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Mini Introduces RFID-Activated Billboards 138

Posted by kdawson
from the L.A.-Story-meets-Minority-Report dept.
frinkster writes "MINI USA has placed interactive billboards in 4 US cities (Chicago, Miami, New York and San Francisco) and invited a few hundred MINI owners in those cities to join their targeted 'advertisement' pilot program. The owners sign up on MINI's website and receive an RFID keyfob in the mail. When that MINI owner drives by the billboard, a targeted message appears. Each owner tells MINI what to show when they drive by, such as 'Jim, you are one sexy beast.' If the pilot program is successful, MINI plans to put up more billboards in more cities and allow every owner to participate. MINI swears that no personal information in contained in the keyfobs and that all communication between the MINI and the owner is subject to their privacy policy and thus the program is completely safe. But how well will they keep their billboard logs away from the prying eyes of law enforcement or private detectives? And what are they doing to prevent 'hackers' from changing the personal messages to insults, such as 'Jim, nice to see you finally emerge from your mother's basement'?" MINI calls the interactive billboards "Motherboards."
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MINI Introduces RFID-Activated Billboards

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  • Ya... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Swimport (1034164) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:32PM (#17563760) Homepage
    This has good idea written all over it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I, for one, welcome our new RFID-reading Motherboards.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes, just what we need. Yet another distraction from the task of driving. I wonder how many people will be killed because they were too busy reading their personalised billboard. Motorists need less distractions not more.
  • More like (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Jim, I'm finally glad to see you emerge from your mother."
  • Fun! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ruiner13 (527499) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:34PM (#17563796) Homepage
    This could be fun to put out fake terror warnings on billboards to get people to drive faster :)
    • Re:Fun! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by linefeed0 (550967) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:49PM (#17564074)
      Fun? If you think jail is fun, and you would like to share this man's fate [thesmokinggun.com], I suggest you do so.
    • FTFA:
      The idea is simple, first give MINI USA some irreverent information about yourself (nothing too personal). Then MINI USA then sends out a special keyfob (4-6 weeks after sign-up) that identifies you to each of the Motorboards you pass. When the boards detect that you are about the drive by, they deliver a personal message based on the information you originally gave.
      You don't get to make the message. It is derived from the information you give MINI USA.
      • by k_187 (61692)
        Yeah, they'd have too many people who thought it was funny to put "shit shit boobs" up there for them to give you free reign with the messages.
        • But you have to admit, it would be for the first time that a billboard actually gets some attention.
          • by k_187 (61692)
            Oh yes, unfettered access to one of these on a billboard that I wouldn't have to go out of my way to drive pass would be a gold star for me buying a Mini
        • by FLEB (312391)
          Yes, my name is S.S. Boobs. My parents were hippies.

          (Really though, I get a fair amount of junk mail as "Destroyer of Worlds" and "Unparalleled God of Design" from some online stuff I signed up for years ago.)
    • "This could be fun to put out fake terror warnings on billboards to get people to drive faster :)"

      Or to get them to slow down: "...smokey on your right, 1/4 mile ahead, hiding behind the tree..." Like having CB in which few broadcast but many listen.
  • I actually know a MINI owner named Jim..

  • by CranberryKing (776846) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:35PM (#17563822)
    Great. How soon until it says "Jim! You are being detained."

    Believe it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hoi Polloi (522990)
      "Hi Akbar! It looks like you have traces of explosives on your car. Please pull over by the black helicoper up ahead."
  • by BadERA (107121) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:35PM (#17563836) Homepage
    Damn it Jim, I'm a doctor, not an billboard trigger.
  • Each owner tells MINI what to show when they drive by, such as 'Jim, you are one sexy beast.' If the pilot program is successful, MINI plans to put up more billboards in more cities and allow every owner to participate.

    I hate to say this, but this place is getting to me.
    I think I'm getting The Fear.
  • "Jim - You should have got a Hummer!"
  • What range? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:39PM (#17563900) Homepage
    What range are they imagining for RFID? I have always heard that driving past a billboard (unless it was *really* close) wouldn't be close enough for the transmit distances of RFID.

