Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about.

A new mall in Singapore, different from the rest

So what’s the big deal? I’ll give you something to ponder further down in the post but first a little bit about why I even know about this mall.

Funan DIgitaLife mall WAS my go to mall (almost the whole mall was geared towards IT stuff) when I wanted anything electronic (computers, console gaming, camera gear etc). It is a far more “upscale” and the shops were less controversial than its’ main rival Sim Lim Square (I do buy pc parts from shops in Sim Lim Square since you’d be hard pressed to find parts or repair shops in Funan and not all shops are shady. Nowadays it’s pretty much cleaned up, I’m still cautious in there though. Funan was demolished in 2016 and just reopened at the end of June 2019. It was slated to open in 2020. So yeah, I was excited to go stomping in my old IT haunt!

Artistically, I found it very impressive . The color palette used is quite obvious, you can see it everywhere, starting from the outside. The earthy tones are nice and fit their theme but too dim for my liking. To break the usual ho hum square-ish mall design, the interior incorporates a lot of angles, quite stylish and interesting to look at. The outside still looks like a boring rectangle with a few angle elements and the use of color and reflections at one entrance make it a bit more interesting. Since the opening, I’ve been to Funan twice, the first to check it out and the second to buy a Macbook. There’s just something here that bugs me, other than my first reaction of, “wow it’s dim in here,” when I first entered the premises. Something more than my saltiness at the sheer number of eateries, non IT shops and clothing shops. Gone is Funan the Digitalife Mall. Damn it, arrrgh! I’m guessing that IT related shops account for less than 1/4 of the shops here. In their defense, they are not marketing the mall as an IT mall anymore. Instead, it is a mall with shops “clustered around six passion themes Tech, Craft, Play, Fit, Chic and Taste.” So what else is in here that wasn’t before? How about a huge gym, movie theaters, a climbing wall, lots more eateries (of which there’s Carl’s Jr. and Little Caesars), a media studio, local brand fashion stores and a shop that sells fold up bicycles. I think those bicycles look pretty cool and on top of that, you can ride your bike through the mall albeit only on the main floor, only between certain times of the day and at a max speed of 10km/h. Now that’s gotta be a first, well it is for me, anyways. Noticeably gone is the local, big name IT retailer, Challenger, I guess it’s because Funan is to “posh” now for the likes of the budget friendly, general IT shops like Challenger. Near the center, on the main floor, is a flight of stairs that has areas for people to sit and hang out on, which I found weird and interesting at the same time. Hopefully this will free up tables in the multitude of eateries in the building.

I gotta admit, I got so bothered by this new mall in Singapore that I had to Google it and found some interesting yet concerning things. First things first, I’m going to express my opinions and what I’ve experienced, I’m in no way condoning or trash talking anyone or any organization. The words in quotes are from Funan’s Press Release pdf. Here are the links to the Funan’s website: and the press release pdf that I came across in my search for info:

The really cool things I found in the pdf but didn’t see or get to use in the mall are:
1) VR pods for movies and games
2) 24h drive through to support the online shoppers
3) E-paying service at the food court accepting cryptocurrencies (this may not be so cool after reading the points in the “NOT COOL” section below)
4) Food ordering through Facebook Messenger
5) “Using one of the about 40 smart directories in Funan, shoppers can browse and search for trending merchandise before mapping the shortest route possible to reach a store with the wayfinding system”
6) “By year-end, shoppers can expect a robot-enabled handsfree shopping and 24/7 click-and-collect drive-through service”
7) The handful of parking spots you can reserve via the mall’s app.
8) Roof top urban farm
9) “Unmanned futsal facility”
10) “Dedicated Bicycle Hub with end-of-trip amenities”

The NOT COOL things (in my opinion) are:
1) “video analytics to measure and analyse footfall throughout the mall and entering each store”
2) “In-store smart terminals further capture transaction data so that tenants can use the analytics to refine their offerings and enhance customer experiences”
3) “smart directories can also make product recommendations based on the shopper’s demographic profile”

So it sounds to me, like as soon as people are picked up on camera, they are profiled and followed by someone/software and that is stored somewhere accessible by someone(s) so that the data can be shared. Admittedly, shared (in a repackeged form) on a public display and to their tenants as detailed reports on shoppers’ choice of store(s), purchases and movement patterns? So how am I supposed to know that the data that’s been captured of or about me isn’t being shared/sold anywhere else and only used for what they say they’ll use it for? How does the smart directory get my demographic profile in the first place?! This is a lot of surveillance going on which raises privacy issues. If you’re the sort who uses crypto currencies for the anonymity, well, if you use it in Funan, you won’t be so anonymous anymore. Couple all this data with the mandatory finger printing going on when you enter and exit customs/immigration at many airports these days a very detailed report can be compiled very quickly by many people/organizations. I can see the point for surveillance as a security measure but to track people and profile them? That seems excessive and I’m pretty sure the majority of people entering Funan do not know they are being surveilled to this extent.

Yesterday, I went to visit Funan Mall just to get some imagery for this post and to see if I could find any of the surveillance, I mean, video analytics cameras. I couldn’t. I did find the facial recognition devices use to access the other areas of the building like the office towers and serviced apartments though. Maybe I’ve just interpreted things very badly and this may all be just fluff, like “who cares kinda stuff” but I really think that we all should care, or at least give a reasonable amount of consideration to. At least consider our willingness to wantonly give this type of access to our personal habits, to a shopping mall no less. How about you? How would you feel if a mall in your area did this? How would you feel if all malls started doing this?

As I was finishing up this post it occurred to me that I watched how data can be used to get sales. I watch this happen on Harajuku’s main shopping street (in Japan) but without the high tech. As I was standing on a corner waiting for my “girls” to finish shopping at one shop, I watched these guys holding binders with images of their wares (basketball related stuff like shoes, jersey’s etc). There were at least 3 of them walking around within a block or two of their shop. Every now and then they would stop a target that they picked out of the crowd (acquiring visual data etc) and try to peddle their wares and at the same time herding them towards their shop. At times they got grabby too. I just pictured myself walking into Funan and as I pass a shop, a sales rep runs out and tells me of a deal “just for me” or something like that, lol. OR if you have the mall’s app, you’ll start getting a barrage of notifications informing you of deals and discounts. Since it’s so easy here in Singapore to pay using your phone, this could be bad, very bad for impulse buyers like me. Food for thought…

All images used in this post were shot using my Samsung Note 8. Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

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