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Tokyo trials digital billboards that scan passers-by

A consortium of 11 railway companies launched the one-year pilot project last month. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 15, 2010
Digital advertising billboards being trialled in Japan are fitted with cameras that read the gender and age group of people looking at them to tailor their commercial messages.

The technology -- reminiscent of the personalised advertisements in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi movie "Minority Report" -- forms part of the Digital Signage Promotion Project, which is currently in a test phase.

A consortium of 11 railway companies launched the one-year pilot project last month, and has set up 27 of the high-tech advertising displays in subway commuter stations around Tokyo.

"The camera can distinguish a person's sex and approximate age, even if the person only walks by in front of the display, at least if he or she looks at the screen for a second," said a spokesman for the project.

If data for different locations is analysed, companies can provide interactive advertisements "which meet the interest of people who use the station at a certain time," the project said in a statement.

While in "Minority Report" advertisers recognise individuals such as Tom Cruise's character by name and make purchasing suggestions, the Japanese project does not identify people and only collates demographic data.

The technology uses face recognition software to glean the gender and age group of passers-by, but operators have promised they will save no recorded images, only the collated data about groups of people.

earlier related report
Mobile phones in use worldwide top 5.0 billion: study
Stockholm (AFP) July 15, 2010 - The number of mobile phones in use worldwide has topped 5.0 billion, boosted by soaring demand in emerging markets India and China, a study by Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson showed Thursday.

The world's 5.0-billionth mobile phone subscription was recorded on July 8, the company said in a statement, with the market having increased almost seven-fold in 10 years.

"In the year 2000, about 720 million people had mobile subscriptions, less than the amount of users in China alone today," Ericsson said.

The number of mobile subscriptions increases by two million a day, "largely thanks to emerging markets like India and China," it added.

An Ericsson spokeswoman told AFP the study's term "subscriptions" included both billed contracts with providers and the 'pay-as-you-go' formula, popular in emerging markets.

Since one person can have more than one mobile phone subscription, the 5.0 billion mark does not necessarily mean five billion people own a mobile phone.

According to the United Nations, the world's population is around 6.8 billion people.

Ericsson added mobile broadband subscriptions are growing at a similar pace and are expected to reach 3.4 billion by 2015, up from 360 million last year.

The mobile giant predicts 80 percent of all people accessing the Internet will soon do so via a mobile phone.

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