Zero Dark Thirty-style blackouts? The many pitfalls of Geo-Fencing & Signal-Jamming…


Here are a list of interesting articles on some of the more draconian (“Big Brother” in some cases) measures that might be deployed against mobile phones – and some very useful insights into how and why they are mostly unsuitable for Theatre – whether from a technological, societal, cultural or political standpoint.


We’ll explore these further in our Manifesto and elsewhere on our website in due course.

But for now, we’ll say this:

  • Geo-fencing is notoriously unreliable – the leakage of any signal-jamming affecting nearby pavements, restaurants and businesses up and down Shaftesbury Avenue would be a nightmare, and geo-fencing has often been shown to fail to ‘release’ your phone signal once you leave its range.
  • Signal-jamming is basically mostly illegal.
  • Those who work in Theatres, not least the actors stuck in their dressing rooms for long periods before shows, often out on tour far away from home, yet increasingly expected to be co-opted as online daily marketers of their show, would if anything be in favour of better WiFi rather than geo-fenced signal-jamming.
  • Remotely disabling phone-cameras and other software may appeal to tin-pot dictatorships, but certainly isn’t going to fly here – and what of emergencies, or even permitted/encouraged photo-opportunities inside theatre buildings?
  • New York City banned mobile phone use in Theatres (and museums, libraries, etc) in 2003, including a $50 fine, but it has had a negligible impact.
  • The UK Government has all but given up on trying to prevent mobile phones getting into prisons, so there’s no sense trying to replicate that failed strategy in free and open buildings (even if this Orange cinema ad is undoubtedly funny and quite appealing) – although there’s certainly scope for better facilities such as phone-charging-lockers at Theatres.
  • Theatres are (rightly, in our view) increasingly encouraging audiences to use our phones – whether that be to purchase our interval drinks (e.g. via ATG Ordertorium and Barbican Bars), enjoy more digital content (e.g. NT Backstage), use e-tickets (e.g. TodayTix), pay for things using Contactless (e.g. ApplePay), Tweet about shows, etc. If anything, we need better WiFi in Theatres (perhaps call the networks “Curtain Up? Phone Down!”).
  • So even if anyone wanted it to happen (in our opinion it shouldn’t, but we sympathise with those who do), it ain’t going to – so we’d prefer to focus on other more positive steps we can take to better enhance the experience for the mobile phone user, which we believe might actually be more likely to reduce mobile phone use during shows themselves.


These articles certainly make for interesting reading…

Silencing Cell-Phones in Public Places

Apple patent could remotely disable protestors’ phone cameras

Apple could soon block your device without your permission

Apple patents tech to let cops switch off iPhone camera, video and WiFi

Geo-targeting, Geo-Fencing, Beaconing and Location Marketing (yes, like in Minority Report)

Eight examples of Geo-fencing you should know about

South Korean schools are remotely disabling students’ smart phones (and mostly failing)

Apple’s Find My Friends App tracks people inside buildings

Technology to Block Mobiles in Prisons it Too Expensive