‘Black Friday’ is synonymous with getting up insanely early to find great deals at malls and stores all around town, but as cell phones become ever more popular, the day may also come to mean something else in the minds of many shoppers: cell phone tracking.
This new use of technology is expected to be implemented in two major malls in the United States during the coming holiday season. The Short Pump Town Center, located in Richmond, Virginia and the Promenade Mall in Temecula, California, plan to track shoppers by using their cell phones.
According to Forest City Commercial Management, which oversees operations at both the malls, the tracking system will not collect personal data. “We won’t be looking at singular shoppers,” announced Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, who serves in the company’s digital strategy department. “The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.”
Supporters of the plan believe it is little different from the visual ‘crowd tracking’ that shopping malls have been doing for generations. This technological upgrade to tracking makes use of antennas that are placed in key locations around the mall. Each antenna collects data as people walk past it so that the movement of a particular phone, and the person carrying it, can be traced.
The system will begin collecting data on the busiest shopping day of the year: Black Friday, and is expected to continue operations until at least the first of January. How exactly the malls will make use of the vast amount of tracking data collected during these weeks is not yet known.