How Apple Knows Exactly Who And Where You Are When You Walk Into An Apple Store

How Apple Knows Exactly Who And Where You Are When You Walk Into An Apple Store

Your average Apple Store is stuffed with a pulsing biomass of customers clamoring for attention, so how do Apple employees know that you’re the guy they are tasked to help?

Well, how does Apple solve any problem? They leverage cutting-edge technology at the problem, and their system is totally ingenious, if a little frightening to the privacy obsessed.

Apple’s always working to streamline the retail process with additions like their new retail self-checkout program, or the new ability to pick up online purchases in selected stores. Did you know, though, that if you order your Mac for pickup through the Apple Store app, Apple can tell the second you walk into the store, and even figure out who and where you are?

It’s all done thanks to specially-equipped iPod touches that every Apple Store employee carries. Here’s how it works:

An iPhone owner can use the free Apple Store app to shop before entering the store. When she arrives, the app’s location feature alerts store workers on their iPhones, and they can find her and bring over her purchases. Sixteen customers used the app’s location feature to claim gear at the Palo Alto store on Friday.

This, of course, supplements the existing Apple Store way of figuring out where customers are by allowing them to “check in” near a station using the iPad.

Those who are sticklers for privacy will probably be alarmed that the Apple Store app checks their location using GPS, but you can opt out by denying the Apple Store app location based services, and it only works if you order something through the app. If there’s a legitimate privacy concern here, I think it’s a small price to pay for a proper 21st century retail experience, don’t you?

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  • Ed_Kel

    Is this truly a privacy concern? I get how one can become frightened by the possibility that Google or Apple can track your location while living with the anxiety that someday, big companies will send nanobots to kill you for no apparent reason, but picking up a store item? Come on John, stop walking on eggshells..

  • threedeuce5

    If you’re worried about privacy then don’t own a smartphone.  There problem solved!

  • ksdulin

    I would’ve thought they would have done it using the photo people upload sometimes with their Apple ID, like to Game Centre and what not, but I guess this works as well…

  • ShoyuWeenie

    Sweet! We just need retina scans, and we’re one step closer to Minority Report.

    http://quietube2.com/v.php/htt

  • volodoscope

    Why would this be shocking or surprising? Person who is using the Apple’s App should read the “terms and conditions” first.

  • Allen Frank

    “Exactly Who and Where You Are”???? Using GPS?

    So, they get notified that someone who purchased something for pickup has passed (with their device) within 7 to 10 meters or so (at best, with an unobstructed view of the sky) of the store? 

    At that point, they are going to be able to identify that person within the store….. how?

    Given that GPS does not work indoors (unless you happen to be indoors and still have an unobstructed view of the sky), how is an Apple Store employee going to pick *you* out of the crowd pictured above?

    (I get that aGPS helps to minimize some of GPS’s shortcomings as it relates to signal attenuation due to high rise buildings, etc – but not enough to make it work like in the movies)

  • CharliK

    Clearly you haven’t used the app. It does not know exactly where you are. When it is your turn you are paged via the app to meet at a certain spot in the store

  • Ed_Kel

    Ummmm….I think you may be over-thinking this one, Einstein. It works, lets leave it at that.

  • Allen Frank

    It works.

    So, If I buy something via the Apple Store app, and then walk into a B&M Apple Store, the employees in that store know exactly who and where I am – the moment I set foot in the store?

    If not, then the article is inaccurate and should be corrected

    I am reminded of the immortal words of Vincent Gambini:”Well, I guess the laws of physics cease to exist on top of your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?”

    I am not suggesting that whatever it is that they are doing isn’t cool – I’m sure it is. But wouldn’t it be that much cooler if we were accurately reporting their capabilities, rather than attributing super hero powers to them?

  • GH

    Two things, this was old news over a year ago. And it is poorly written and misleading.

  • Allen Frank

    Title suggestion:

    How Apple Knows Exactly Who And Where You Are When You Walk Into An Apple Store [Hyperbole]

  • Len Williams

    If you have privacy issues, don’t get or use the Apple app. There is always a choice.

  • Alex

    It was written by John Brownlee what did you expect ?

  • Alex

    Brownlee do you actually know what your talking about ? or do just make sh*t up…

  • Ed_Kel

    Smartphones triangulates its position through carrier towers if GPS can’t be found, but regardless, if it works, then wouldn’t that debunk your rant? 

  • Allen Frank

    See, the problem is that I bothered to research the technology. Cell tower triangulation generally produces accuracy within 200 – 1000 meters, with a best case scenario of 50 meters in urban areas with high cell tower density. This is much worse than the 7-10 meter best case for GPS.

    The reality is that the technology *can’t work* the way that the author described it.

    I suppose there will always be people here who will believe that it runs on kitten kisses and pixie dust – as long as someone claims that Apple thought of it first.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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