Tuesday, 25 March 2014

ground controlled at the mall

I was just watching a debate about 'ground control' - the way that private land can use telemetry to monitor and manage who is in the space and what kind of information is presented to them.

It's beyond having someone in a cap at the front door of the shopping mall, past simply having cameras, to now being able to sense what people are doing based upon their location.

Last year I also attended some debates around CLD and BSN - Continuous Location Data and Business Social Networks. Part of it included a session about fashion retailing using CLD to configure appropriate advertising of new clothes fashion to the passing shoppers. Somehow Bladerunner springs to mind.

The general point of all these things is the ways that we are all emitting ever increasing amounts of data about ourselves and that there's other people who are keen to get at this data to perform analytics for commercial purposes. To manage us as a demographic data space with a propensity to spend.

We already step into 'their world' in many of these private spaces and quite subtly have to play to their rules.

I've been through the casinos in Las Vegas and it's been a great example of ground control. Managed entrances and exits, no clues about the exterior time of day and in some areas - like the Bellagio or the Venetian - the ability to play with time of day at the press of a button.

Curiously, it was the end of my little bike ride at the weekend that brought it home to me how far it's come along. I'd finished the ride and was cycling back to where I'd parked the car. Spot the wibbly route at the end of the short journey.

Bikes were not really supposed to go in through the main car park entrance and up around the big spirally thing so I had to find another route.

Of course, I'd crossed the ground control line into the privately owned space.

I regarded it as a comedy moment. The road past the car park I needed led to an entrance to the mall. It was up a flight of about 100 steps (no escalator).

Now spot my heart rate spike as carry the bike upstairs. And oh, the irony of my continuous location data and the bike's heart rate monitor being used in the ground controlled space.

I eventually saw the signage for P2, the parking level I needed. Except it was now marked for a different car park.

I asked someone in uniform the way to my car park, and they directed me right into the mall.

"With my bike?" I checked.

"It'll be fine"

I walked in to a late morning hubbub and realised I was suddenly on about the fourth level of the mall.

I'd have to go down an awful lot of escalators to get to the right level to even start to look for my car. The map didn't give much of a clue and I couldn't actually find my car park on it, despite having cycled past it a few minutes ago.

Yes, I was inside their system. The system that was designed to make me go retail.

I decided to find an exit, which was just around the corner from where the uniformed person had helped me. To my surprise, I could see the signage for the other car park in the distance. A three minute walk away. The chap I'd asked must have been facing towards it.

I found my way in, down the stairs, again carrying my bike.

I don't think the uniformed person was deliberately giving me bad instructions. I presume the system of the mall is to get people inside and then subtly encourage them to walk as far as possible until they eventually buy something? Maybe the reward is a sign to their exit. It's like a grand form of hiding the exits in anchor stores.

I found my car, undid the bike's front wheel and packed it away. The camera overhead blinked. The light above my car showed the space was occupied.


I was fully ground controlled.

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