The future of payments and loyalty is here now

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Imagine a world in which you easily pay without having to carry your wallet. You can manage who has rights to pay within your family and manage preferences easily from your mobile or web. Imagine the surprise and delight of being recognized automatically as you are  rewarded with personal content that regularly enhances your daily experiences.

All of this is available today, but so far only exists within Walt Disney World.  I’ve just returned from a family trip and the Disney Magic+ band was an amazing aspect of the trip.  The bands are linked to your account which tracks hotel and restaurant reservations, members of your traveling party and preferences you’ve set for things like FastPass+ or access to special events.  Once you are on site, the band serves as your room key, ticket to the park and FastPass+ gates as well as payment for just about anything you might consider.  I’ll get to the one (ok two) exception(s) I found in a moment …

My family arrived on Thursday and that day I carried my wallet as I always do along with phone.  It became clear very quickly though that the wallet was simply redundant and I left it in our room for the days that followed.  Entering the park is a simple tap on the sensor touchpoint which after a few seconds glows green to confirm you are clear to go.  Band wearers with payment capability are also asked to confirm their identity via a quick finger print touch for ID.  What’s interesting about that piece is that you haven’t previously conceded your print (unless you’ve been to the park previously though I doubt that’s used).  I’m guessing it’s used as a backup for a fraud check as you’d have a biometric print on file to review.

Inside the park, you can use the band to pay for anything you need or want along the way.  Food and souvenirs can be paid for with a simple tap and confirmation via PIN.  If a photographer snaps a pic of your family they can tap the band to map the image to your account. I noticed that the images were available within about an hour which is pretty amazing (and a bit unnecessary even) given the volume of traffic and level of activity the typical party has going on.  In restaurants with table service each server and many of the hosts have iPod touch or iPads with scanners mounted on the underside of the cases in which they sit.  When it’s time to pay / be ID’d the process is quick, painless and frankly a pleasure.

One of the more interesting aspects of the bands though is how you are identified while enjoying a ride.  At the end of many of the more exciting sites there’s a picture wall which shows you enjoying things … these images are automagically synced to your account as well!  While pretty much everyone runs over to enjoy the pictures, Magic+ users are informed the images are already waiting for them which is pretty amazing since there’s no action required.  The bands are RFID which allows them to be scanned from a bit of a distance … I’m not sure what frequency they run on, but it’s enough of a distance that you have no sense the scanner is nearby.  They enhances the impact of the images auto-syncing to your account.  While I did not witness this firsthand, I believe it would also enable Disney Cast Members (park and resort staff) to seamless wish people a happy birthday, anniversary etc which today is largely managed through buttons people proudly wear.

All in the experience was pretty excellent.  I did however run into two small glitches in the matrix.  The first was in a vending machine in our hotel.  The machine accepted bills and NFC payments, but not the Magic+ band which feels like a miss given the use in 99.99% of the rest of the park.  The other was when I had the concierge adjust and change a dinner reservation and was asked for my credit card to hold things.  This one was a surprise frankly as there was a card on file for our bands and rooms and really felt unnecessary – especially since payment for the meal out be managed through the band!

Quick note on the vending machine as well … As it offered NFC, I tried MANY times to get Apple Pay to work, but it failed and eventually took the NFC function offline (literally deactivated) after a few tries.  The machine actually suggested I use a softcard (ISIS) which was the first I’ve seen in the wild … after a trip back to the room for my wallet I was finally able to buy a bottle of water – with cash.

The Disney implementation of Magic+ bands shows how proper consideration can really deliver a high value, low friction experience regularly across quite a few use cases and is something I hope others will learn from.  When you can control the end-to-end it’s certainly easy by comparison, but it did cost Disney around $1 Billion to roll-out.  The best part was it was very clear that everyone around was able to use it, not just techie types.  Additionally and perhaps even more importantly while there’s a lot of complex technology in place, the experience was not technical but rather more personal and allowed more positive human interaction.

