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Grocery Store "Smart Shelves" Will Identify Customers, Show Targeted Ads 274

Posted by samzenpus
from the watching-you dept.
cagraham writes "Snack company Mondelez International (maker of Oreos, Trident, Cadbury eggs) will introduce so-called 'smart shelves' into store checkout aisles beginning 2015. The shelves will use Microsoft's Kinect software, in addition to other tech, to identify shoppers age and sex, and will then use that info to deliver demographically tailored advertisements. The shelves will be able to track engagement, monitor how long customer's watch each ad, and offer discounts if a customer is considering a purchase (weight sensors will tell the machine if you pick up a product). Mondelez says the software will only use and collect aggregate data, and will not record any video or photos."
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Grocery Store "Smart Shelves" Will Identify Customers, Show Targeted Ads

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  • Could be good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meerling (1487879) on Monday October 14, 2013 @11:55AM (#45122287)
    Especially once we figure out how to 'convince' it to give us the best discount on everything.

    Humans are lousy at reading humans, machines programmed by humans and used on the cheap will be relatively easy to fool.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Especially once we figure out how to 'convince' it to give us the best discount on everything.

      What exactly do you think the idea of the discount is?
      In this case it isn't to get rid of vegetables before they get old. Nor is it to make you buy what you need in bulk to cut down handling costs.

      In this particular case the discount isn't actually a discount but rather the correct value of something that has been intentionally overpriced to make you believe that you are getting a better deal than you actually do.
      If you find a way to trick it into giving you the discount and this makes you feel clever and l

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Many jurisdictions actually have laws against such deceptive pricing [ftc.gov] practices, with varying requirements to be met.

        The point of a discount is to be the tie-breaking factor in whether or not to buy a product of a particular brand. The seller loses some profit, perhaps even all profit, but gains a sale and may even make his competitor lose one. It can provide an opportunity to prove that one product is as good or better than an alternative, thus winning market share.

        It is important to remember your own inten

        • by AJH16 (940784)

          While I generally agree, I have to disagree with the blanket statement that it's a bad idea to buy more than you otherwise would have. Sometimes (even perhaps most times) that is true, but there are times when it can be of benefit if it is something that a) won't go bad and b) you will eventually use, c) the cost of storing it for the extra time you need to store it plus the cost of using the funds earlier is cheaper than the discount received and d) you have sufficient liquidity to cover any additional up

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Of course you are ignoring the simple fact that if you don't get the discount, even a disingenuous one, you are paying a higher price.

        Now you could say "just go to a different store". True, but that's limited. There are only so many stores in any area, and certain products are not carried by all of them.

        On top of that the time and fuel spend running from store to store has to be considered. Are you really going to spend 15 minutes, and around $0.20 - $0.80 in fuel to save $0.13 on something?

        I don't like bei
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unless advertising somehow decreases the cost of bringing products to market, it actually increases prices in the aggregate. You may pay less for a particular product on a particular day, just like you may occasionally win at roulette. Overall though, advertising increases expenditures by the companies, just like the odds favor the house. That cost is passed on to you, even though it's probably not that large. The house edge isn't that large either; but you still lose.

      They keep telling us that if they

      • by AJH16 (940784)

        Targeted advertising however, does decrease the cost to bring to market. With untargeted advertising, you have to spray and pray, when you can spend less and get more effect for the price, that is cheaper for everyone.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          But targeting costs money. You need data about your potential customers and the ability to use it. The data isn't free and depending on what data you have, you might need some really smart people to figure out how to benefit from it. And a lot more advertising is targeted than you might think because people find it invasive, if they find out how much the advertiser knows about them. For instance, a consumer that regularly buys diapers can be assumed to have a kid. However, since that consumer would find it

        • Actually, advertising CAN reduce costs, even if it increases the marginal costs for the items being advertised. If you sell widgets and make 100,000 widgets, but have the capacity to make twice that many by doubling your shifts, the marginal costs go down because you're effectively reducing the cost of overhead on the widgets. IF the cost of advertising is less than the increased efficiency, then it is a net win, even though you spent more money in production.

          Advertising increases sales, and that is the poi

    • Male, 15-19. Trojans, 20% discount!

      Male, 20-28. Durex, 20% discount!

      Female, 15-28. Pepper spray, 5% discount!

      Female, 35-55. T-Shirt, I am a Cougar, 35% discount!

    • Re:Could be good. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dcollins (135727) on Monday October 14, 2013 @01:52PM (#45123675) Homepage

      Practically only Slahdotters ever think of technologically-targeted ads as a good thing. In polls, nearly 70% of the public oppose such practices:

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/12/privacy-do-not-track-ads-internet-gallup-poll.html [latimes.com]

  • The ones used in mini bars or self check outs don't work that well so how much false positives will there be

  • now we can see if we can haggle with robots for discounts on stuff!
  • You throw a targeted ad at me and it just might be an offer to contract with me, and you just might be bound by terms you didn't mean to be bound by.

