Television screens increasingly blaze in spaces outside of homes. In many settings, particularly at retail establishments, the TVs are perpetually tuned to a channel with nothing but commercials. In other instances, such as schools and government offices, the screens flash announcements and public safety information. This up-and-coming medium goes by different names, including captive audience networks, but the most common is digital signage.
Now, in a development with significant privacy implications, digital signage is slowly integrating identification technologies. The purpose is to boost audience measurement and exposure. The industry's eventual wish is to target advertising to individual consumers based on demographics and shopping history.
Currently, most digital signs are just flat screens displayed in some trafficked area, playing a video loop. The contents of the video are often controlled via computer, enabling one master location to control thousands of connected units. However, from an advertiser's perspective, a shortcoming of digital signage and billboards is the difficulty in determining who sees the display unit. This makes it difficult for advertisers or others to measure the size of the message's audience and to target specific demographics within that audience. The industry's solution appears to be teensy-weensy facial recognition cameras.
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