    If RFID is readable at distances of 50-100 feet or so, that's opens a bunch of issues people have been saying can't happen.

    Anyone with any more detailed knowledge about RFID care to chime in on this?
    • Re:What range? (Score:4, Informative)

      by man_ls (248470) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:44PM (#17563978)
      Active (Powered) RFID and a good antenna will net ranges much greater than 100 ft. You never hear about the Active sort terribly often, but it's out there, and is appropriate in a situation like this.
    • Re:What range? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:45PM (#17563990)
      Putting the RFID reader in a mile marker nearer the road (or in the road itself) and then relaying the information to the billboard via another, longer-distance technology, gets around the billboard-range problem.
    • It's possible they will have RFID readers near the ground that are linked to the actual billboard.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BlahSnarto (45250)
      I just googled RFID longrange and
      came up with a few interesting links

      http://www.ela.fr/ [www.ela.fr]
    • My guess is that the MINI itself has some kind of signal booster inside. I've seen some basic studies on it myself. I thought the range was quite limited and that was about 1-2 years ago. Might have changed significantly since. All of that depends on if they use active or passive tags. They have to use active to get any kind of range then a strong receiver. Someone correct me if I'm getting my facts wrong.
    • Using active tags and a highly directional antenna on the receiver, I suspect that you can probably "see" a tag from quite a distance away. Active tags transmit continuously, so they don't need a high-strength RF field to give them the juice to operate, like the passive tags inside SpeedPasses, etc.

      Examples of active RFID already in use are the EZ Pass boxes used in cars in New England and the Northeast. They have toll gates in New Jersey that you drive through at full speed, and the receivers are up at nor
    • by Radon360 (951529)

      Without getting technical, if they can make RFID work with at-speed tollbooths, they can make it work with billboards.

      (damn you, Illinois Tri-state)

    • by Ltar (1010889)
      Alternately, an RFID receiver for the board itself could be located on the side of the road, within range of passing RFID MINI's, and a few hundred yards in front of the actual sign.
    • by toQDuj (806112)
      Whilst driving past the billboard may not display the desired message...

      On the other hand, driving into the billboard will result in a particularly fancy "Please, Jim, Not again!"
  • No, they don't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:42PM (#17563946) Homepage Journal
    MINI calls the interactive billboards "Motherboards."

    Um, the FA actually says:

    Look MINI USA to roll-out the Motorboard program to a wider MINI-owning audience later in 2007.

    Looks like somebody does need to get out of his parents' basement...
  • Jim... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Owning a MINI does not make you gay Jim"
  • "Jim! You Could Have Had a V8!"
  • Included in the MINI motorboard manual:

    "The wrapper may be MINI, but the package is Jumbo."

    "Hummers suck."

    "I drive a MINI! I'm so fucking happy!!"

    And to that tailgating prick behind you:
    "Back off, fuckface!"

    Of course, in the end, we all know this will primarily be used to advertise YouTube videos and phishing sites.

    "www.p4yp4l.com! d4 sh1zn1tz!!11!!!!!11!!!"
    -SB
    • by eta526 (833281)
      Another option targeted to the tailgater behind you:

      "Please don't squish the Mini."

      Or to the slow driver in front:

      "Hurry up before I drive this thing up your tailpipe!"

    • My Favorite (Score:3, Funny)

      by wsanders (114993)
      A friend of a friend once hacked one of those generator-powered message signs that the Highway Department leaves running, unlocked everywhere, with this message and the 800 number of the highway department:

      YOUR WEB SITE HERE
      1 - 800 - USA - MINI

      (or whetever their number is)
  • by Dekortage (697532) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @05:48PM (#17564064) Homepage

    This means that the billboards will display their messages whenever the MAIL DELIVERY TRUCK drives by. Nice. And I'm betting a number of tags will mysteriously get lost in the mail and end up on eBay. Other issues:

    • If it's a keyfob, then it will also trigger the signs when someone is driving their OTHER non-Mini vehicle. Many families have two cars, and people drive other cars.
    • The article says "When the boards detect that you are about the drive by, they deliver a personal message based on the information you originally gave." In other words, when you're driving 70mph down the road, make sure you look up for your important message from your car manufacturer -- and then miss your turn.
    • Opposite extreme: you're stuck in traffic for 50 minutes underneath the sign.

