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January 5, 2009updated 19 Aug 2016 10:07am

Big Brother celebs not just being watched, but tracked

Housemates in the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother are already being watched by scores of cameras around the clock. But now their precise movements are being tracked thanks to RFID technology installed in the house, which could for example

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Housemates in the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother are already being watched by scores of cameras around the clock. But now their precise movements are being tracked thanks to RFID technology installed in the house, which could for example show viewers which celebrity is chilling in the bedroom, and with whom. Gosh.

Click continue reading for more on this entry.Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, selected Wavetrend — a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) specialist — to install technology to track housemates in the 2009 Celebrity Big Brother series (which started live on the 2nd January).

ulrika_jonsson.jpg

Ulrika Jonsson: may be the first to get booted out of Celebrity Big Brother. Apparently.

The tracking system will enable the show’s producers to monitor the movements and habits of the housemates. They will be able to analyse where in the house the celebrities spend most of their time, and even which housemates they are in close proximity with over the course of their stay in the house.

The programme psychologists will also be able to interpret the behaviour, and housemates voted off may be questioned on their movements in the Big Brother house with information derived from Wavetrend’s RFID system.

Wavetrend was briefed by the series producers on the project in November 2008, and the company surveyed the area and designed, installed and commissioned 15 of their readers across various points in the house. Locations include the smoking area, bedrooms, diary room and bathrooms.

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The company also provided its specialised ‘personnel’ tags for housemates to wear throughout the series, enabling their movements to be tracked as they move past each of the RFID readers.

The show’s viewers will be able to watch the house floor plan via a studio display, which will indicate each of the housemates with a tracking beacon. The data can then be analysed to show the movement patterns over a 24-hour period.

“We were looking for a device to give a new dimension to Big Brother’s Little Brother and personal tracking came up in a brainstorm meeting,” says Gareth Collett, executive producer, Celebrity BBLB 2009. “Our aim was to work in conjunction with a tracking company to give us a constant stream of facts and figures that would complement the information received from the 24 hour television coverage already in the house.”

“Wavetrend have delivered within an extremely tight deadline and their engineers have been a pleasure to work with whilst operating under quite restrictive conditions,” says Collett.

So could the tracking system make its way into future Big Brother series other than Celebrity BB? “If the system proves as successful as we hope we will look into using this technology again in the future,” Collett says.

If you think applying RFID technology to the Celebrity Big Brother house belittles the technology’s more valuable role in a wide range of applications, you’d probably be right. While it could enable producers to tell viewers how often a celeb visited the Big Brother bathroom in a certain period, Saleem Miyan, CEO of Wavetrend, explained: “Our technology is primarily used for tracking high value assets, people and vehicles. When we were approached by Endemol, we thought Celebrity Big Brother sounded like an exciting and fun project and something we could easily configure our technology to suit.”

“We had to react quickly to the brief,” said Miyan, “but believe we have installed a solution that will prove valuable to the show’s producers, and equally interesting for the viewers.” Whether or not that proves to be the case will no doubt not be down to the quality of the RFID chips, readers and analytics – but how interested you are in the intricate perambulations of a group of minor celebrities in the first place.

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