The accuracy ranges from 85 to 95 percent, Avalos says, depending on the market in which the system is deployed. Databases have to be tailored to a particular locality. For example, in Japan, he says, the database would differ from that used in the United States. Avalos expects that as more data is introduced to the systems, accuracy will improve.
Simple demographic recognition is just the beginning, says Avalos. He foresees opt-in systems that recognize individuals’ faces. The customer walks into a grocery store, is recognized, and immediately given digital coupons via his cell phone—like a shopper loyalty program but without the card.
More near-term applications might include tracking shoppers’ actions. “If you have different advertisements pointing them in a direction, you’ll be able to track to see if they really go to that part of the store,” says Ashley Flaska, vice president of marketing for NEC Display solutions. She adds that interactivity with the display is also important—an idea with which others in the industry concur.
Display startup Prysm, which developed screens for American Eagle’s flagship store in New York City, hopes to integrate interactive technology into its displays, linking an item a shopper is holding with an advertisement on a screen. “It could be as simple as: I grab jeans … and up on the display there’s a special for those jeans or an advertisement with someone wearing them,” says Dana Corey, vice president of sales at Prysm.
For Avalos, interactivity is important “because it enhances the deployment.” It turns the act of looking at a display, even with other people around, into a one-on-one experience. Avalos says a number of different technologies might be used interactively—such as touchscreens, mobile phones, and gesture recognition—all the while the systems keep gathering metrics on who’s actually paying attention to which ads.