    And there are too many ideas for mischievous messages... "Mini announces recall of your vehicle's braking system" for example.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by smitty97 (995791)
      when you're driving 70mph down the road, make sure you look up for your important message from your car manufacturer -- and then miss your turn.

      "Jim! TURN HERE-> "

      • by Dekortage (697532)

        Reminds of the signs I saw on a highway in Pennsylvania... "Jim Thorpe, 2 miles"... "Jim Thorpe, 1 mile"... "Jim Thorpe, exit". Must be nice for Jim to have such an arrangement with the highway department.

        (Yes, I know it refers to this [wikipedia.org].)

    • Umm..maybe they won't trigger anything until they're activated at the website? Which means it's about as secure as anything accessible via the web.
    • by nasch (598556)

      This means that the billboards will display their messages whenever the MAIL DELIVERY TRUCK drives by. Nice.

      Sounds like it's an active tag, so perhaps it has an off switch and/or requires a battery.

      And I'm betting a number of tags will mysteriously get lost in the mail and end up on eBay.

      Why are you betting that? You think postal theft is commonplace? Why do you think so?

      * If it's a keyfob, then it will also trigger the signs when someone is driving their OTHER non-Mini vehicle. Many families have

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      This means that the billboards will display their messages whenever the MAIL DELIVERY TRUCK drives by.

      Ok, but it's still advertising by Mini regardless of what vehicle is near it. What difference does it make which vehicle triggers it?

      And I'm betting a number of tags will mysteriously get lost in the mail and end up on eBay.

      What makes you say that? I've never had anything stolen from my mail, which I actually find kind of remarkable considering how many people have access to it. In either case, the post off
  • by nomadic (141991)
    I'm a MINI owner in Miami, I WANT MY FOB!!
  • insults, such as 'Jim, nice to see you finally emerge from your mother's basement'

    What? Saying he's like a Slashdotter is an insult? No way! That's a compliment you insensitive clod!
  • Say these things caught on, and you got a discount off your car for using a keyfob. Surely the billboards (during heavy traffic) would only display said adverts for a second or less (due to sheer number of users)? Roadside strobe advertising, just what everyone needs!
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @06:00PM (#17564256) Homepage Journal
    And the question I have is, Why? Why would I *want* to be a part of this? Are they going to pay me to endure the targeted advertising?

    This makes as much sense to me as signing up for a free poke in the eye.

    • This makes as much sense to me as signing up for a free poke in the eye.
      Hold out for the blow to the head.
      • by Brickwall (985910)
        "This makes as much sense to me as signing up for a free poke in the eye.

        Hold out for the blow to the head."

        Why not the dagger up the clitoris? Oh, wait; this is /. The OP couldn't possibly be a girl.

    • Is there something about RFID -- or "active" RFID -- that allows only a certain set of RFID readers to be able to read the chip? What I want to know is: how do I get an RFID reader? I want mount an RFID reader in front of my house and log all of the cars that come by, when they come by, if they are staying within "view" of the RFID reader for a certain amount of time (like, say, arriving an hour after I leave for work and leaving an hour before I return), etc. Pretty much every car is going to have RFID ta
    • And the question I have is, Why? Why would I *want* to be a part of this? Are they going to pay me to endure the targeted advertising? This makes as much sense to me as signing up for a free poke in the eye.

      Apparently its not obvious that YOU are not the target market. Mini owners who want to do something cool because they like "making a statement about themselves" and being attention whores will be all over it. Coupled with the fact that for right now its limited to a few people and you have a brillian

  • I wounder if the RFID keyfob gets in the way of the RFID based I-pass used in the Chicago area
  • Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

    Does anyone remember that insanely irritating scene in Minority report when every ad was calling his name.

    Ugh, no thanks. I'll stick to nice quiet billboards that ignore me just as easily as I ignore them.

