Idea: Find Your Way Through The Mall Via GPS

Now that we’ve got such advanced cell phone technology, Russel Shaw with ZDNet thinks we should start putting it to use to make shopping in the real world easier. His idea, free for the taking if you’re feeling entrepreneurial: shopping mall geolocation services.

It would be maps of shopping malls in your metro area, downloadable to your cell. But that’s just the start of it. I would then envision participating shopping centers being outfitted with technology that could hone in on your cell signal when you activate this application on your cell. If you are looking for a specific store in the mall, you would then enter a voice command: such as “Wet Seal.”

Your request would go to a database located on a server in the mall. The server would then retrieve Wet Seal’s location in the mall from the database, and then compare that location with where you are at present. Optimally, this information could be derived from triangulating the source of your cell signal. More practically, your location could be obtained by you reciting the name of the nearest store to your current position.

Using your current location as Point A, and your desired destination within the mall as Point B, you would then receive a set of directions on your phone. You then should be able to play them back as talking directions. Just like your larger-world, outside-the-mall GPS or navigation system may be able to do right now.

A reader points out that the service could be co-opted for similar consumer benefits “such as finding your car in a parking gargage or your seat in a theatre.”

Shaw thinks one way the service could pay for itself is as “a value-add for carriers, who might charge shopping malls a modest participation fee for being in the database”—but we think that’s a very 1990s business model, and we’d prefer carriers be cut out of it completely since they don’t play well with others. Much better is his idea that “individual retailers who would like to be in their mall’s geolocator database could pay for ads” that would appear within the application. (Yes, we know, more ads. Someday you’ll be able to pay for surgery with ads, and for the rest of your life your femur will broadcast little text messages to any RFID-equipped device that passes within 15 inches.) Even better than that, we think, is a model that doesn’t tap the consumer for payment, whether in cash or ad views—if the service was helpful enough to increase shopping activity for a retailer, it should pay for itself.

“The best mobile application idea I can think mall geolocation services!!” [ZDNet]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MrEvil says:

    One small flaw in the plan there. GPS needs a clear line of sight to the sky. You will have SOME success through a mall’s skylights. But it will be absolutely NO GO in a parking garage due to all the floors of thick reinforced concrete. Cell phones enabled with GPS navigation have to have LOS to the sky just like an automotive or dedicated handheld GPS. All my Nextel handsets were telenav capable and if I didn’t sit the phone up towards my dashboard, it wasn’t able to locate my posistion.

    My Pharos GPS unit will lose signal underneath a gas station awning.

  2. Aphex242 says:

    @MrEvil: You MIGHT wanna actually read the article instead of just the headline when replying to an article ;)

  3. @MrEvil: Yeah, before the last firmware update my N95 couldn’t find a GPS signal even outdoors on a cloud-free day. For the plan to work, it would definitely require a different solution than current GPS technology.

    Check the original article for some suggestions from a reader on alternative solutions.

  4. Myotheralt says:

    So, this would be a MPS Mall Positioning System. My dad and I were talking about this sort of thing a couple years ago. The only problem with the system that we thought up involved picking up a device from the customer service or the maps.

  5. faust1200 says:

    I think part of the evil mall magic is making you walk past crap you didn’t want walk past. This seems counter intuitive to that scheme but perhaps user demand could win out. (Yeesh 2 sentences in a row that end in prepositions. What’s that all about? 3!)

  6. BigNutty says:

    This sounds like the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Can’t anyone read a map on a sign in the mall anymore? Locating a seat in a theatre? Great, a lighted screen to distract from the movie.

    Who goes to the mall anymore anyway? Can’t we come up with better idea’s for technology?

  7. goodkitty says:

    I’m still waiting for this technology to come to grocery stores. I spent forever the other day looking for a bag of mints in the store (granted I don’t shop at that particular one all the time, but still).

    I would definitely go for this if it also included having store inventory indexed and available (via some google-like thing) so that not only can I get to the mall via GPS, but I can quickly find whatever I want via MPS and get the heck out, especially this time of the year when people go from hah-hah insane to completely bat-poop insane.

  8. updog says:

    @goodkitty: I have already seen something like this in the Big Y supermarkets around here(Its a brand local to the Northeast). They have a little kiosk where you can type in what you are looking for and it tells you what aisle.

  9. kalmakazee says:

    Never mind not being able to get a GPS Signal in a closed area but I can hardly even pick up a phone signal or in a Shopping mall. How do they plan on getting this to work?

  10. LTS! says:

    Good lord this is pointless. First, if you go to a mall, you need help. Second, if you can’t read a sign you need more help. Third, unless you are shopping in Mall of the Americas or the Palisades Shopping Center you really shouldn’t need something like this as the damn malls are not that big, so if you can’t find the store then you should have just stayed home.

  11. twoback says:

    @faust1200: I agree. I think this is the same reason many of the digital touchscreen map systems I saw for the Grocery store created years ago, never caught on. They want you to go places and walk in areas you dont normally go in.

  12. inno says:

    Also, can they come up with a hand-shaped device to put up your ass which is capable of manipulating your mouth and vocal cords and make the purchasing decisions for you as well? That way you can just follow the GPS unit to the right store and let the hand take care of the rest! All you have to do it remember to take it out when you shit.
    Seriously, is this where we’re fucking heading?

  13. satoru says:

    This is kinda old. In Ginza they’re already doing something similar with RFID tags throughout the city. Though this is through a proprietary device, rather than using BT through an existing phone. Also GPS instructions on your phone in Japan even tell you which car on the train to get on so that you’re optimally positioned for the stairs at your destination.

    @LTS!: I think the monetary advantages to this system are more in targetted advertising. Like if when you walk by a Gap it texts you a 10% off coupon. You could also market this device to helicopter parents, or soccer moms who are paranoid that some stranger is going to kidnap their child in the mall (though the probability of this is extremely low considering the stat: 354,100 broad-scope family abductions as compared to 3,200 to 4,600 legal-definition nonfamily abductions each year)

  14. misteral says:

    GPS is really the wrong way to go. A few years back I saw a demo of (litterally They had the usual booth bunnies walking around the convention hall, but at the booth you could see where everyone was on a screen.

    This would probably work very well in a mall type situation. If your location was fed back into a little hand-held device, it could know where you were.

    Thinking a bit ahead, you could do a bunch of things, such as targeted advertising. The device could ask “What do you want to shop for today”. You click “Birtday – 20 year old female”, it could suggest some stores to hit up for ideas.

  15. Froggmann says:

    I can see the headlines now, “Man walks off balcony into food court fountain.” “The victim of this incident said, “I was just following the GPS. It told me it was this way to Sears!””

  16. SacraBos says:

    I’ve always thought, at least in the US, you could ditch GPS and just navigate using WiFi signal strength between StarBucks hot-spots. Sure there might be a few dead spots, but not many.

  17. bunnymen says:

    I would’ve thought this was a stupid idea if I hadn’t just wandered around two malls recently trying to find a goddamned directory. Those huge backlit ads that look like there will be a directory on the other side? Nope! Just another huge ad! Fuck you, malls!