  • Oh shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by darrellg1 (969068) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:01PM (#45122357)
    the condom section is going to go nuts....
  • Now you'll have to keep a selection of masks (Guy Fawkes, George Bush, Muhammad Ali...) in the cart and switch them as you wander the aisles. Or maybe wearing a burka will be enough.
    • . . . and suddenly masks will be deemed a threat to Free Enterprise, and wearing one will put you on a terrorism watch list.

      Anyway, you'd better wear gloves too, because shopping cart handles will eventually have DNA sensors and galvanic skin response detectors.

    • May I suggest that anyone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask gets bombarded with adverts for t-shirts with "TWAT" written on them?

  • by treerex (743007) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:02PM (#45122371) Homepage

    I for one have no interest in such targeted advertising, and until they become ubiquitous I'll avoid any store that has these.

    Can you imagine where this will go? Shelf notices that you're overweight and you picked up a candy bar? Screen says, "Are you sure you want to buy that?" This will work great until someone puts a sticker over the sensor bar.

    • This will work great until someone puts a sticker over the sensor bar.

      Sharpie, liquid paper, spraypaint, RTV. Something difficult and expensive to undo without damaging the lens.
      You'll need a hoodie and a mask, though.

    • That's exactly what I plan to do. Ha!
      ...I hope the sticker store has some of these. I'm going to need a discount on stickers.
    • by clickety6 (141178)

      Can you imagine where this will go? Shelf notices that you're overweight and you picked up a candy bar? Screen says, "Are you sure you want to buy that?" This will work great until someone puts a sticker over the sensor bar.

      I can't see the stores limiting their profits sales by trying to dissuade customers from purchasing.

      More likely, if the sensor sees you're overweight, when you pick up a candy bar a voice will say " Go on, take five! Take ten! Take them all! You know you want to!"

    • Better approach: Put a box of saltines where the Oreo's are supposed to be. Hold a bag of potatoes while standing on the weight sensor. Take stuff off the shelf, walk around the store and then put it back.

      Bad data is worse than no data.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        I love that approach... Yea, Move the cereal from the shelf below to the one hawking their wares electronically.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Shelf notices that you're overweight and you picked up a candy bar? Screen says, "Are you sure you want to buy that?"

      Nah, advertisers would never miss an opportunity to make you feel shitty about yourself and spend money trying to fix it. I imagine the screen would become one of those funny mirrors that makes you look fat, while a loud voice shouts "hit the gym, fat ass!" at you, followed by a little printer dispensing a coupon for the local sweatshop. Obviously the voucher will have a photoshopped barbie doll standing next to her photoshopped he-man on it too, just in case you had some dignity or feelings of self-worth l

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      Shelf notices that you're overweight and you picked up a candy bar?

      The interesting part will be when the system notifies your health insurance provider, in realtime, about the candy bar and adjusts your premium" accordingly".

    • by mellon (7048)

      More likely the shelf will urge you to get the king size instead of the regular. What makes you think the advertisers will take your interests to heart?

  • Mondelez says the software will only use and collect aggregate data, and will not record any video or photos."

    Yet.

    • It doesn't really matter. The number of events required to map a behavior pattern to a person's identity is trivially small. Humans require photo/video to identify, algorithms require far, far less.
  • So, this technology could be used in the xbox it self?
    Is it already? I'm not sure if it shows adds at all as I don't own any.

  • My admittedly limited understanding of the business is that margins and profits are very tight. I can't image something like this pulling its weight in terms of cost-benefit.
    • At first you offer it for free. You convince people how important it is to them. Then you dangle them on a leash and make them think they are getting a discount. Then once they CANT LIVE WITHOUT IT you make them pay full price!!!
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:10PM (#45122461)

    It'll never happen, but I'm sure they've been used as an end-around credit card privacy laws. I remember when my local grocer first introduced them. The prices of everything went up overnight, then you needed their card to get the same old prices. The thought that they might make advertising to me even more interactive isn't at all appealing.

    And, as for just switching grocery stores, I don't know where most of you live but here in KC I only have 2 practical choices (without a long drive).

    • by cusco (717999)

      When they ask for your phone number instead of the card use (321) 123-4567. There are several hundred (if not more) people around the country using that number. Works almost everywhere, if it doesn't work at some chain fill out a card. I've noticed QFC and Radio Shack will occasionally remove it, so I just fill out another form with the same number and a different name and it starts working again for another year or two.

      As an added benefit, it's amusing as all hell to see how many cashiers think that's m

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I always use Jenny's Number at chain stores.

        • by jerpyro (926071)

          I do too. Whatever area code I'm in plus 867-5309 and I've only seen it not work once.

          • The best part is seeing what "targeted" advertising coupons get spit out when using that number.