    I can see it now: HEY CHRIS, APPLY HEAD-ON TO YOUR FOREHEAD, HEY CHRIS, APPLY HEAD-ON TO YOUR FOREHEAD, HEY CHRIS, HEAD-ON CAN BE APPLIED DIRECTLY TO YOUR FOREHEAD - HEY CHRIS, IT'S IN STORES NOW - HEAD-ON!

    • by nasch (598556)
      I can see it now: HEY CHRIS, APPLY HEAD-ON TO YOUR FOREHEAD...
      Did you RTFS? The car owner decides what the billboard says (though I would guess that particular message would be too long). PS I had to truncate your message because the caps triggered the lameness filter!
    • by Dr Caleb (121505)
      "HEAD-ON CAN BE APPLIED DIRECTLY TO YOUR FOREHEAD"

      I see those ads too, and I wonder - why? What does it do? Is it breath freshener? Why would I apply that to my forehead?

      Yes, I know I could look it up, but isn't that the point of advertising - to tell me what your product does? (as opposed to driving me up a wall with the repetition)
      • It's some sort of cream or chapstick thing that's filled with "natural" herbs and gets rid of headaches. Or so I hear.
      • You're either rhetorically missing my point, or clearly making it. ;)

        Marketing is getting out of control. Marketing is a subtle form of brainwashing. McDonalds proved that more than 60 years ago with their "target the kids" campaign/colorful "style". People buy shit because they see a logo/symbol and think they need something from there. It's a basic human instinct that's getting tapped for the purpose of big businesses and their bottom line. EVERY CEO on the planet will tell you that their "Brand reco
  • Is there a cost for this service or deposit for the key fobs? Otherwise it sounds like a very creative idea. Mini USA has been exceptionally creative with there previous billboards. Check this one out: http://www.adrants.com/images/Mini_Billboard.jpg [adrants.com]
  • A company is going to roll out advertisement for people who already own their product? This might be a good idea with soda-pop, fast food and other consumables, but how does it sell more cars? One might argue that it strengthens brand loyalty within their consumer, but if one buys a mini, I would have to believe that there's already a strong consumer loyalty present to encourage someone to buy an overpriced, lower fuel economy compact car.

    I'd settle for a hack that would say "Stop looking to billboard f

    • by IflyRC (956454)
      Well, marketing gurus could tie the owner of MINI in with a lot of other products. By knowing they drive a MINI they may be more likely to buy/own product X. So, MINI could increase their own revenues by selling ad space that is directly linked to their customers.
    • by jeffeb3 (1036434)
      Word of mouth advertising is the Best promotion of a product, and what is going to cause more conversation than this idea?
      • by Radon360 (951529)

        Well, I'd agree that word of mouth advertising is very good for bringing an obscure product into the spotlight, or improving a brand's image based on other people's positive testimonials, but do we really have a significant number of people that would be more inclined to buy a Mini if their "cool friend" has this RFID tag that makes a billboard display some pointless message each time they drive by? Is the Mini still that obscure of a brand?

        Draw this as an interesting parallel: I think we can all agre

    • by damiam (409504)
      Minis overpriced? They're not too cheap, but they're also one of the best-driving compact cars you can buy.
  • Any bets as to how long before we see a TV "reporter" with "breaking news" about the novel use of this technology in a marriage proposal?

    GIGOwiz

  • The biggest problem is prank messages? I think all the messages will be prank messages - I think that's pretty much the idea.

    I assume someone at Mini gets to review the messages and decide which ones are allowed, otherwise there will be obscene messages, threats, etc. This will be like when Nike had the shoes you could order with writing stitched into them and some guy wanted his to say "Sweatshop" and Nike said no.
  • Who could possibly care about this enough to go through the effort to sign up for something so retarded? If your life is running so short on excitement that your idea of a "thrill" is seeing some hackneyed catchphrase of your choosing displayed over the interstate as you drive by it everyday, you may just need to get out of your parents' basement!

    Moreover, imagine the cases of road rage this could inspire. Some douchebag decides to have something offensive/annoying displayed as he/she drives past a bi
  • I feel I should mention that MINI coopers are hideous and so are the people who drive them.

