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Mobile mapping used to boost Northport retail development

Stoney Sharp reports.

Birmingham-based r360 Consulting has entered into a three-year agreement with the City of Northport.

According to the firm, Northport will pay r360 $25,000 per year to collect economic data and lure retailers to the city.

The consulting firm plans to use "mobile mapping", which is a popular tool in the retail industry. The technology tracks the locations of shopper's phones.

"It allows us to know where the mobile device is during the evening, during the day and where it was two hours prior to visiting a specific [retail] location," said r360 CEO Chuck Branch.

Branch said r360 receives the mobile information from UberRetail, a company that provides location data for retail site selection.

"We use their software solutions and their data collection to create a polygon area around a specific retailer, and look at the location points that are both animized and aggregated, to identify that daytime, nighttime, and two-hour time frame," Branch explained.

According to Branch, the mobile data his office receives does not include personal information.

"I can't tell you if it's Jane Doe, John Doe. I can't tell you their cell phone number," the CEO added.

ABC 33/40 News spoke with several Northport shoppers who were surprised mobile mapping will used in their city.

"I understand they're coming from a business perspective to build up the city, but it is a bit scary," Lisa Melems said.

"I don't really have a problem with it. It's still kind of invasive, because you don't want everybody knowing everywhere you go," Stephanie Sullivan told ABC 33/40 News.

According to Matthew Hudnall at The University of Alabama's Center for Advanced Public Safety, there are two ways cell phones are mapped. One is through "location services" under your phone's privacy settings.

"So that is actually apps on a person's cell phone where people allow the app manufacturer to track their location," Hudnall said.

The other way retailers track your location is through your phone's Bluetooth.

"..by Bluetooth beacons that are deployed in stores. These Bluetooth beacons track the Bluetooth transmissions on an individual's cell phone if they have Bluetooth enabled on their phone," Hudnall explained.

The CEO of r360 will soon share mobile mapping information to area developers and tenant reps looking for retail opportunities in the City of Northport.

"We're excited to work with the City of Northport. We believe there are some opportunities and we're looking forward to getting started," Branch said.


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