Published on: July 20, 2015by Kevin Coupe
The New York Times has a piece that has the potential to worry privacy advocates, and thrill marketers.
According to the story, technology has been created that will allow public lighting, "using a combination of LEDs and big data technology," to serve as a kind of backbone for "a system that could use billions of fixtures to collect data about traffic congestion at an intersection or a consumer walking down the cereal aisle, to name just a couple of applications."
A company called Sensity Systems has lined up some $70 million in investment capital - with some of it from companies that include mall developer Simon property Group, General Electric, Cisco, and LED lighting manufacturer Acuity Brands - to begin constructing this system.
The Times notes that "LEDs have proved attractive as cities and businesses look to replace aging, energy-guzzling fixtures with lights that cannot only turn on and off automatically but receive and transmit data about their own status as well as their surroundings. Depending on the installed or connected sensors, they can detect a range of factors and activities, including motion, congestion, pollutants, gunshots or, increasingly, a particular shopper in or around a store.
"Both G.E. and Acuity executives are looking to smart-city projects, which use a canopy of connected streetlights as the wireless infrastructure to coordinate city services, like easing traffic congestion, sensing when the garbage cans are full or even picking up on suspicious behavior at a pedestrian plaza.
"Cities worldwide are expected to replace 50 million aging fixtures with LEDs over the next few years. And while some are mainly interested in switching from older technologies to ones that use less energy and last for decades, others want to use the savings in electricity costs to help pay for the sensors and software that allow for the more sophisticated use of the LED’s electronics and communication abilities."
And marketers theoretically will be able to use such technologies to "employ a sort of GPS system that can give retailers a shopper’s location and orientation in a store within five centimeters of, say, a shelf or product display," or tell them where open parking spaces are in a parking lot.
The story makes clear that there is likely to be a robust debate about privacy and tracking issues, but the Eye-Opening point is clear that technology is making it ever easier to respond to even the slightest variable in consumer behavior.
Which is impressive. If also a little bit scary, since it sounds a little bit like The Village ...
Be seeing you.
- KC's View: