The E. about locating and tagging
In the last science and technology quarterly of the E, there are two interesting articles closely related with the hybridization of the digital and the physical: "Playing tag" and "Watching as you shop". While the former is about spatial annotation through mobile devices, the latter addresses locative technologies in shops. Notes about "Playing tag": the article is about the new "nirvana": "linking virtual communities such as Facebook or MySpace with the real world". The typical use-case they propose is the following:
"MAGINE you are a woman at a party who spots a good-looking fellow standing alone in a corner. Before working up the courage to talk to him, you whip out your mobile phone. A few clicks reveal his age and profession, links to his latest blog posts and a plethora of other personal information. To many, this sounds like a nightmare. "
. And the article goes by describing a new service called Aka-Aki which uses Bluetooth for that matter.
Notes about "Watching as you shop": the technology they describe aims at monitoring queue lengths, adjust store layouts and staffing levels or gathering data on where customers go, where and how long they stop, and how they react to different products (so that in-store designs and marketing campaigns can be improved). Some are even jumping on richer data acquisition processes: "These sensors recorded data on customer-traffic patterns, to which was added further information recorded by human observers. By comparing the resulting data with sales information, it was then possible to gain insight into shoppers' behaviour."
They obtain this sort of map, which is now common... as it is the sort of canonical representation of any spatial behavior analysis ranging from a supermarket to first person shooter games.
Why do I blog this? following the progress of this field for quite some time now and having written a PhD dissertation on the topic, I am always surprised by how locative or tagging technologies are presented. It's always the same story of weird use-cases (targeted to a certain elite or nonsensical to 99% of the population on earth)... and finally what we end up with is to have mobile social software that are (almost) not used AND monitoring systems that are more easily deployed in shops and supermarkets.