 

Massif Management: Surf Photographers

More Salty Pictures via slideshow at the link below. #solid.

This past fall, Jonathan Feldman formed Massif Management, a photo agency that represents a group of young surfers who are also photographers. “They’re ‘surf photographers’ insofar as they shoot waves and wave riders, but they’re also working across any number of different genres, from art and fashion to travel,” Feldman told me. “Still, for all these guys, surfing is an abiding passion, and I think you feel the presence of the ocean in their photos, even when they’re working away from the water. They make salty pictures.”
via The New Yorker.

AT&T and Metro North Testing Wifi?

I spotted a new hotspot while waiting to depart from Grand Central tonight …

ND ATT Metro North Trial

Unfortunately, I was unable to connect from my iPhone or laptop, but signal was pretty decent for a few fleeting moments regardless. I really hope that this is an active test and that wifi starts to rollout. Currently there is wifi along the train line via Cablevision, Time Warner and Comcast though it’s impossible to actually use on the go.

Battle of the cable company wifi networks

I obviously have no helpful information on this possible test, but can say I’d be very interested in using it and would even pay.  AT&T is looking to glean an extra $45/mo for tethering and while that would be bandwidth I could use all to myself, a slightly slower shared connection would be of great use.  I tend to use the iPad rather than my laptop, but there are plenty of times when the laptop would be handy …

I wonder if Metro North is serious with this and even if they’d consider free.  For pay, I’d love to see it packaged or validated with a monthly rail pass.

 

JetBlue Fails Their Own Digital Savvy Test

This morning I read about how JetBlue used Twitter to try and test the agencies pitching for their business.   I think it caught my attention as I had a Jet Blue flight booked for later in the day …  Well fast forward a few hours to that time and suddenly I’ve got a reason to reach out to JetBlue about my family’s experience today.  It wasn’t great.

On the way down to Florida, we were booked in 4 seats in row 1 and our last seat in row 18.  Not exactly stellar and something only a computer would do.  We had to actually forfeit the row 18 seat and checked our car seat once on the plane in order to make sure the whole family stayed together.  Traveling with three small kids can be stressful and not being together only amplifies the potential challenge of keeping everyone calm.  JetBlue has said (via the flight attendant) that they’d be looking to reimburse us for the lost seat … I guess we have to wait it out on that one.  I didn’t tweet it, but I’m posting it now.

Today was our return trip and while our seats were booked together, we were in the back of the plane.  Not ideal, but certainly acceptable -being together was the most important detail.  While waiting around for the boarding call, I tried to see if we might move forward a bit (we were booked 2 rows from the back).  I waited patiently and politely and stood quite when a passenger was called up from the back of the line to be helped first.  Her issue was apparently far too complicated and used up any available time for me.  Instead we got a gruff, there are no seats to move around (after the passenger ahead in line moved).  OK …

About 5 minutes later the pre-boarding call was announced and we immediately made our way over to the gate door.  The JetBlue attendant looked at our boarding passes and gave us an earful about not coming over sooner for the pre-board even though she had literally just announced it.  Instead of letting us on the plane, we were asked to stand to the side while other rows for main boarding started.  There were at least 3 other families who also found the same experience and all were surprised to find that there wasn’t a pre-boarding and that we were being scolded for not respecting the call (that had just happened).

I’ve traveled far too much to know getting angry with the person behind the desk never leads to anything good for you, but man the families were livid.  We all have small kids and definitely need more time to get on the plane, deal with car seats unpack etc.  Not today …   My family was cool.  We got on board eventually and I was able to get the car seat belted for my son, but one of the other families ran into an issue and started to get quite nervous about securing their child safely.  Joe (real name) from JetBlue came over to help but got testy with the nervous parent who was certainly pushing to get things resolved.  We heard Joe scold the dad by saying “I don’t come to your office and tell you how to do your job, so don’t tell me how to do mine.”  I can’t help but think that extra time we all wanted during pre-board would have been exactly what we needed right then.

