In the UK, another first for Portsmouth. Foot traffic monitoring firm Path Intelligence, based in the city, is testing patent-pending surveillance technology that continuously tracks mobile phone signals to understand the movement of shoppers as they flow through retail centres or public amenities.
The firm's FootPath system allows shopping centre managers/owners, airport and railway station managers, exhibition centres, art galleries and museums to obtain data about the path that their visitors take.
For example, the technology logs when people enter a shopping centre, what stores they visit, how long they stay there, and what route they take as they wander around. The system monitors signals produced by mobile phones and then locates each phone using triangulation - measuring the phone's distance from three receivers which are placed on walls around the centre.
Through this technique, it is possible to gather data on how many people are in a store at a specific time, how many customers visit specific stores, and how shoppers group stores together. In addition, the firm says that the system can also help organisations optimize the layout of their space and improve their retail tenancy mix.
Two UK shopping centres, including Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, are already using the system and three more plan to install it next month. During the trial, managers at the Portsmouth mall discovered that a large number of its shoppers had phones which were registered in Germany, which has since resulted in them providing bi-lingual signage throughout the venue.
According to The Times newspaper, The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has expressed 'cautious approval' of the technology; which cannot access personal identity information, but instead registers the handset's unique IMEI code - which can only be matched to a handset by the phone network.
The Portsmouth, Hampshire-based firm is online at www.pathintelligence.com .
All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.