      • I approach it with the view that a government TLA doesn't care what excuse you have for disturbing them with your marketing bullshit, only that you disturbed them with your marketing bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Grocer cards: Ask the person behind you if they want the extra purchase credit on their card. You get the "discount", they get entered into the database. Everyone's happy!

    • Lemme guess, Pricecutter and/or Dillons/Kroger?

      Yea, screw them. I was glad when they built a Hy-Vee down the road from my house - no 'grocer card' to speak of, but they have a "fuel saver" program by which you can get X cents/gallon off your next fuel purchase if you buy certain things.

      • by mellon (7048)

        Um. How is that different from a grocer card? The bribe is different—fuel discounts rather than food discounts—but the effect is the same: they track your purchases.

        • They only offer fuel points on a very limited number of products (basically, whatever is on 'special' that week); if I'm not buying anything that gets fuel points, there's no purpose in swiping the card.

          As opposed to the typical grocer card, that you have to use on every purchase to avoid rip-off pricing.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      It'll never happen, but I'm sure they've been used as an end-around credit card privacy laws. I remember when my local grocer first introduced them. The prices of everything went up overnight, then you needed their card to get the same old prices. The thought that they might make advertising to me even more interactive isn't at all appealing.

      And, as for just switching grocery stores, I don't know where most of you live but here in KC I only have 2 practical choices (without a long drive).

      As far as I can tell, the Publix stores around me do not use loyalty cards (but they are also as a rule more expensive, even looking at prices that haven't been adjusted for loyalty discounts). But, if being tracked on a card bothers you so much, then simply get some people together and use the same card. Give one person's address, one person's phone number, another person's name, etc when they ask for information. Generally you don't need the physical card on you, you can simply use the associated phone

      • by sconeu (64226)

        I don't know if Trader Joe's is national (I know that they're in both CA and AZ), but they don't do that shit either.

        For a while, I shopped at Albertsons, specifically because they *DIDN'T* have a "loyalty card". Of course, that went away quickly.

      • by linebackn (131821)

        But, if being tracked on a card bothers you so much, then simply get some people together and use the same card....

        Because over time, especially if enough people do it, - and everyone should - they will make it harder, and harder, and even eventually illegal for you to do this.

        And by shopping at places like this you are still saying it is OK for them to tack you and others, even if you have quietly fudged your data a bit.

        Also don't be so sure that they will never have the techniques to see through your obf

        • How could they make it illegal? About the only thing I can think of is pull the TOS/EULA crap and claim it is a contract. Ask for an ID? Get a fake out of state one with a random name. Or pick a real name from an out of state phone book and put that on the card. Require a card to shop there? With the thin profit margin of grocert stores, they cant afford to pay someone to just check cards when people enter. If they check at the counter then people will simply leave without purchasing anything, and the
          • by idontgno (624372)

            How could they make it illegal?

            Lobbying. The usual way.

            Require a card to shop there? With the thin profit margin of grocert stores, they cant afford to pay someone to just check cards when people enter.

            You obviously haven't shopped at a Sam's Club. Hell, you haven't shopped at Wal-Mart... your friendly "Welcom to Wal-Mart" oldster could easily be repurposed as a card-check monkey, at precisely zero operating cost increase.

    • "Grocer cards"? "Loyalty cards"? "Discount cards"? Let's call them what they are. TRACKING cards.

      Sure, they may not turn the information over to your health insurance provider... yet. But they do use the cards to track purchases in aggregate. That is the entire reason for their existence.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      I take it you pay cash for everything too? lighten up or this "i"m being watch" thing might get you a long jacket with long sleeves that buttons up the back

  • Sure, I believe that. Actually I think the NSA will be putting back doors into it so it very much will record what we do. It'll catch shop lifters too.
  • That technology will come later?

    I don't know of a single person that wouldn't enjoy being constantly bombarded by directed ads while shopping; it just adds to the total "experience?".
  • Advertising Bubble (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:22PM (#45122629)

    If the advertising becomes really bubbled I can see an issue where attractive people are shown healthy products and ugly people are shown unhealthy products because that's what their respective profiles are probably going to indicate that they want... It's like the Search Engine Bubble (http://dontbubble.us/ [dontbubble.us]) - except for advertising.

    This trend is obviously unhealthy...

  • Time to start wearing burkas [wikipedia.org]?

  • Some advanced technology such as this [amazon.com] could be used.
  • by no-body (127863)
    Isn't there something like ad-blackout happening?
    Like ads showing in whatever fashion trying to catch attention and the saturation with ads is to high that any impulse intended to be created by ads is suppressed and blocked out.

