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Making the Band – MagicBand Teardown and More

Disclaimer: Every single thing in this post is public record, or publicly-available information. Please don’t comment otherwise. :)

Welcome back!

Today’s post is a departure from the usual… Many of you know that I’m a school counselor. You may not realize that I’ve got a lot of history with technology; having majored in computer science, attended a technology-focused high school, served in many technology roles across my career path, and even built award-winning robots (at a competition hosted by Disney, no less).

Suffice it to say, technology very much interests me. MagicBands, MyMagic+, and the whole Next Gen technology push at Disney is no exception. I decided to tear down one of my many MagicBands (actually, my girlfriend‘s broken one) to see just what’s going on inside there. Beyond just tearing into the Band itself, I pulled all of the information from the FCC’s search engine relevant to MagicBands and shared that with you as well.

First, the MagicBand teardown! Big, huge thanks to @clintssmith for the table and the photography help!

Thoughts: I knew about the RFID technology… it just made sense to me. Here’s the Wikipedia page about RFID, so you can understand why I assumed quite easily that was what was going on here. The Wal-Mart tag on that page looks a lot like what you see in loss-prevention (anti-shoplifting) tags, as well as the antenna/induction coil layout in the MagicBand. HowStuffWorks also explains RFID, in a much more understandable way.

What surprised me about the inside of the MagicBand was the button cell battery, the second transmitter setup, and the size of the antenna on that second transmitter. RFID is a type of near-field communication, meaning it has to be very close to the reader to activate and to transmit. The non-RFID transmitter is both powered and has a huge (relatively) antenna the size of the colored part of the Band. This means that the communication does NOT require that your band be right at the reader… This means that Disney is wisely able to track MagicBand users as they travel throughout the Parks (and possibly Disney Property as a whole). Will we see Disney roll out long-range readers on their cruise ships? In their stores? On their golf courses? In their resort hotels? Who’s to say? I know I’ve seen MyMagic+ management-types aiming a directional antenna at my train as I rolled into Main Street Station. Data is money and guest satisfaction. There’s no way Disney is going to leave either of those on the table.

Beyond the Band

The long-range antenna and second chip had me wondering just what sort of specifications these MagicBands had… on a suggestion from @clintssmith, I decided to hit the FCC’s public search engine to dig up a little more info for you guys. I’ve linked PDF documents below, each with some fairly interesting information within them.

Visit https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm?calledFromFrame=N if you want to dig up the documents yourself. Enter the grantee code Q3E and go to town…

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 5.56.42 PMYou’ll get a results page like this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 5.53.50 PMAnd clicking on any of the links will lead you deeper:Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 5.59.14 PMHowever, as I said, I’ve done the work for you. Click through the following links for some interesting reading, if you’re a nerd type like me. Or click them for cool pictures like this one, and dozens more:

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 6.37.57 PMSo, here’s what I found:

MagicBand:

MagicBand Reader Dome:

Payment Device:

XBR (Long Range Receiver) Version 3.0:

XBR(Long Range Receiver) Version 3.2:

XBR(Long Range Receiver) Version 4.0:

XTPRA/XTPRS:

Hope you enjoyed this little detour from the usual… Please let me know in the comments or on twitter!
-ADA
@AtDisneyAgain

This entry was written by atdisneyagain and published on January 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm. It’s filed under Disney and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

35 thoughts on “Making the Band – MagicBand Teardown and More

  1. Nice info. I had assumed they used active RFID tags or transmitters and wondered if they were 2.4GHz or Bluetooth. There’s always been the intention of adding interactivity to rides, etc., which would need something better than just passive tag reading.
    I’m excited to see what they can do with the system. It will allow them to keep moving forward with technology in rides and also improve customer service in some aspects once they have gathered enough data about how guests operate in the parks.

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  5. Great post. I’m a wireless engineer and have been waiting for an excuse to take one of my families magic bands apart! Great photos and teardown, The 2.4 ghz radio is very interesting and with that antenna could get pretty decent range depending on the power. I cant wait to see what WDW does with it in the future.

  6. Reblogged this on The random thoughts of wfmaguire and commented:
    Great post on the insides of your MagicBand.

  7. each band also has the ability to unlock content on the Disney Infinity game disc …

    http://www.disneyinfinityfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4789

  8. happy to. thanks for the teardown. i’m adding a link on our forums back to this as i know we have enough geeks that will be interested ;)

  9. @atdisneyagain, thanks! As a computer science student I find this fascinating!

  10. Strangeite on said:

    It is almost a given that the bands are using the new Bluetooth LE protocols. Thomas Staggs confirmed at D11 last year that the bands contain Bluetooth, and your teardown is the final piece that proves it is Bluetooth LE.

    There are a couple of academic papers that have been submitted for peer review by Disney Imagineers that outline the long term goal of the NextGen system and why they needed a long range protocol.

