imagine the future of drones flying over Disney World.

I didn't say anything months ago when Disney's Florida theme-park guests were introduced to "MagicBands," those wristbands that serve as a hotel room key, park admission ticket, FastPass, credit card, and homing device.

The idea of Disney guests providing fingerprints and wearing radio-frequency-emitting wristbands that allow their movements and purchasing history at the parks to be collected and tracked didn't seem so sinister at the time.

It sounded mostly like clever marketing, another way for Disney to gather information on customers who could then be contacted at the park for purchase suggestions or for a visit from one of the Disney characters who magically knows through your information trail that today is your child's birthday.

A little more cool than creepy.

But now with the drones, well, I'm leaning to creepy.

Disney has applied for three patents involving the use of drones at its Florida parks, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Disney's plans envision using drones strictly for aerial entertainment.

In one plan, small unmanned aerial vehicles would be used to make gigantic puppets, flying characters of fabric mounted with rods, to soar over the park.

Who knows? Maybe one day there will be a character parade above, not on, Main Street.

In another plan, the drones would carry lighting assemblies that would create a kind of floating pixel screen in the sky when combined with other drones.

The Disney application has also suggested that drone-based aerial entertainment might eventually replace fireworks in the park.

Once again, this sounds more cool than creepy.

But when you have drones at your command, wouldn't the next step be to link them with the MagicBands for pinpoint surveillance and targeted payload delivery?

I've got a hunch that Disney is pioneering what may end up becoming the way business is routinely conducted everywhere in the near future.

When we think of Big Brother, it's fears of an all-seeing, all-knowing big government intruding on our lives. But the real threat may actually be from Big Commerce, which has plenty to gain from keeping close tabs on our purchasing history and movements.

Wearing wristbands with radio transmitters makes people not much different from the Florida panthers we track in the Everglades.

And if drones can fly lighted displays across the sky, they can also hover a few feet overhead and remind me, "You haven't eaten in four hours, Frank. It's time for a giant turkey leg!"

In a cashless world, where just a movement of a wrist band toward a sensor is all it takes for a completed purchase, it will never be easier to fall prey to the siren call of consumerism.


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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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