Nokia said it has mapped 99 percent of the major shopping malls in the U.S. and Europe, but has not done so at the aisle level in every case.
Privacy concerns loomed large at the show and were the theme of many questions for panelists. Last year, Nordstrom began tracking customers' movements by following their phones' Wi-Fi signals. Although it posted a sign telling customers they were being tracked, it ended the program this past May, partly because of complaints from shoppers.
At the location conference this week, some said Nordstrom hadn't done a good enough job of explaining to customers the benefits of what it was doing.
Companies need to be transparent about what they're doing and why, said Jules Polonetsky, executive director and co-chairman at the Future of Privacy Forum.
Chandu Thota, an engineer at Google, agreed that companies need to explain the benefits to shoppers. "But phones are very personal," he said, and when stores try to gather location data, customers may be turned off by the idea.
GISi Indoors installed its Wi-Fi sensors at the Place conference to map the location of attendees, denoted by red dots on a map of the hotel displayed on a screen. Location tracking still isn't an exact science, though. Occasionally, a red dot would zoom by, cutting across a wide swath of the hotel.
"That's a car outside that was picked up by our sensors," a company representative said.