    Here is a paper submitted to an artificial intelligence journal explaining how the Imagineers have created a virtual Magic Kingdom in order to explore real time crowd control. Think flight traffic control for people.

    http://www.spirops.com/papers/Stephanie%20Huerre_CASA_2010.pdf

    Here is another excellent paper submitted to a journal explaining the incentives used in NextGen

    http://jtr.sagepub.com/content/52/4/426

    There are a ton more papers out there. Search academic journals for Disney Imagineering and you will find all kinds of interesting stuff.

    Have fun!

    • Wow. That’s some great info! Thanks for sharing it. I’ve got some googling to do :)

      • Strangeite on said:

        Don’t forget, Disney is spending $2 billion (yes, with a b) on NextGen. That is more than Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios or Epcot cost to build. NextGen IS the 5th gate.

        I am routinely asked how Disney is going to increase revenue from the system and I am sure they have thought of ways I could never dream of, but there is one very clear and simple demonstration of how NextGen can increase revenue.

        Imagine you are browsing Art of Animation in Epcot, spending quite a bit of time lingering over the animation cells. Suddenly your phone dings. You look down and have received a message saying that a coupon for 10% off anything in Art of Animation has been added to your MagicBand. That would push many people over the edge from browsing to buying.

        But let’s say you resist and leave the store. Later in the evening as you heading back from World Showcase to the entrance and you get near Art of Animation, your phone dings again. This time it says a coupon for 30% of animation cells has been added to your MagicBand. Disney knew you spent quite a bit of time looking at them because the system will let them triangulate your location to within 12 inches or so.

        Don’t believe me? Go eat lunch at Be Our Guest. When you pay for your meal with a MagicBand at the counter, they tell you to go sit anywhere you would like. They don’t give you a number or a beeper or anything. Just go sit anywhere. When your food is done, they bring it right to your table (and those tables are packed tight). They knew exactly where you were located.

        The possibilities are staggering. Read the academic papers, Disney is attempting a level of real-time algorithmic based crowd control that is at least an order of magnitude more sophisticated than anyone has ever attempted.

  11. It is in the FAQs on the Disney website that they are in fact using long-range RFID antennae to track guests throughout Disney World property and presumably on the cruise ships. It is in fact the main point of the technology. The rest of the stuff (personalization, etc.) is just to actually get you to wear it.

    • Thank you, Jim. The card that comes with the Annual Passholder MagicBand states much of the same. Not sure when the verbiage went on the website… Thanks again for the update!

  12. Very interesting, thanks for going to the effort of doing this and then doing a write up. I will be sharing this with our community as I am sure many people will be very interested!

  13. Geren Piltz on said:

    So glad to find such a thorough article. Can you provide any information on the actual data stored on the band, perhaps with the text of the information. A friend gifted me a band, and without a reader, RFID or otherwise, I’m stymied. Really appreciate your kind efforts.

    • My understanding is that the band merely holds an ID associated with the account that the system just looks up your account’s privileges. No info is stored on the band, as far as I know.

      • Geren Piltz on said:

        Thanks very much for your kind reply. Fascinating to dig into the behind-the-scenes details, and makes me appreciate why this kind of system is so complex. Love the blog!

      • Thanks! I’m posting a behind the scenes tour next – the one at EPCOT’s Land Pavilion.

  14. Alan on said:

    In my point of view, Magic band is not only for ticket but also a sort of geo-fencing device. In their explanation from “https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/my-disney-experience/frequency-technology/”, device doesn’t send personal info but it may send device unique id through ISM band. From given info, system will send proper coupon or guide base on their position. If you wanna know this kind of services, refer ibeacon or playpal. I guess Jack Dorsey have an ambitious plan to extend NEXT Generation e-commerce system on WDW.

  15. I’m not positive, but I think all the tech is RFID. There are both passive and active tags in each MB. There are passive tags that can be read from up to 30 meters away. Active tags extend the range even further and dramatically increase the speed of communication.

    Paired with a database, there’s absolutely no reason that more data would be needed to add interactivity to attractions.

    Want to personally greet everyone in a ride vehicle? Scan the vehicle for IDs, join the IDs to first names in the database, and play the corresponding audio or update the appropriate video display.

    Lots of possibilities. The dual RFID implementation should lay the foundation for some big things.

    • I’m pretty excited about what the future holds for MagicBands and MyMagic+. I remember seeing MyMagic+ teams scanning our train with a directional antenna once. It was interesting to see them gathering data so easily and quickly on an old “dumb” attraction.

      • stevensokulski on said:

        Amazing! And disguising the antennas into existing attractions should be quite easy. They can be located quite far away and easily pass through mesh, cloth, or wood. So putting them in themed boxes, furniture, etc. should work well.

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