Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advertising panopticon

I saw two new interesting developments that will enable directed advertising in the next year.

Xuuk]s eye-tracking device• Xuuk’s eye-tracking technology. The devices use

infrared sensors to look for the red-eye phenomenon familiar from family snapshots. The device looks like a small webcam and can detect a passing glance from over 30 feet away. This year, the company will roll out its Eyeanalytics software, letting advertisers monitor how many people are looking at each of their ads, and for how long.

As the internet-advertising model becomes more dominant, this kind of technology is going to become more in demand.

path intelligence store layout• Path Intelligence’s foot-traffic tracking. According to TechCrunch

Path Intelligence is a U.K. based company that monitors foot traffic in a rather ingenious way, through customers’ cell phones. Periodically our cell phones ping the nearby cell towers basically saying “Here I am”. Path Intelligence has built receivers that detect these signals and triangulate the owner’s location with accuracy of up to a meter.

Each ping also includes the cell’s unique identifier (think IP address). While these IDs help track the movement of the signal and it’s owner, they don’t reveal the identity of the user. Only your service provider knows that. This is a similar, but more precise method than Google Maps is using to detect your general location on your mobile phone by cell tower.

While it is encouraging that it the unique identifiers are not available to the service, I don’t think this anonymity will be worth much. Unless there are laws in place that state otherwise, just like ISPs turn over IP addresses whenever they are asked for, these identifiers will be available whenever law-enforcement demands them.

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