Earlier this week startup advertising group Renew took to the streets of London with recycling bins that were unique and maybe a bit too unique – so much so that the City of London put a halt to the program. The controversial recycling bins would monitor phones of those passing and grabbed unique MAC addresses of devices. An intriguing technology but one that ruffled too many feathers apparently.
The bins/ad kiosks detected if a smartphone had Wi-Fi turned on to grab the phone’s details, which Renew was planning to then provide targeted ads to each pedestrian. While the pilot program was running for the first month the ad agency says it had already collected over one million MAC addresses through the 100 recycling bins installed across the city.
The idea for the tracking is to provide very targeted marketing campaigns, for instance if pretend you ran a local café and a customer was passing by a bin and you wanted to win their business. If there was the same tracking device in your café this targeting could tell if the customer was already a loyal customer or not. As a result targeted discounts or messages could be sent to have the customer return for repeat business. That strategy and product sounds appealing and brings internet tracking to the real world.
While the idea sounds amazing, as mentioned the City of London has put a halt to it all. Quartz shares the details about the project in greater detail, but it leaves us wondering are we ready to live a Minority Report type of world? We already share so much information everyday, but is tracking for open smartphone Wi-Fi connections a scary thought or a thought that will be real eventually, just not right now?