Back to the original tweet test … I tweeted this as it was happening today – twice.  JetBlue?  No comment today … tomorrow won’t matter.  Let’s not forget this social media stuff is a two-way street, JetBlue.  Looking at you, @martysg.  Comcast and Zappos don’t need #sneaky hashtags, they pay attention and respond within a reasonable amount of time – sometimes surprisingly fast.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 initial thoughts

I’ve been using the new BlackBerry 9700 for a bit over a week and it’s an impressive device. The last BB I used was a curve from about two years ago and it is immediately clear that the platform has matured to accommodate applications and multitasking.

In the past my experience aside from email and ota sync of exchange, was pretty negative. The curve was a very underwhelming device once you started to consider it a smartphone. Multitasking brought it to its knees and made anything in addition to email rather unpleasant.

The new Bold 9700 is a refreshing change. I really find the experience to be solid. The 9700 truly excels as a communicator which clearly remains the core blackberry sweet spot. The unified inbox is a very smart idea and let’s you focus a great deal of attention in a single streamlined place. Multiple email inboxes, gtalk chats, facebook notices (which open contextually in the app!) blackberry messenger chats and sms messages all in one place really rock. I still like to move between the various comms modes but staying connected cross channel in one place is awesome.

While the 9700 is my main work device I am still exploring apps and getting a rich feel for the platform and app ecosystem. I have yet to purchase any apps, but have spent a fair bit of time with BB App World. Its easy to see where it is heading and the initial roll out is admirable but there are quite a few issues … To name a few:

Even after sharing my imei and specific device on the web I still get apps that are not compatible. Fail.

App World is a bit tedious. Its nice that you can download multiple things but navigation requires too many steps. If you find an app online either from the desktop or mobile you often find a page that gives you a choice of downloading within app world or actually downloading app world itself. Why wasn’t the store even on my brand new flagship by default??

Back to the device itself…

The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to but once you have a feel its super to type on. I can type much faster than I ever did on either the Nokia E71 or E75. No contest really.

The speed at which you can process incoming messages as well as crank out what you need on the go is outstanding. Mobile productivity is way up compared to both Symbian and iPhone usage. Exchange integration is amazing with BES. I realize that’s quite a premium compared to the more standard consumer facing BIS but it truly is a robust solution. I know Nokia is trying to compete with this via Mail For Exchange but in the past few years I have experienced far too many halted syncs and errors to believe that’s really an appropriate enterprise solution. On the consumer side perhaps there is more tolerance but I’ve lost some faith after so many hiccups.

I’ve started to use BB Messenger with some teammates and see that really in the same way that Nextel offered Direct Connect (sans voice). It’s a solid choice for chatting in either one to one or groups on the go and is an sms beater (with threads!) If everyone is on the platform.

The browser has improved and is tolerable. At best it gives S60 a run for the money but has nothing on the webkit offerings from Android and iphone. For me it gets the job done as needed but it is not my goto browser. I do really like the use of keyboard shortcuts and how easy it is to initiate a new page or search. Tabs would be excellent and I am unsure why this was omitted …

Call quality, camera (with geotagging) and memory usage are all solid. It seems impossible to understand what apps are currently running vs recently run in the task switcher but as I have yet to run out of RAM this seems like a minor point.

I will probably have some additional points soon but thus far the current Blackberry system is quite solid and something I would definitely recommend.

Btw – I wrote this post on the 9700 while on the train home. Pandora was streaming nicely in the background the whole time.

gogo internet on american sfo to jfk

gogo internet on american sfo to jfk

That’s a pretty close to live speedtest coming from my flight from SFO to JFK and while the upstream is far from awesome, I don’t even care.  I’m cruising through mail, tweeting and (obviously) blogging with ease.  This is a completely game changing travel experience and something I hope goes to many more flights and airlines soon.

I should note the service costs $15/ flight but I am surfing free thanks to a summer promotion from American Airlines.