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London recycling bins track phones of passers-by

United Kingdom – Recycling bins in London are monitoring the phones of passers-by so advertisers can target messages at people whom the bins recognise.

The company behind this, Renew, installed a hundred recycling bins with digital screens around the city before the 2012 Olympics. Advertisers can buy space on the internet-connected bins, and the city gets 5% of the airtime to display public information. And now, Renew has outfitted a dozen of the bins with gadgets that track smartphones.

The bins record a unique identification number, known as a MAC address, for any nearby phones and other devices that have Wi-Fi turned on, enabling Renew to identify if the passer-by is the same one from yesterday, his or her specific route down the street and how fast he or she is walking.

The technology, developed by London-based Presence Aware, is intended to help advertisers hone their marketing campaigns. Say a coffee chain wanted to win customers from a rival: if it had the same tracking devices in its stores, it could tell whether you’re already loyal to the brand and tailor its ads on the recycling bins accordingly.

Renew wants to expand the technology to all of its recycling bins in London as well as to those in New York, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

Source: Quartz

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