    Honestly, they're almost as bad as PT Cruisers.
  • Our society is well on it's way to looking exactly like the movie Bladerunner. There are a few megacorps running everything and advertising is everywhere; the sky, smart billboards, ads that target you(personally) as you walk by them, etc.

    Scary. The future seems pretty bleak if things continue as they are.
  • Each owner tells MINI what to show when they drive by, such as 'Jim, you are one sexy beast.' ... MINI calls the interactive billboards "Motherboards."

    Okay, that is just way too freudian for me. Look, son, the only way you're going to get over your oedipus complex [google.vu] is to move out of the basement!

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @06:38PM (#17564884)
    MINI swears that no personal information in contained in the keyfobs...


    Doesn't really matter. All you need to know as a marketeer is the unique ID of the FOB. When the FOB was registered your name, etc. goes into the master DB in the sky and from that point forward any POS or PO-Advertisement that sees your FOB will have access to your personally identifiable consumer portrait.

    The "see some stupid phrase on a billboard as you're driving to your lifeless cube" game is just a way to train various peons to be good consumers and hang onto their FOB.

    • by c4miles (249464)
      Dude, 'fob' is a word, not an acronym, unless your keychain is Fresh Off the Boat.
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      All you need to know as a marketeer is the unique ID of the FOB. When the FOB was registered your name, etc. goes into the master DB in the sky

      How long before Homeland Security demands these on all cars, and starts tracking your movements at all times? Or before some state transportation agency decides to install them on license plates, and automatically detect speeding, running yellow lights, etc.? That thing disappearing in your rear view mirror is freedom.

  • by Rodness (168429) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @06:45PM (#17564986)
    They just got every egomaniac out there to carry around yet another 'MINI' branded keyfob on his keychain and show it off to friends, thus greatly improving their word-of-mouth brand recognition. And they've managed to make (some) people WANT to look at 'MINI' branded billboards.
  • Throwing a rod at 54,000 miles and having the dealer tell you that you drove it through water or overrevved the engine, and therefore it wasn't a "manufacturing defect." $8,100 later we can drive the car up to keyfob billboards again.
  • I think that I *would* carry a keychain if it could made me see mostly ads for things I've already expressed interested in. Give up my pharmaceutical and home mortgage billboards for anime and videogame billboards? Sign me up.
  • I can think of at least a few bits of ASCII art that could be fun on a billboard...
  • by sloth jr (88200) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @07:19PM (#17565510)
    According to the linked article, the message isn't customizable by you at all - you simply have to give Mini USA typical marketing demographic info, sign up for their spam, and then THEY get to choose the message.

    Bleah.
  • What happens when two people with mini keyfobs drive by at the same time? Or a husband and wife who both own minis, but are driving in one car? Does it only show the message for the first keyfob it detects? Or does it flash back and forth between the two?
    • by jj00 (599158)

      What happens when two people with mini keyfobs drive by at the same time? Or a husband and wife who both own minis, but are driving in one car?

      Message: "Guess who's cheating on the other..."
  • How much is this costing them? Surely it's fairly pricey to make custom-encoded RFID chips for every Jim who signs up? How is this offset? Nobody is going to pay attention the ad subject, it'll all be focussed on the inevitable "Jim is gay" hacked messages.
  • I bet insurance companies could have fun with this. For instance, you get into a little accident, and you just happen to get your car fixed at a shop on the insurance company's referral list. They slip an RFID tag into your car, and before you know it, right when you're coming up on that S-curve...

    "Jim, quick! Look behind you!"

    Instant money!

  • This isn't a normal RFID tag, Those only have a range for a few feet. For this to be of any use for billboards, it has to have a range of several hundred feet. Hence the much larger keyfob.

    People who are worried that their new RFID tagged underwear will suddenly start broadcasting to billboards can just relax. That won't happen for a few more years yet...
  • Freud strikes again (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They are called Motorboards not motherboards. Perv.
  • MINI calls the interactive billboards "Motherboards."

    Aren't you glad you're a Beta, Jim? Instead of an Alpha? And then you're much better than the Gammas and Deltas.

fortune: not found

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