ImageDisney World. It's a fantasy land full of magic and whimsy – a place where childhood dreams really do come true. Millions of families (16,972,000 individuals, if you're counting) from all over the world flock to Orlando, FL annually to witness the fairy tale castle, rub elbows with the likes of princes and princesses, and shake hands with the Big Mouse himself. You can go on an African safari, ride a spaceship, swashbuckle with a band of pirates, make your way around the world, and still find yourself snuggled tightly between freshly laundered sheets, complete with bath towel origami, all before 10 p.m.  

Of course, Disney World is also a land of sunscreen-clad tourists, miles and miles of lines, hungry kids and thirsty parents. Behind the scenes, it takes seasoned expertise to run an operation of Disney's proportion, to take the potential for utter chaos and turn it into a seamless, albeit unforgettable, experience.

So just exactly how to they do it? How do the folks at Disney manage to cultivate a consistently magic-filled vacation for one family after the next? One might say they've got it down to a science – data science. While Disney is not new to the world of big data collection, their most recent endeavor, MyMagic+, is a prime example of a business bringing the big data life cycle full circle.

Disney Magic – Brought to you by Big Data 

Enter: The MagicBand. It's the magic potion, so to speak, for Disney's MyMagic+ initiative. A wearable piece of technology, customized with your color preference and name, and equipped with RFID as well as a (rumored) long-range radio transceiver. While donning the band on Disney property, your to-the-minute behaviors are collected, processed and activated in real time so that Disney can respond more efficiently and relevantly than ever before. It eliminates the need for room keys, parking tickets and credit cards, thus creating the ultimate convenience for park-goers while also providing Disney with critical data on the behaviors of it's customers.

Not buying it? Imagine this: You're strolling the streets of the Magic Kingdom with your family when your daughter spots her favorite Disney character, Frozen's Elsa, from afar. She has to meet her. As you approach, Elsa turns to your little girl and greets her using her first name. Complete surprise and pure childhood joy follows. Magic.

Now imagine taking millions of small experiences similar to this one, aggregated and activated, empowering Disney to create a superior, customized vacation experience for every individual who walks through its gates. 

By unifying the millions of data points collected using a visualized distributed data warehouse, and thus turning disparate data into meaningful insights, Disney is able to eliminate the guesswork and make data-driven improvements to rides and attractions, transform the experience of waiting in line, and more effectively manage park flow. From streamlining the delivery of food to your table at a park restaurant to assessing the need for placement of water stations, the data gathered through MagicBands – Disney's big data - provides the key to success. 

Seem a little big brother to you? At its core, this type of data collection is no different from the way that Target follows your credit card purchase behavior or from the way in which your FitBit tracks your every move. But in a world where big data is the focus of privacy debates and mistrust, Disney's MagicBands have not gone unquestioned. So far, the general consensus from park-goers seems to be a positive one, much because of how users' data is being used.

Companies collecting their customers' data with hopes to use it to increase their bottom line can learn a thing or two from Walt's successors.

Big Data's Ultimate Payoff – A Fairytale Experience

Perhaps the most important lesson is that there is immeasurable value generated by forming a mutually beneficial relationship with your customers that revolves around transparency. While Disney doesn't share a laundry list of initiatives that your vacation behaviors will be used for, they do acknowledge that by wearing a magic band, you are being tracked as an anonymous park-goer, data is being collected and then used to create a better experience for you and other families alike. And there's no doubt that they're following through on this pledge.

For wearers of Disney's MagicBand, the presence of value is strong and its transfer is instantaneous. In a world where patience is out and instant gratification is in, this strategy of data exchange is incredibly smart. Before the user has time to question their moral code on sharing his or her personal information, they've checked into a park, made reservations for dinner and paid for lunch all with the flick of their wrist.

The emphasis here is on employing a tool that allows companies, Disney included, to process customer data in real-time, unifying it in a way that allows organizations to efficiently make business decisions that profit the end user. At Umbel, we know most companies cannot afford to do this through a homegrown, large-scale project like Disney. That's why we are committed to helping all companies, no matter the size, control, visualize and activate their customer-centric data. 

After all, the world's most data-driven city is alive and well in Orlando. There's no reason your company can't mimic the holistic customer understanding and delight and surprise users with ethical data collection and use.