Google Awarded Weather-Based Ads Patent
Mobile users could soon receive adverts for air conditioning if the weather is hot
Google has been awarded a patent that could allow it to offer adverts based on the environment of a smartphone user.
The patent, awarded last week, has not been well received by privacy organisations who have said that it evokes comparisons with the film Minority Report, which is set in a dystopia that features heavily-targeted advertising.
Under the weather
The abstract of the filing submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says that “information about an environmental condition of a remote device is received, the environmental condition being determined based on a signal output from a sensor of the remote device or a sensor coupled to the remote device. An advertisement is identified based on the environmental condition, and the advertisement is provided to the remote device.”
It suggests that weather sensors could be included in future smartphones, to offer ads specific to the conditions. For example, if the temperature reaches a certain level, adverts about air conditioning could be shown, while if it is cold, information about warm clothing could be provided
“When determining what ads to serve to end users, the environmental factors can be used independently or in combination with matching of keywords associated with the advertisements and keywords in user search queries,” said the patent. “A web browser or search engine located at the user’s site may obtain information on the environment (e.g. temperature, humidity, light, sound, air composition) from sensors.”
“Advertisers may specify that the ads are shown to users whose environmental conditions meet certain criteria,” it added. “For example, advertisements for air conditioners can be sent to users located at regions having temperatures above a first threshold, while advertisements for winter overcoats can be sent to users located at regions having temperatures below a second threshold.
Privacy a premium
Google has also patented a method of detecting background noise when a user makes a phone call. This technology, combined with a device’s GPS functionality, could determine if someone was at a certain concert and target them with ads about albums and audio equipment.
The search giant has shrugged off the Minority Report comparisons, with a spokesman telling the BBC, “We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”
Google makes much of its revenue from advertising, but is increasingly being challenged by Facebook. The company believes that one area it still has an advantage is mobile, owing to its Android operating system, but its reputation has suffered from advertising illegal products and claims that it is returning poor search results.
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