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NTT DoCoMo Inc. began a test-run Wednesday of a new system that monitors cell phone customers’ activities in certain areas and analyzes the patterns to ascertain their needs and send relevant information to their handsets.

The system uses handsets equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) tag readers. The tags themselves are placed at a location, such as a shopping complex, to allow data on customers’ activities to be collected.

The system will obviously raise privacy concerns, but an NTT DoCoMo official downplayed the issue, saying the special handsets will be given only to those who want to try the system and agree to have their activities monitored.

The technology will be tested for two weeks starting Wednesday at the Yokohama branch of Takashimaya department store, where RFID tags will be installed in 150 locations, such as the ceilings and sales counters, the company said.

About 90 tag-reader-equipped handsets will be given to DoCoMo customers interested in trying the tracking service.

The tags will monitor the people while they are in the store and send data on their activities to a database that will try to determine what they are looking for and send information on it to their handsets.

For example, the system might send information about nearby tea shops if a customer has been walking around for a long time.

If a customer is browsing through shoe stores, the handset will send them the locations of other shoe shops.

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