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IBM to create talking, individualised billboards

IBM to create talking, individualised billboards

Researchers at IBM are working on technology to deliver consumers tailor made adverts that reflect their personal interests.

The technology and chip maker claims that its technology will help prevent consumers from being subjected to a barrage of irritating advertising as consumers will only be shown ads for products that are relevant to them.

The system works by using the same kind of wireless technology tags found in Oyster Cards. These tags, which are known as RFID chips are increasingly also being incorporated into credit cards and onto mobile phones.

By encoding the chips with information about the individual, digital advertising boards could identify a person as they pass by and show them an advert according to what is known about their shopping habits and personal preferences.

The technology is strikingly similar to that dreamed up in the film Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, said the Independent over the weekend. In the film, digital signs call out Cruises’s character’s name as he walks through a futuristic shopping mall.

"John Anderton. You could use a Guinness right about now," one billboard announces as he walks past.

Brian Innes, a research scientist at IBM's innovation laboratories in Hursley, near Winchester, told the newspaper, "In Minority Report, the billboards recognise passers-by and play adverts that are specific for the individual. In the film, the billboards rely on scanning the person's eyeball, but we are using RFID technology that people are carrying around with them, so they can have a tailor made message."

The billboards are being developed as part of IBM's Smarter Planet programme that aims to use technology to make people's lives easier and more efficient.

Engineers in Japan have already developed a billboard that is capable of identifying a shopper's age and gender as they walk past to offer them products that are more accurately suited to them.

The IBM system would take this a step further by allowing adverts to be shown that are specific to an individual.

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