If only they knew

It’s been said we live in cranky times, where people are apt to curse if you create an obstacle as you pause to bend and tie a shoe.  Naturally, we collectively blame the Internet, and software in general, for shortening both our attention spans and our fuses.  It’s much more complicated than that but let’s start there, with the (silly) notion that the world is spinning out of control and software is making things worse. 

I was watching CBC Newsworld the other day and grabbed the remote with irritation to switch to the BBC because for (who’s counting) the 8th time in an hour, they showed the same inane commercial about life insurance for the really old. It brought to mind an idea I’ve had for years. Wouldn’t it be absolutely terrific if, like we can do with computer networks, the television networks could monitor to see how many people were connected at any given moment, and how many left them to watch another network?  Wouldn’t that drive some very significant changes in programming?  You bet.  Too bad that technology doesn’t exist.  Instead they rely on sampling and statistical extrapolation.  But something sort of close to that level of granular monitoring does exist for an adjacent form of media. 

In this whitepaper from Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner and her initiative around Privacy by Design, a technology is described that detects when someone looks at a sign. It tracks the number, and by pattern recognition (size, shape, movement, clothing) determines the gender and approximate age.  The best part is that it doesn’t store the information.  It’s altering the way marketers target their message and it’s this type of capability I think that would drive huge changes in the television industry.  If they knew that 35,000 people switched the channel to something else every time a Cold-FX commercial came on, don’t you think they would yank that commercial?  That would be one small step in making it safer to stop to tie our shoe or slow down on a busy sidewalk to look in a shop window.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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