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Top Israeli tech executives talk.(Photo by: Courtesy)
Cooking the real world
Much like the current internet, geospatial targeting could lead to a bombardment of unwanted proximity advertising.
"Geospatial is the cookie for the real world” is a claim I’ve heard with increasing credence around the tech community in recent months. But what does it mean?

HTTP cookies (also known as "web cookies", "browser cookies" or simply as plain “cookies") on the internet are short pieces of data downloaded from web pages on the internet and stored locally on the users device and interpretable by a user’s web browser. There are various types of cookies — authentication cookies (that help websites authenticate a user) and tracking cookies (to track browsing histories) for example. Some last but for the duration of a session of a single web browsing session — until such time as the user navigates away from a page; logs-out; or closes down the browser.

Another form is the persistent cookie. A cookie that remains across sessions. Its purpose is to retain stateful information — settings;  items added to eCommerce carts; previous activity, behavior or preference etc. so that in the case of a re-visit, these states can once again be invoked. Think Amazon — it’s an authentication cookie that asks you if you are indeed who you are. A tracking cookie may know what other goods (read web pages) you have browsed; but it’s a persistent cookie that stores the contents of your shopping basket to give you the convenience of picking up from where you left when you re-visit the store.  Persistent cookies are a key mechanism for personalization. 

So much for cookies and personalization on the internet. But what about the real world? Is there a way of doing something similar in physical spaces? Is it possible to "cookie" the real world?

•Could an advertising hoarding I walk past suddenly display a targeted advertisement just for my benefit? Perhaps something highly personalised (like the Vox Teardrop electric guitar I’ve had my eye on for a while)?

•Could a tablet or kiosk in a McDonald’s restaurant invoke the previous order I made the last time I was there?

•Can a board at an airport target me specifically only with MY flight information (rather than show ALL flights in chronological order of departure or arrival?)

•Can a passport machine at immigration control anticipate that it is me? And have my ESTA information etc.

•Can the running machine at my gym retain my preferred settings?

•Can my TV offer me MY preferred watch-list rather than my wife’s?

The answer would seem to be “many” – but is it possible?

The short answer is yes. In the long term it will happen through remote biometric authentication. Remote iris-scanning; facial or gait (the way you walk) recognition or other. Sensors embedded in the environment can identify you…not just to people, but to machines. 

In the medium term, it will be enabled by connecting to what is already around you; the existing infrastructure — beacons; existing wireless devices; WiFi or BlueTooth; existing sensors; new embedded sensors.  Companies like NewAerare specializing in leveraging existing infrastructure for precisely this purpose. 

And in the short term, the answer is the geospatial capability of your mobile device, coupled with a repository like a Personalized Data Store (PSD) that can transmit relevant facets of your personal identity when appropriate and on an “opt-in” basis.

All of which sounds fantastic – who wouldn’t want the world to adjust to their personal preferences, rather than having to continually and repetitively adjust their own environment?

And yet, there may be an unexplored downside. Much like the current internet, geospatial targeting could lead to a bombardment of unwanted proximity advertising.

The potential is enormous: as long as we address with it the things we have learned from the internet advertising industry – and allow the consumer their space.

Hendrik Kleinsmiede is Co-Founder and Innovation Partner, Visa Europe Collab. Visa Europe Collab is a member of IATI (Israel Advanced Technology Industries).

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