Monday, July 16, 2018

Is This The Future?

Narrator: Alfred Thompson, you’ve just attended an amazing CSTA Conference. Now what?

Alfred: I’m going to Disney World!

magic bandAnd so I did. I just got home from about 5 days at DisneyWorld with my family. It was a great time  and I spent a lot less time online than usual. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about technology though. At DisneyWorld technology is everywhere. For most visitors this wrist band is the center of much of the activity.

It’s called a Magic Band and basically it is a cool container for an RFID chip. This band serves as the key to ones hotel room, a charge card, admissions to the various parks, and more. It’s not the only RFID chip one will run into though.

Fall-2015-Disney-World-Refillable-Resort-Rapid-Fill-Mugs-5-453x600Even the beverage containers also have RFID chips attached. The most obvious to may people are the refillable mugs. These mugs allow unlimited refills for a specific period of time. The dispensers only work if they read a valid RFID chip. Yes, in case you are wondering, even the paper cups have chips in them. The chips in the paper cups allow for a specific number of refills. I wish I had brought one of them home to play with. Anyone want to send me one (or more?) I really want to experiment with RFID.

So this is cool technology. The question really is, is the a utopian future or a dystopian future?

Disney uses this information to make the guest experience better. Well, that’s the theory and I suspect it is largely the case. I’m sure it helps them make money as well. No doubt it is useful to know how many refills people take. Tracking visits to the parks tells them a lot about guests interests and routines. Who knows what else they know about.

But what about outsiders using the data? Other companies? The government? What information can or does Disney provide to law enforcement and under what circumstances?

There is also the question of people with malicious intent stealing information. Not just from Disney RFID chips either. More and more credit cards and other ID cards are using RFID chips. My newest wallet is advertised as blocking RFID signals so apparently a lot of people are concerned about this sort of thing. With good reason I think.

The potential uses of RFID are both good and bad. We can use them for many things but should we? Good stuff to talk about with students. I think they need to understand this technology, how it works, and what its risks and benefits are.

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