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Israeli Surveillance Leads to High-Tech Billboards

Who -- or what -- is
scanning your face?

Technology inspired by Israeli surveillance has led to camera-equipped billboards that track faces in order to gather reliable viewing data for digital displays and screens, reports MediaBuyerPlanner.

The technology comes from TruMedia, which is testing the cameras in 30 locations nationwide. As part of a partnership with Adspace Networks, TruMedia ads appear at malls in Chesterfield, MO, Winston-Salem, NC, and Monroeville, PA, reports The New York Times.

Paris-based firm Quividi provides similar tracking capabilities. A billboard on Eighth Avenue near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, for example, can gauge when someone is looking at the billboard, and what that person’s age, gender and — soon — race, is.

The objective will be to tailor what is shown on the board depending on who is standing in front of it, the company says. One ad might be shown to a middle-aged African American man, while another is shown to a white female teenager.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the ad played a trailer for film The Andromeda Strain, an A&E miniseries.

The cameras use software that determines when a person is standing in front of a billboard, and which then analyzes facial features, such as the distance between the nose and the chin, to judge gender and age.

Quividi and TruMedia Technologies both say they are not yet using race as a parameter, but they soon will. The billboards also track how many people looked at the ad, and for how long, an important element for advertisers demanding more accountability from agencies and media partners.

The Columbus Circle billboard and others in the US were installed by London-based Motomedia.

TruMedia says its technology "provides a true count of impressions with an accuracy that surpasses any other direct or indirect measurement technology. [It] provides more than just viewer counts. Demographics segmentation and face-towards time measurement allow better media planning and targeted advertising."

Not surprisingly, privacy groups are up in arms about the camera-equipped billboards. But the companies point out that everything they do is completely anonymous, and pictures of the people who look at the cameras are never stored in the system.


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