Holiday customers will be tracked by their phones

Nov 24, 2011 by Nancy Owano report
Image: Path Intelligence

(PhysOrg.com) -- Black Friday shoppers in California and Virginia might learn their phones are being tracked as they move along the mall. That's the plan at the Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Virginia. The malls intend to monitor signals from peoples' cell phones starting on Black Friday and running through New Year's Day. Their movements will be tracked as they go from store to store.

The mechanism at play is called FootPath Technology, which works through antennas placed throughout a shopping center.

The monitoring units measure signals from people’s mobile phones. According to FootPath’s company, Path Intelligence, based in Portsmouth in the UK, the technology is able to locate a person’s position to within a few meters. The antennas capture the unique identification number of the shopper’s phone.

The data is fed to a processing center where the data is audited and undergoes statistical analysis. The shopper-flow information is continuously updated At any time, shopping center management can access the data via the Path Intelligence web-based reporting system.

Retailers and mall management have long been excited about capturing drill-down data to support decisions about optimal inventory, position in the mall, staffing, and customer demographics. For the industry, this is one more survival data tool. For mall management, knowing more about their shopper traffic is their lifeblood. People’s patterns of movement can give them a better opportunity to profit and keep drawing in traffic by ensuring a better so-called “shopping experience.”

They are eager to know if from store A go to store B, and how long a shopper remains in any one store. They also get a handle on which stores are being ignored altogether.

Management at both malls say that personal data is not at risk, as personal data is not tracked. Signs posted around the malls will give visitors the opportunity to shut off their phones.

Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research, has said that as more retailers move to roll out this kind of technology, the scenario will have to be for them to ask customers to opt in, not opt out.

In retail stores, counting people has already been in use through the implementation of various technologies such as infrared beams, computer vision and thermal imaging.

Path Intelligence launched with the idea of bringing online analytics to the offline world. The company wanted to close the information gap about offline customer movements. They sought to provide retail clients with a richer level of information so that they were not just getting people counts but also retail analysis.

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More information:
via CNN

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User comments : 15

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gwrede
4.5 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2011
It would be very easy to match credit card logs to store attendance to learn which phone belongs to who. After that, just visit the gun shop and you start receiving NRA leaflets at home.
Temple
3.5 / 5 (6) Nov 24, 2011
And in news from 30 years ago:

Security cameras in malls also allow for tracking of holiday customers from store to store, whether or not they are carrying a phone.

Graeme
3 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2011
The telephone id would be much easier to identify uniquely than an image on a security camera. Both could be tied to a credit card if that data was made available. This would not normally be available to the mall. But if there was a crime committed, then the information would certainly be useful to law enforcement. Some big companies, say Google could purchase the data from all the different places and put a bigger picture together to see all the shopping behaviour per person. So for example a person with a phone spends time looking at handbag shops. Next time they are in an internet cafe with that phone, Google shows them handbag ads.
Grizzled
3.8 / 5 (4) Nov 25, 2011
@Graeme: Hate to think just what Google might show them if they spent time in adult shops :-)
Cave_Man
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 25, 2011
I hope tomorrow theres a news story about some punk ass kid who thinks he's a rebel getting arrested because his iPhone daddy bought him tracked his movements as he did something illegal.
shawnhar
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 25, 2011
This is very, very bad....unless you have nothing to hide...
rab96
3.5 / 5 (2) Nov 25, 2011
Solution: turn off cell phone when shopping or use quantum entangled sim cards (not yet available)...
socean
4 / 5 (3) Nov 25, 2011
Why let Path Intelligence have all the fun? These receivers are easy enough to build. We need an open source project, so we can ALL monitor each other.

I can hear my wife now: "What the heck are you doing in the Victoria's Secret dressing room?"
Ricochet
4 / 5 (1) Nov 25, 2011
Screw with their system be randomly turning your radio off and on from different locations.
shwhjw
5 / 5 (2) Nov 26, 2011
Who's up for a flash mob which walks between sex shops and kids' shops all day?
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Nov 27, 2011
This is very, very bad....unless you have nothing to hide...


Everyone thinks having nothing to hide makes you immune to privacy infringement. What if your boss or your mayor or a client has something to hide--someone finds out--and so a job or a contract you would have gotten goes to someone else? Do you really want every potential employer in town knowing what part of the political spectrum you're on?

No one ever bothers to think ahead to possible consequences of throwing away everyone's privacy and liberties. What could possibly go wrong?
Humpty
1 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2011
Uhhhh fuck - don't these pricks EVER let up.

The principle of trade is a relationship of trade between 2 people, an exchange, usually at a profit for a need.

Build a 20W jammer...

Or shop elsewhere.
Ricochet
not rated yet Nov 28, 2011
I dunno... I kind of like the whole notion of screwing with the system. Although I imagine that one individual's efforts would be washed out by the averages, but mobbing it would make it significant.
Oysteroid
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2011
Re: the flash mob idea. If your shopping mall also has a gun/hunting/weapons shop in it - throw it in too. Also the pharmacy (bring all the prescriptions you can)... Then sit back and watch the law enforcement converge on you :-)
Ricochet
not rated yet Nov 28, 2011
Re: the flash mob idea. If your shopping mall also has a gun/hunting/weapons shop in it - throw it in too. Also the pharmacy (bring all the prescriptions you can)... Then sit back and watch the law enforcement converge on you :-)

Yes, and won't they be embarassed when they find nothing. You could even invite the media along for the party.