RFID Billboards Target Mini Audience

    January 12, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Drivers of the charming little Mini Coopers may be invited to sign up for an interactive billboard promotion called Motorby, where RFID equipped keyfobs will change the message as these drivers approach the billboard.

RFID Billboards Target Mini Audience
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The future is in personalization. While ‘Minority Report’ references will be everywhere about the program being promoted to Mini owners, the real news is the continued merging of technology, marketing, and personal information.

As an exclusive brand with the kind of cachet that Apple has in the world of consumer electronics, Mini can take advantage of that position and do these kinds of out of the box thinking experiments. While RFID has been used heavily behind the scenes in warehousing and inventory management, most people who know of it probably just heard how passports use them now.

Mini’s approach as detailed at MotoringFile takes a little bit of owner-contributed information, nothing too personal, and embeds it into an RFID chip. The RFID goes into a keyfob, and the keyfob goes to the owner.

The next time the owner drives the Mini past one of the electronic billboards in Chicago, New York, Miami, or San Francisco, and the message on the RFID chip appears on the screen. The billboards are placed over highways to pick up the RFID signal.

This application of technology and personalized information will be just for fun. Mini wants irreverence, to emphasize the quirky appeal of their little cars. It’s drive-by product evangelism, something that even Apple hasn’t pulled off yet.

We considered the prospect of changeable billboards back in 2005. That was from the context of Google driving its advertising to people everywhere, and the use of wireless technology and ‘electronic paper’ (which does exist today, developed by Fujitsu) to deliver ad messages to people anywhere that a paper ad could be posted.

Mini’s effort uses a digital billboard to display a simple text message. It’s a start, and one that we will probably consider quaint in five years. As for today, it’s a neat implementation of RFID, even though the privacy naysayers will express worries about it.

UPDATE!: I didn’t see this Engadget post about Google and billboards until a few minutes ago, but it looks like the future of Internet connected, interactive billboards could happen sooner than later. Could my prediction from August 2005 be closer to coming true?

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.