    Maybe it's just me if one tries to influence, I resist and the more they try, the more I get turned off. It's just no fun getting "guided" all the time by some folks trying hard to manipulate.
  • I seem to remember that was coming to a store near you several years ago. Sensors embedded in the aisles would trigger ads to be played on the monitor as the cart came into range. At the time, I remember thinking what a shame it would be if the monitor got cracked as I throwing a can of beans into the cart. In any case, I've never seen these actually in use.

    • by cusco (717999)

      A bar I used to go to put little monitors above the urinals, displaying advertising. They didn't even last a full night.

  • By 2015 ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jamesl (106902) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:30PM (#45122751)

    ... we'll all be "shopping" using Amazon Fresh and there will be nobody to "identify" in the grocery store.

  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:34PM (#45122779)
    They promised to not use your personal data until....they changed TOS. Then they promised to use it only for ads....until they changed TOS. Then they promised not to f**** you......until they changed TOS.
  • Guess I'll be carrying a can of spray-paint or a pad of Post-It notes with me when I go to the store, starting in 2015.

    #IDontWannaBeTracked
  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday October 14, 2013 @12:58PM (#45123099)

    Mondelez says the software will only use and collect aggregate data, and will not record any video or photos.

    ...at first. Later on we make no promises.

    Seriously, if this can be abused it will be.

  • by koan (80826)

    I have the dubious pleasure of being exposed to some of this tech, what's amusing is it does know who I am, but insist that I am also married.

    In fact every record I search on the Inet (pipl, spokeo, etc) all say I am married.

    I used to drink my share, but I don't recall ever getting that drunk so where is this marriage coming from?

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday October 14, 2013 @01:19PM (#45123333) Homepage
    this is consumer capitalism at its finest. No longer do we care about making a particularly good or useful product anymore. the focus is determining who is looking at the product, and custom tailoring a set of deceptive or manipulative advertising based on gender and age. Its desparation.

    Ive worked at a grocery store, so i can tell you this kind of crap is pervasive.. ultimately most people are so sick and tired of consumer capitalisms model of tricking us into buying garbage, that its all they can do to enter $Grocery_store and purchase the goods they need with a minimum of hassle. Grocery chains use different kinds of music and even sizes of floor tiles throughout the building to control shoppers walking speeds, they run vanilla airfresheners in the bakery department to ensure you always think something fresh is cooking, and they only fire up the 40 bird rotisserie during dinner hours. yearly, or more frequently, they also decide to completely revamp the store and put all the goods in different locations. if you make it past this insanity and find the toilet paper you originally wanted, you'll have to fight a kind of mathematic jigsaw puzzle more sinister than reaganomics that largely just ends up making you buy what grocers want you to. the asinine barking video adverts on some shelves already exist. theyre triggered by motion and they drive shoppers, in my observation, into a bath-salts rage most of the time. whats worse is all this stuff in a grocery store comes together as a 'perfect storm' during food-based holidays. the music, the smells, the colors, and everything designed to get normal shoppers to spend a few bucks more, sends people into sectarian violence during thanksgiving. I've seen customers literally beat eachother in the aisles for the last tin of pumpkin pie filling without so much as considering the 3 pallets of generic brand we keep in the far hinterlands near the milk. targeting things to customers wont work as well as you think.

    Stockers. stockers drive huge wooden pallets of cereal and such up and down aisles for restock. most of the boxes have smiling faces on them, so expect 200 or so encounters from the same middle aged man who never touches the product as he rolls down aisle 6 to be broken up, and placed on a shelf. these pallets are pretty big too, so dont expect third shift stockers to care that much if your camera gets nailed by 2000lbs of slow-moving watermelon on its way to produce. these guys routinely rip off coupon dispensers and colored banners hanging out of the aisles, and whatever ends up on the floor after 3rd shift usually gets thrown in the trash by first 1st shift clean crews.

    those loyalty cards. dont think for a minute your information isnt getting added from the advert to the card, or isnt somehow related, because it absolutely is. The card seriously knows more about who you are as a person than your closest loved ones, and is used to routinely provide a pavlovian treat to bad customers in order to get them to become good ones. the popularity of an item drives inversely its sale price, so expect the AI from the advert system to factor into this as well as restock levels and future pricing.
    • by neminem (561346)

      "those loyalty cards. dont think for a minute your information isnt getting added from the advert to the card, or isnt somehow related, because it absolutely is. The card seriously knows more about who you are as a person than your closest loved ones, and is used to routinely provide a pavlovian treat to bad customers in order to get them to become good ones."

      Stores I have loyalty cards with might know a lot about the person who owns the card, but here's a fun fact: they have no idea *who* owns the card. Yo

  • by linebackn (131821) on Monday October 14, 2013 @01:34PM (#45123519)

    The shelves will be able to track engagement, monitor how long customer's watch each ad...

    Will they also track the frequency at which people "accidentally" smash these things?

  • I'm glad that I buy my food online with Adblock+.

    Without an adblocker invisibiliy cloak, I won't set a foot in there

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