Visit tomorrow’s smart cities at today’s theme parks

Imagine a world where transportation runs on demand, not by schedule. Imagine trading that key ring for one wearable device which opens every door. Bring your smartphone, because that will reserve your dining, place your order, and pay for the check. Regardless of your day’s agenda, you’ll never wait long, because your entirely-flexible schedule and current location will be known, minute-by-minute. If schedules of others around you increase demand for any service, more resources will be sent to accommodate the demand.

That world is the city of tomorrow, the Smart City. It also is the world of many theme parks today.

Origins of smart tech

Endpoints and data are the bodies and soul of smart technology. A baby boomer’s first endpoint device may have been a pocket transistor radio, brought to school when John Glenn and Friendship 7 took three orbits around a shrinking planet. That was February 20, 1962. A child born that date might, by age 40, have earned an MBA and pocketed a Blackberry 5810. That amazing endpoint provided bi-directional communication, sending and receiving an executive’s email. A simple earbud made it a phone as well.

More devices became smart devices. By 1999, the Internet of Things connected Heating/Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems, lighting, security controls.

With new devices, the connections between them also evolved. Client-server networks had integrated systems for decades, but by 2006, applications like Salesforce began to move off servers and into the technology cloud. Cloud computing connects massive data and powerful processing to desktops, smartphones, and an always-expanding array.

By 2010, Cisco and other companies offered smart controls and sensors that could scale far beyond the walls of an individual building. Within three years, Smart Cities were receiving worldwide recognition for making lives better and using resources more efficiently. A brighter, safer future was no longer speculative fiction. It was time to claim it.

Four smart cities today

An array of smart technology is already in place and returning value, worldwide.

San Francisco, California

The City by the Bay is implementing a shared, electrically connected, autonomous fleet. It’s part of their Climate Action Strategy to use renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. Within three years, they will enable a 10 percent shift from Single-Occupancy Vehicles to shared transit. Parks can replace parking lots.

Yinchuan, China

Spin the globe west from San Francisco, and visit Yinchuan, China. ecoPreserve recently sent two delegates to a Smart Cities Connect conference there and found smart technologies that seemed years ahead of their time. Waste bins automatically compact their trash, and they contain fill sensors to notify city personnel. Citizens order groceries online and claim them from smart lockers that notify when delivery is complete. When it’s time to get out and take public transport, they never need for correct change. Transit fare is automatically withdrawn from individual accounts using onboard facial recognition.

Singapore, Malaysia

In Singapore, senior and disabled citizens carry radio frequency identification cards that keep traffic lights from changing while a street is being crossed. Every resident receives free high-speed internet. With that, they can check to see where parking is available. There’s also the option of convenient buses which are scheduled and re-routed based on reported demand.

Orlando, Florida

There’s no need to travel to China to see self-compacting waste and recycling bins. Orlando has installed the first of them near city hall. More are on the way. Tomorrow’s intelligent transport systems are being designed today at Orlando’s Metro Lab Network. Actionable, real-time information from rail, bus, and bike-share systems will be easily accessible through smartphones. Goals for the year 2020 include automation that assists vehicle drivers by controlling all safety-critical functions.

When we look across a smart city, we see vast numbers of endpoint devices that receive and transmit data. Endpoints may be anything from a smartphone, to a vehicle, to a thermostat, to a recycling bin. They all interconnect through the Internet of Things to serve community life and the business environment.

Smart theme parks

A theme park map is a lot like a city map. And smart theme parks can also have thousands of data endpoints. Here, there are attraction entrances, room doors, Point Of Sale devices, menu boards, stages, trams, security desks. Add to that, each person in the park is likely to wear or carry one or more additional linked devices.

In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Parks and Resorts™ has opened three theme parks, a water park, a dining and retail district, and a resort hotel that use a single integrated Point-Of-Sale system. These smart systems enable pre-booking and table management from remote devices. There’s no need for cash, credit cards, or printed tickets because wrist bands enable all of those functions. Food orders can be placed tableside, or by cell phone.

The Universal Studios Orlando Resort™ has linked room keys with theme park retail purchases as well as ride reservations. With the opening of their third park, they have implemented wristbands as endpoints for virtual queues, access to lockers, photo purchase and sharing, food and merchandise purchases. The devices can also enhance the entertainment experience by triggering special effects.

The Walt Disney World Resort® also has room keys with multiple smart functions in resort hotels, theme parks, and even on Disney Cruise Line® ships. Disney’s MagicBands are also endpoints for those functions, granting admission and opening doors on land and sea, claiming restaurant and ride reservations, records of photos and much more.

In theme parks worldwide, smart technology is integral to today’s guest experience, especially when paired with cell phone applications that input by voice and by touch. Enjoy the Internet of Things and today’s smart entertainment resorts as previews of tomorrow’s Smart Cities.

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone


We empower organizations to reduce environmental impact, improve efficiency, and improve quality of life.
The market value of sustainable funds remains strong as investors recognize the urgent need for Environmental, Soci… - 2 weeks ago
Alexa Stone

You may also like...

Leave a Reply