Billboards That Watch People

A new generation of “smart” billboards will watch people and record information about them as they view the advertisements displayed on them.

The new hi-tech billboards will have small video cameras that record personal and demographic information about passersby like gender, estimated age and time spent looking at the billboard. This recorded information will then be sent to a central database where it can be stored and analyzed by marketers.

The companies behind this new technology claim that privacy should not be an issue since they are not storing actual images of people.

The digital cameras will use software that can detect when a person is standing in front of a billboard. The software can then analyze facial features to determine a person’s gender and estimated age. The software will eventually be used to determine the person’s race as well.

The goal of this new form of advertising is to tailor a digital display to the person standing in front of it. One advertisement can be shown to a teenage white girl, for example, and a different one to a teenage black male.

While surveillance cameras are commonplace in many public places and businesses, their use may be viewed as more intrusive when they are used to sell products rather than fight crime and terrorism.

The new technology is already being used in Europe and parts of Asia, but it is new in the United States.

The companies that make these digital advertising systems say that with a little modification, they could easily store pictures of people who look at the billboards.

One of these companies is TruMedia, whose technology is an offshoot of surveillance work for the Israeli government. TruMedia’s slogan is “Every Face Counts,” and they are testing the digital technology cameras in 30 locations in the US.

Privacy issues over public surveillance cameras are growing. In the United Kingdom, which has approximately 4.2 million surveillance cameras ( one for every 14 people ) the matter is fast becoming a heated political issue.

Source: New York Times