Advertisers like to know as much about us as possible. Online this is pretty easy to do. Drop some cookies on a user’s browser, follow them around the Web and serve ads based on observed behaviors.
Offline, this gets more difficult. Advertising in analog space is generally contextual and based on the measured overall demographics of who’s watching a particular television show, reading a particular magazine or occupying a particular physical space.
But advertisers want to change that. Again, they want to know who you are. And technologists are here to help them along.
Take, for example, Intel, the chipmaker, which is trying to expand from the PC to the living room with a set top box for your television. The twist: the box has facial recognition software so it knows whether the people in room are young or old, male or female. Combine that with, say, census data about your geographic location and — just like that — highly targeted advertising delivered to your television set.
According to five sources who have been negotiating with Intel for months, the company is emphasizing a set-top box employing Intel technology that can distinguish who is watching, potentially allowing Intel to target advertising.
The set-top box pitched by Intel doesn’t identify specific people, but it could provide general data about viewers’ gender or whether they’re adults or children to help target advertising, two sources said.
For a variety of business reasons that Reuters explores, Intel is having a hard time getting this initiative off the ground but more significant than if and when it launches is that the technology is there and we’ll see it spread throughout all our devices. For example, Samsung has a television that does much the same thing.
The new models, which are closer than ever to personal computers, offer high-tech features that have previously been unavailable, including a built-in HD camera, microphone set and face and speech recognition software.
This software allows Samsung to recognise who is viewing the TV and personalises each person’s experience accordingly. The TV also listens and responds to specific voice commands.
But some critics have suggested that the TV company could be spying on you, or even watching and listening to you - without your knowledge - through these features.