Curated advertising may be coming to a highway near you. “A startup called Synaps Labs has brought it to the physical world by combining high-speed cameras set up a distance ahead of the billboard (about 180 meters) to capture images of cars,” reports MIT Technology Review. “Its machine-learning system can recognize in those images the make and model of the cars an advertiser wants to target. A bidding system then selects the appropriate advertising to put on the billboard as that car passes.” From the report: There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps. Indeed, recent research from a group of university researchers and led by Stanford found that — using machine vision and deep learning — analyzing the make, model, and year of vehicles visible in Google Street View could accurately estimate income, race, and education level of a neighborhood’s residents, and even whether a city is likely to vote Democrat or Republican. Synaps’s business model is to sell its services to the owners of digital billboards. Digital billboard advertising rotates, and more targeted advertising can rotate more often, allowing operators to sell more ads. According to Synaps, a targeted ad shown 8,500 times in one month will reach the same number of targeted drivers (approximately 22,000) as a typical ad shown 55,000 times. In Russia, Synaps expects to be operating on 20 to 50 billboards this year. The company is also planning a test in the U.S. this summer, where there are roughly 7,000 digital billboards, a number growing at 15 percent a year, according to the company. (By contrast, there are 370,000 conventional billboards.) With a row of digital billboards along a road, they could roll the ads as the cars move along, making billboard advertising more like the storytelling style of television and the Internet, says Synaps’s cofounder Alex Pustov.
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