The IFTF Blog
What do Harrah’s Casino and Disney World Tell Us About Anticipatory Health?
Disney World recently announced that it’s unrolling an new system in its park, in which all patrons will receive RFID bracelets that will help customize their park experience. The NY Times story mentions a lot of things these bracelets enable: the elimination of lines, payment for food and gifts with the wave of a hand, unspecified customized experiences based on a person’s behavior within the park and their stated preferences, and, of course, some serious privacy concerns. It’s possible for Disney World to do this right now, because it’s something of a closed ecosystem, but I think this development serves as an interesting harbinger of things to come. Disney World may soon be a microcosm of the world of the future, in which the people and machines in our environment will be able to access personal information about us and then use that info to customize our experiences.
These experiences could, of course, be customized to our health and well-being needs. Health Horizons has forecasted, for instance, augmented and diminished reality experiences that steer us to healthy eating choices and, in our yet to publically released 2012 map, environments that respond to our stress levels by changing music and lighting. But what I find particularly interesting, is the potential for what we call “anticipatory health.” The basic idea of anticipatory health is that real time data generated by sensors on/in our bodies and environment will allow us to detect health threats before they happen—be they potential epidemics, cancer in its extremely early stages, or even someone about to fall off their wellness or exercise regimen—and then take preventative action. A comprehensive system like this for health is, of course, still a ways off. However, we can see hints of what this might look like in an unexpected place, one that is, like Disney World, an entertainment destination with a closed ecosystem: Harrah’s Casino.
An old episode of NPR’s Radiolab explained that Harrah’s Casino chain offers a loyalty card that most of its patrons end up signing up for. Like most loyalty cards, it tracks transactions, but instead of compiling the data over a long period of time and then sending targeted coupons, the Harrah’s card tracks real time data about where patrons are playing slots within the casino and how much they’re winning or losing. The casino has determined that after a player loses a certain amount of money, they are likely to quit an not come back, so they use this real time data to identify patrons who are about to hit that limit. They then intervene by approaching the patron and offering them some sort of gift, which doesn’t stop them from leaving in that instance, but prevents them from leaving with a sour feeling that would keep them from coming back at a later date.
Now, influencing people to keep gambling and influencing them to stick to a wellness plan are very different things, of course. However, I think Harrah’s, (and Disney World's new, potentially more sophisticated system), offer us an interesting look at what future health systems could look like.