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Could in-store navigation tech be a shopper’s worst nightmare?


So GPS is great, but it has its limitations. As soon as the satellites can’t see you; your signal is lost. This is particularly true when you are trying to find your way around a shopping centre or an unfamiliar airport.

Luckily for all directionally challenged shoppers out there, Fraunhofer (Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization) will allow in-store or in-mall navigation by allowing your device to communicate with small sensors scattered strategically throughout the building.

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The system (currently called MST-SmartSense Sensor) is activated when you scan a QR code. This scanned QR code then automatically fixes your current position in the shop. Combine this with the compass and motion sensors already installed on most tablets and you are ready to go. The program will now be able to direct you within seconds to wherever in the shop you need to get to.

Fraunhofer have said the following about the advances they have made in the specific coupling of multiple sensors which make the capabilities so groundbreaking:

These include an acceleration sensor that registers the motion of the body, and a magnetic field sensor that measures the alignment of the body through its position in relation to the earth‘s magnetic field. In tandem, they map a highly precise movement pattern. “Sensor fusion” is the term von Rosenberg uses to refer to such intelligent coupling of multiple sensors. The fascinating thing is that the module does not have to be calibrated by the user. On its own, it detects if the individual has long legs, or is just taking baby steps.

The ramifications of this technology are literally boundless. If a system like this was rolled out in a museum visitors could walk their way through at leisure only going to the specific items of interest to their needs.

Educationally, combine this technology with gamification principles and the museum becomes an educational treasure map.

In an airport when you need to quickly find the fastest route between terminals for a connecting flight, the MST-SmartSense Sensor (the name needs work) can help you to ensure you don’t miss your connecting flight.

Combine another shopping technology — the Kinect trolley — and things get even more interesting. The Kinect Trolley is a trolley that runs off of Microsoft Kinect’s motion sensors which is being pioneered by Whole Foods.

Simply put, you scan your loyalty card to identify yourself and open your shopping record when you start shopping. As you start dropping items into your trolley, it scans them and keeps a running totally of what your bill will be at the checkout counter; further to that it also builds up a record of what you buy so it can make suggestions and also prompt you if you usually buy a specific brand and opt for another.

With the MST-SmartSense Sensor enabled with the Kinect Trolley, shopping time will be cut in half as a route can be easily mapped to ensure optimum shopping.

Of course the shops themselves will have to think carefully about implementing such technologies as this will get rid of “wanderers” who buy opportunistically when they see a bargain that may be advertised off of an optimised route. Then again the shops could ensure that the ‘optimal route’ is slightly less than optimal.

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