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Big brother update

OK, het is een enorme lap tekst... Maar het geeft je wel een leuke blik op de (marketing) wereld van morgen.


Doe mij maar zo'n shoppingcart, maar geen gare chips in mijn lijf :)


Dit verhaal komt uit de Harrow Technology Report nieuwsbrief. Om lid te worden: http://www.theharrowgroup.com/signup.asp


Big Brother Update.




1984 may be well behind us, but the threat of an Orwellian technological

Big Brother, and of some seriously invasive advertising, is not just

around the corner -- it's here now!


For example consider a test already taking place in two Safeway grocery

stores in California: Each shopping cart comes with its own bar code

scanner and a color touch screen. Although not required, once you swipe

your "loyalty card" so that you can get the various discounts (some

non-trivial), your cart knows who you are. And more importantly, it

knows your detailed shopping history (at that store or, assumedly, at

any other Safeway).


You may not like this "Active Cart" idea, although if it prevents you

from having to rescan everything when you checkout it may be a seductive

time saver. But there is one other issue -- the cart that knows WHO you

are, also knows WHERE you are in the store. So, for example, as you

approach the steak area of the meat counter, that nice color screen

might display an ad offering you a discount on the type of steak you

normally buy. Or perhaps it might try to "up-sell" you to the next

higher cut or grade of meat. And of course it can do this throughout

the store, since it has a complete history of what you've bought in the



Oh - and since the database behind all of this knows WHEN you bought

each item in the past, it can also discern that based on your buying

habits, or on "averages" of how often people run out of that product,

that YOU'RE probably running out of it about now. So it can "remind"

you to pick up some more, perhaps enticing you to do so by crafting a

discount or other incentive right on the spot. Could this evolve so

that the cart notices that you have passed by the location of this 'must

have' product, so it offers you a better incentive to go back and buy it

(which would also get you to pass other products that might catch your

eye)? Let's not go there...


What an opportunity this opens for those statisticians/programmers who

can perform the best data mining on all this data, and for the

psychologists who determine the most effective ways to best, er, milk

the grocery store customers...


A bit scary perhaps, but once you've flashed your "loyalty card" to this

high tech cart, or even when you check out at a more

technologically-challenged store and flash your "loyalty card," or even

if you just pay by credit or debit card(!), the store is ALREADY

tracking what you buy, and when. This cart may be just a logical (and

perhaps helpful) extension of the status quo, even while it blatantly

struts the encroaching lack of personal privacy.


Come to think of it, wasn't it a similar "bargain" that got Faust into





The Stores' Side.


The stores, on the other hand, hope to benefit from better-predicting

what inventory they should carry. Plus, they hope that, discounts and

all, they'll be able to improve the shopping experience so that it

entices you into spending more. As IDC analyst Chris Boone puts it in

the Oct. 28 News.com (http://news.com.com/2100-1017-963526.html), "If

you typically spend $80, they want you to spend $100."




Further Improving The "User Experience."


Speaking of improving the "user experience" at the store, I suggest that

such a high-tech cart could be even more seductive if it's willing to

lead me to a specific item at my request -- I'd hate to add up the time

I've lost on 'search and recover' missions for a small can of cranberry

sauce, an odd spice such as Herbs de Provence


(I finally found out what goes into this blend, thanks to Google -


MIXES/Herbs_De_Provence_Spice_Mix.html , etc.)


Come to think of it, how about letting me Email my current grocery list

to the store before I leave home (or beam it into the cart from my PDA),

and have it lay out the most time-efficient path for me to take through

the store, indicating exactly where I should stop to pickup each item!

("Stop here and pick up your shopping list's "Death by Chocolate" cake

on the left, second shelf up from the bottom.")


That WOULD, I suspect, entice many people towards the choice of giving

up some privacy for the duel benefits of money AND time saved.




Other Technological "Big Brother" Examples...


There are, of course, numerous technology examples, especially since

9/11, that may yet bring a smile to George Orwell's stilled lips. For

example, there are the obvious, such as the growing number of

surveillance cameras as exemplified in Great Britain, where (with just a

bit of exaggeration) there's probably not a place where you can walk

outside in London and not appear on at least several screens.


And then there are the less than obvious, such as Applied Digital

Solutions' grain-of-rice sized implantable human ID chip. For $200 plus

some additional fees, this chip will respond to a scanner held near the

body with a radio signal that identifies the specific code number of

that chip (which then yields the person's name and other information

when cross-referenced with a database.) Now, these things may get more

popular since, brought to our attention by reader Allen Weinberg in the

Oct. 25 Wired News

(http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,55999,00.html), the FDA has

just ruled that VeriChip's tiny ID chip is NOT "a medical device when

used for 'security, financial and personal identification/safety

applications.'" (On the other hand, do we really want to have things

implanted within us that haven't gone through the most rigorous of

safety and quality checks?)


VeriChip's campaign will surely suggest many good reasons to "Get

Chipped," such as: using the chip as your entry ticket into restricted

areas such as office building elevators, etc; that way, stealing your

"token" (a card, etc.) will still not grant access to an unauthorized

thief (we will NOT go into details of possible ways around this, such as

the thief first retrieving the chip from within a person and then simply

putting it their pocket...)


Another use, if and once implantable IDs becomes "acceptable," could be

using these chips as a required token to give you access to your

accounts at an ATM machine, allowing you to make card-less withdrawals,

or to make card-less credit card purchase, etc. If things go down this

path, you likely wouldn't be REQUIRED by law to get chipped, but if you

don't, you'll lose access to many of society's common services.


Or, consider the viewpoint of Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy

Information Center, who suggests that,


"(ID chips) are a form of electronic leashes, a form of digital

control. What happens if an employer makes ["Getting Chipped"] a

condition of employment...? It could easily become a condition of

release for parolees or a requirement for welfare."


Getting chipped is also seen as "The Mark of the Beast," by some.




Both The Good, And The Bad.


People have many other concerns about this or similar "tracking" and

"authentication" technologies: for example, do you REALLY want one (or

many) stores to know your lifestyle and habits? What if multiple chains

decide to SHARE their data amongst themselves, broadening and deepening

their picture of You? (Safeway currently indicates that their policy is

not to share such data, but could such "policy" change in the future?)

Suppose that the credit card companies joined the fray -- there isn't

much this group would not know about you. And if we combine this with

the idea of "Getting Chipped," could it turn into a form of compulsory

identification that could make the threatening World War II phrase "Your

papers?" benign by comparison?


I'm not suggesting that such uses of technology are inherently "bad";

the picture I see is very much a two-sided coin: there are undeniable

benefits to some of these scenarios, and there are just as undeniably

many negative concerns. Yet these technologies' introduction could be

subtle, showing up as "feature creep" to things we have already become

comfortable with (such as "loyalty cards" following credit cards, and

carrying the U.S. de facto national identification card, a driver's

license)... Our not paying attention to these society-altering

applications of technology might one day result in a "surprise" view of

our society that we might never have intentionally chosen to build, or

to live in.


The point is that it's up to each of us, individually and through our

own governments, to be aware of both the good and bad potentials of new

technologies and innovations, and especially their combinations. We

have to continuously look forward and thoughtfully explore all of the

possible resulting scenarios, and then allow only the implementations

that we can, quite literally, live with!


DO Blink, on this one...

HL-er van het eerste uur (& proud of it)

follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/dhettema

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