Billboards beam adverts to passing cell phones

Here is some important information, reported in New Scientist, from the Bureau of Intrusive Stupidity:

Ignoring adverts is about to get a lot tougher with the development of billboards and advertising posters that use Bluetooth to beam video ads direct to passing cell phones.

Is this the return of the repressed? I thought that was over.

Don't you love it? The video ads are not directed at us – who are, after all, people who have had their fill of peddlers sticking things in our faces. They are directed at passing cell phones. No, but wait:

As people walk past the posters they receive a message on their phone asking them if they wish to accept the advert. If they do, they can receive movies, animations, music or still images further promoting the advertised product.

Yes, we are lonely and need to be contacted by billboards. We desperately want them to phone us. Isn't there a song about this?

“It's all about delivering high quality content, tailored for mobile usage,” says Alasdair Scott, co-founder and chief creative officer of London-based Filter UK, who created the system, called BlueCasting.

Chief Creative Officer? Give this man treatment immediately! I wonder what his mother says?

Here is an example of what he calls “high quality content”.

The posters detected 87,000 Bluetooth phones over a two week period, of which about 17% were willing to download the clip, says Scott.

Right. Would you be expecting a phone call from a billboard? Not really. You might take the first call.

If BlueCasting still sounds too intrusive, there is always one solution, says Whitehouse: “Just make sure your Bluetooth device is set so that it’s not discoverable to other devices.”

How dare Mr. Whitehouse tell me I need to turn off my phone's discoverability if I don't want his billboards connecting to my device?

No. I should not be bothered by passing billboards unless I subscribe to the Billboard Interruption Service, or whatever these people are going to call it. It had better be “opt in”. Of course, Bluetooth's fixed addresses (in contravention of the Fourth Law of Identity) make it easy to put your phone's tracking key on such a list – so you can get your fill of billboard spam.

Meanwhile, where is the noble Steve Mann? With his digital glasses, you can opt to have billboards filtered out of your vision, if you want. Or just particular billboards, if you grow to detest some which are run by demented goofs.

People are coming up with some really interesting new proximity technologies whereby if a person wants to obtain information from a poster, she can take a simple action (like clicking her phone) to get it. Such a technology does not intrude, and can succeed. As for this one, not only would I not invest – but, to quote Jamie Lewis, I'd rather keep my money in a shoe.

Until then, I take this as just one more sign that Bluetooth needs desperately to evolve to a new standard in compliance with the Laws of Identity.

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Kim Cameron

Work on identity.