Saturday, May 31, 2008

Daily Digital Out of Home post, "Billboards That Look Back" : Could miniature cameras embedded in ads lead to Big Brother at the mall?

Big Brother at the Mall?

If you visit malls, big box retailers, or frequent public spaces, you've probably noticed that there are many digital billboards cropping up. Some are in the form of interactive touch screens and kiosks, and others are in the form of informercials on large displays. What you might not have noticed is that many of these displays have embedded miniature cameras.

I had a chance to see this at a Digital Signage expo not too long ago. I was surprised that the system identified my gender as soon as I stood in front of the display. In my situation, I knew that I was within range of the camera. Out and about, I am not sure if this would be true.

Via Daily Digital Out of Home (dailydooh):

An article in the NY Times recently discussed privacy concerns related to new technology that is embedded into billboards and digital displays. Miniature cameras are embedded in ads found in in malls and other public spaces. The cameras are linked to software that takes in detailed information about the people who come across these ads.

Here is an excerpt from the NY Times:

"Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.

Behind the technology are small start-ups that say they are not storing actual images of the passers-by, so privacy should not be a concern. The cameras, they say, use software to determine that a person is standing in front of a billboard, then analyze facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. So far the companies are not using race as a parameter, but they say that they can and will soon."

"....TruMedia’s technology is an offshoot of surveillance work for the Israeli government. The company, whose slogan is “Every Face Counts,” is testing the cameras in about 30 locations nationwide. One TruMedia client is Adspace Networks, which runs a network of digital screens in shopping malls and is testing the system at malls in Chesterfield, Mo., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Monroeville, Pa. Adspace’s screens show a mix of content, like the top retail deals at the mall that day, and advertisements for DVDs, movies or consumer products."

If you are interested in learning more about the business and industry side of interactive off-the-desktop and out-of-home technology, the Digital Out of Home blog is a great resource. Below is a list of some of the blog's most popular posts:

Our Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors, Part 1

Our Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors, Part 2
Our Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors, Part 3
CEO SPOTLIGHT: Simon Rees, Avanti Screen Media
Vision Media Group's Advertising Commitment
CEO SPOTLIGHT: Christian Vaglio-Giors, Neo Advertising, Geneva
iCaramba! Neo Advertising+Dot One = Iberian Market
Top 10 Companies to Watch in 2008

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