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PHOTOS - RFID entry system testing at Epcot's main entrance

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We reported last week that construction walls were in place around a previously used test area for turnstile-less entry into Epcot, and today guests at Epcot got to try an all-new entry system for getting into a Disney park.

On arrival at Epcot today, some guests were diverted to the left hand side of the entry plaza.  At a couple of tables, park tickets were converted into radio Frequency ID (RFID) enabled tickets, by means of attaching a Mickey sticker containing the RFID chip (see the photos below for a look at the converted ticket).  The magnetic strip on the ticket was scanned into a computer to match the park ticket to the RFID chip now in place on the ticket.  RFID works similar to an existing ticket, but instead of the ticket passing through a reader, the object containing the chip just has to be placed closed to the reader.  You may have an RFID credit card, or a toll device in your car.

Once enrolled in the system, guests were directed to one of two new entry systems, one designed for group entry, and the other designed for guests entering in single file, similar to the current single file entry system.  

At the single file entry area, an RFID reader, very well designed as a Mickey head, greets guests.  The guest places their ticket up to the reader, and it prompts for a finger scan, and on successful validation, lights up green, and the guest is free to enter the park.  There is no turnstile or any other barrier, just some Cast Members overseeing the process.  

The group entry area is very similar, but instead of having a single reader and queue, it is arranged with two banks of four readers.  This would be ideal for a group entering together, especially with strollers or wheelchairs.  Everyone can scan their tickets at the same time, and all enter together, without clambering through turnstiles.

The new system offers a number of distinct advantages for both Disney and the guests.  Firstly, there is no longer a need for tickets to physically pass through the machine.  This means less tickets getting jammed, simpler and smaller entry machines, and a much friendlier system to use.  Secondly, the system allows a very significant advantage to the existing system in that it no longer means only tickets can be used as entry.  Using proximity RFID means that the entry media could be a wrist-band, ticket, or anything with an RFID chip embedded into it.  As we know, Disney have been looking at wrist-bands as part of the "next-gen" initiative, and this new entry system would tie very nicely into that.

Assuming Disney can make this work, without physical barriers, it would no doubt be a huge upgrade to the way guests enter the parks.  Not only would entry be so much quicker, the whole process would be more inviting, and an absolutely huge relief of pressure for families traveling with small children.  Currently, it appears that this is a limited test (it is only running on two entry areas at Epcot), but should it succeed, it would seem a certainty to roll out to all the turnstiles at Walt Disney World.  Check out the photos below for a look at the system and each of the components.
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