Published On: October 25th, 2016Categories: Max-Alerts, News


Yahoo has filed a patent for a camera equipped “smart” billboard that has a wide array of sensors and drone-based cameras to collect information about people for ad targeting.

According to the details in the application no 14/675,004 published on Oct 6th, 2016, the billboards or drones placed in public will have audio and video collection capabilities, speech recognition, and retina scan to determine what viewers are looking at or conversing about. The aim is to make billboards smart and show people ads that are most relevant.

The sensors in the camera would detect if people are paying attention, retina scan to check if people are looking directly at the ad, use proximity and image recognition to see if pedestrians are slowing down while passing by the ad, and microphone inputs would be used to check for ad-related keywords being spoken.

The patent application states, “instead of relying on “personalization” like online advertising, the techniques described herein rely on “groupization,” i.e., selection of advertising content based on an aggregate representation of the target audience that is derived, at least in part, from real-time information.”

The patent application was submitted March 2015 and was recently made public by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Ever since the birth of online advertising, companies have been monitoring clicks on ads and collecting data. But, directly observing people when they are on the go was out of the question. That’s all about to change as Yahoo has filed this patent which tracks and monitors an entirely different kind of traffic.

Even though the proposed billboard is indeed smart, the conception raises two major concerns

  • Yahoo collects information on people and uses it to show relevant ads. Good, but where does the data go? Does Yahoo delete it or do companies who have placed a bid on the billboard content get access to that information?
  • People are not given an option to opt-out and disable the ads as it’s impossible to block a billboard

The application is still pending with the USPTO and if it’s approved let’s hope that Yahoo protects the privacy of the user’s data.

Here’s a diagram from the patent document which explains the concept


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