by Darren Murph
Engadget, 3 October 2006
As if its insanely coordinated logistics system, biometric payment system, and (potential) RFID* shelving weren't eerie enough, America's largest retailer is taking consumer voyeurism one step further with the use of infrared technology. In an apparent attempt to avoid the taboo "RFID" flavor of intrusion, Wal-Mart is hoping to sneak an IR system into its stores to gauge the effectiveness (and elicit more advertising dollars, of course) of its various promotions. Dubbed Prism, the arguably dodgy system was crafted by Coca-Cola, Kelloggs, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Walgreens, and Disney in order to "track shoppers' movements around the store" and correlate them with actual sales in order to judge display effectiveness. The consortium of firms has coaxed the corporate giant to install a trial system in ten of its SuperCenters, with a much broader rollout expected to follow soon; so when making that mad dash to the Tickle Me Elmo eXtreme (or bathroom supplies) section, just remember that Big Brother could be keenly watching.
* Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is an object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radio waves. Chip-based RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennas. Passive tags require no internal power source, whereas active tags require a power source.
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