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Is the ‘Minority Report’ world becoming a reality with Screenreach?

It was interesting that Ewan was using a reference to the film Minority Report to emphasise his latest rant about the industry. At about the same time Ewan was ranting I was chatting to Paul Rawlings the CEO of Screenreach – a company that may just be bringing Minority Report to life.

Unfortunately Screenreach doesn’t work with pre-cogs to detect crimes before they have happened. I don’t mean that bit of Minority Report. I mean the scene where Tom Cruise walks into a shop and all the screens recognise him and display personal messages just for him. That is what Screenreach can offer … or something similar.

I’m going to be doing a fuller piece on Screenreach soon, but basically the company offers information and content that can be sent to screens – primarily plasma screens in retail environments, but also mobiles. The content they provide can be personalised either by recognising you as an individual – for example the screen can ‘see’ you via bluetooth – or by amalgamating group information from sources such as recent till transactions.

It all sounds interesting and I’ll be doing more soon.


  1. Interesting privacy ramifications though – do you necessarily want all those shops & devices tracking you? With the recent controversies over Facebook Beacon and Google's new Street View, there is a new push for privacy it seems and so such a system has to be carefully designed or balanced or they might end up everyone opting out.

  2. You are correct,

    ScreenReach is all in how it is deployed. When we developed ScreenReach, members privacy was of the upmost importance in the way the system is implemented and the way that we recommend sysytem adopters use ScreenReach. When a ScreenReach system reacts to users within range of it, it can be set to profile the audience and then deliver content to the screen or devices that suits this audience rather than to a specific indivudual. ScreenReach can be set to deliver tailored content to individuals devices but this is at the discression of the content distributor.

    We are pushing ScreenReach as a way to distribute relevant content to users which gives the user themselves benefits. ScreenReach makes content relevant.

  3. …so a purchaser of 'Knockers' will walk past a screen on the way out of the store and an ad for 'Hooters' will flash up?

    Or a husband who has just purchased his wife's secret birthday present will, as they both walk out together, be busted by the 'Buy another Catherine Cookson half-price!'?

    OK, a bit extreme, but you get the drift.

    We are all so utterly different in our tastes, preferences and sensitivities to these being exposed in a manner we don't control that this idea will fail utterly in public spaces. You'd only need a small % of a store's customers to go elsewhere and their margins will be stuffed. No-one likes to be profiled, unless they are 100% in control of how, when & where they receive the benefits. Even if it is very private, as others have alluded to FB's Beacon trainwreck was a sign that this is not the way to do business.

    Technical solution looking for an application. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This is LBS all over again. If you expect networks to get behind this you need your head read.

    Sorry Mr Screenreach, I'm sure you care a lot, but my Fail Radar has just hit max.


  4. Thanks for the comments, we encourage content distributors to be subtle in the way content is changed within their enviroments. ScreenReach is a facilitator and acts as a way to facilitate content distribution aswell as about maximising the content reach by being a little more tailored.

    ScreenReach isn't just about advertising, its about delivering relevant content which can take many forms. The Presence detection aspect of screenreach isn't limited to mobile devices, we detect presence through many forms and is based on an API where new detection routines can be add in by any developer. Currently we do cover mobile, bluetooth, rfid, voice detection, etc) but this is being expanded all the time.

    ps: call me Paul

  5. Hi Paul,

    So, fundamentally, if people got VERY upset over having ads pushed to them on their PC based on purchase history info (FaceBook Beacon) how are you materially different, in your collection or subsequent use of that info?

  6. I guess the skill in this is to target the commercials not to an individual but to the predominant demographic in “the space” at that time eg Women 18-25, Men 25-30. Advertisers do this already when they target commercials at television shows with a predominant demographic.

  7. You could do that much easier based on the products purchased. A store will know the demographics of purchasers of particular products and what else they did/are likely to purchase. So if 5 copies of Home & Garden go through the tills in a 30 second space, flash up an ad for Cath Kidston or similar. If it's 5 copies of T3, flash up an ad for Stuff or PC Gamer. you get the idea.

    Of course this is after the time of purchase, which may be the whole point of Screenreach – that you get the offer before or as you walk around the store. But then are you going to walk in, stare at the screen and see what you get offered? For how long will it be relevant? In a store with heavy footfall, how often would it be refreshing?

    And in a niche store like a gaming or homemaking one, the clientele have already self-selected themselves by dint of walking in. No need to tailor the advertising.

    Sorry, but I'm still not seeing the benefit justifying the cost or potentially horrific PR (“WH Smiths mobile database nicked – See who in your street buys S&M monthly in today's SUN Exclusive”).



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