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  • The Wonderful World of IoT


    chris-rogers.png.028dcbdbb58f7a56396f7d1ed53202cd.png by Chris Rogers, CTP, Washington DC CUGC Leader

    So we had a lot of fun at Synergy messing around with IoT.  The OctoBlu guys were just a blast to hang out with and run GeekSpeak with.  I've said before that hacking around with things like IoT is the whole reason I'm a geek, and it's been since the early days of Linux that I've felt this amped up about a technology.  Don't even ask how much hardware that I've ordered and am currently tinkering with in just the first half of this year.  I have no fewer than 10 nanodrones sitting next to me right now, and more are coming.  Curse you, Kickstarter.  

    As I'm thinking about all of this, and my brain is just a grey haze of possibility, I have to force myself to be a bit more practical.  How can we use all of this?  What are good applications? Will this technology be used for good or evil?  With great power comes great responsibility. Ok, yeah, that went down a rabbit hole fast.  They are reasonable questions, though.  I have a thought in my head to use my drones as a sort of home surveillance swarm.  Then I read about this guy.  Great.  There will always be two sides to any debate.  We have all of this great tech and more to come very soon.  There will be those that decry the loss of privacy.  Those same people have very detailed Facebook pages.  Get over it.  The data is good, the tech is good, yes, the NSA is watching you, but do you really think they care about your hum-drum day-to-day life?  Nope.  Just data to them.  Again, get over it.

    So this brings me to the whole point of this blog article, and my most recent experience with a practical application of IoT on my Spring Break Family Vacation to Walt Disney World.  Insert needed disclaimer here about names and images being copyrighted and property of Disney, etc, etc.  This is intended to be a nod to a good use of IoT, and a bit of constructive criticism where needed.  On we go.

    I'm sure you've heard about the Disney MagicBands, right?  No?  Here, go do some light reading.  Ok, welcome back.  The short version is that Disney now sends you these cool wristbands when you buy park tickets in advance.  You can also get them at the park. Oh, and they're free.  Yes, they do sell bling for them, but why not?  So you wear these wristbands, and they serve as your park tickets, your room key, and even your credit card while you're at the park.  They tout that you don't even have to carry your wallet.  I didn't go that far.  Maybe I could have, but I at least wanted to keep my ID and one credit card on me.  Good thing I did. More on that constructive criticism later.  The whole thing starts online.  Log into the Disney parks site, and start planning.  Park tickets, food, FastPasses (OMG WORTH IT!), hotel rooms, park transportation, everything.  We had our whole week planned out before we even got on the plane.  

    We get to Orlando, and immediately start using the bands to get on the right bus for our resort.  We were already checked in, so we just basically had to go straight to our room. Oh, and our luggage was already there.  Outstanding.  Let's go have some fun.  Park tickets worked great, but here comes my first (and really only) complaint, but it's a big one. Integration.  The system isn't QUITE there yet.  When we went to make purchases, they got declined.  Odd.  Checked it a couple of times, and finally found a knowledgeable person at our hotel a few days in.  It seems that if you check in online, it doesn't properly link your credit card, and doesn't unlock purchases until you check in with a live person.  Nice safety feature, also nice to know before I try to buy something.  All fixed, and we were back to having fun.  

    Now, me being the geek, I tried to learn as much about the system as I could.  I quizzed one of the Cast Members working at the Be Our Guest restaurant about the system.  I love Cast Members, I really do.   They drink that Kool-Aid hardcore and never break the fantasy.  The exchange went something like this:

    Me: I notice the iPhones sitting on the delivery carts with the guests' orders.  Are they personal devices or company issued?

    CM: I'm sorry, what were you talking about?

    Me: The iPhones on the food carts (pointing to it).

    CM:  OH! You mean our Magic Mirrors!  Yes, they are provided by the castle.

    Me:  Magic Mirror?  Right.  Thanks.

    CM:  Certainly.  Have a magical day!

    Yup, never break the illusion.  We round out the vacation, and were quite better for the experience all around, I think.  We waited in fewer lines, had better food quicker, got in and out of the hotel quicker, and to and from the airport quicker.  All in all, a really stellar performance. Bravo Disney.  Can't wait to come back in a couple of years when you have all of the bugs worked out.

    So that brings me to the last point.  Privacy.  Disney is collecting all of that information on all of their guests.  Where they go, how long they spend, what their demographics are, how much money they spend, data, data, data, big, beautiful data. I've read plenty of articles that say that shouldn't be.  Disney and other companies shouldn't be collecting that much data on us. Google shouldn't know nearly as much about us as they do.  The NSA has no business gathering all the data it does.  Again, get over it.  This is the world we live in now.  It's fast, it's convenient, but it comes at the price of making the data available to those who make our lives faster and more convenient... and safer.  Think about that as you update your Facebook page with pictures of your kids and information about your upcoming trip out of the country.  

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