Android patent overhears background noise to match local ads

by Kristen Nicole

With the Internet centering around mobile devices, and advertising as its core revenue-generator, Google applied for a patent that takes in ambient data to tailor promotions in your environment. The patent for “advertising based on environmental conditions,” details the use of various smartphone sensors to determine the temperature, humidity, sound, light, air composition, location and speed of movement to create mobile ads that are better suited to a user’s surroundings. Google could run any combination of these sensors’ data points, and even run ads beyond the phone, appearing on local billboards or media streams, to say the least.

Google’s certainly getting creative with mobile advertising, but this could cause another uproar from privacy advocates and concerned users. Android’s already facing scrutiny over the bevy of ad networks that threaten user privacy and security, as a recent study from North Carolina State University found that over 40,000 of the ad libraries used by Android apps track users’ GPS location, among other things. The permission-by-proxy lends ad libraries access to user data, potentially leaving users vulnerable to security threats.

Mobile is changing ads at the local level

There’s a big shift in advertising trends, as more brands look to target consumers across varied media outlets. Added data from environmental factors could lead to highly-targeted ads based on more data points than ever before. Plenty of brands are anxious to upgrade their local advertising efforts, recognizing that mobile technology can actually help us better interact with our immediate surroundings. Groupon has made a few key acquisitions to build out its local ad offerings, and has recently upgraded its platform to encourage more business-consumer interaction. RadioShack, on the other hand, is looking to anonymous consumer indexing to create local advertising to drive in-store traffic.

But despite localized data being anonymized, by RadioShack, Google, Apple and others, this potentially lucrative marketing trend can still jar consumers and privacy advocates. “The technology business [and] the advertising business has done a terrible job ... of saying, ‘How do the consumers feel about this?’” said Duncan McCall, co-founder and CEO of PlaceIQ, a company that converts location information into intelligence about specific areas. It’s up to ad networks, platform providers and consumers to do their equal parts in research and education, as location is only the beginning of the data exchange revolution.