SAN FRANCISCO: Chipmaker Intel imagines a day not too far away when a woman would walk into a department store and a smart digital signage -- instead of posters -- would display a women's perfume ad. But when a man walks by at the very next minute, it could advertise shaving cream instead. Optical sensors mounted on digital signages send real-time pixel data to a Intel developed algorithm, which analyses this data to detect if the pixels form a human face along with other features like gender, age and attention span, all in realtime.
Intel is building these algorithms that let advertisers and retailers cut through the clamour of generic ads and reach out to consumers more effectively through targeted personalised content. And not only Intel, Silicon Valley's other hi-tech companies like Cisco and Yahoo could be known for their advertising services also pretty soon.

"We can create a technology to objectively measure audience. This increases the return on investments for creating the content," says Joe Jensen, general manager of Intel's Embedded Computing Division. The global digital signage -- which Jensen says will overtake banners and posters -- market may grow from $1.3 billion in 2010 to a $4.5 billion by 2016.

Cisco's Videoscape architecture offers cloud-based ad insertion for next-generation video formats. "By 2013, we expect service providers will be delivering ads within both linear and on-demand content as well as within interactive elements. Cisco's goal is to enable them to insert ads into video streams along with device interactivity regardless of the differences in video formats," says Ben Hollin, senior manager, IP Video Solutions Strategy and Business Developments at Cisco Systems.
High-technology solutions that help targeting could extract a 50% premium in cost per thousand views over less direct methods. They are also becoming vital as traditional media goes hi-tech, net advertising becomes measurable and personalised, and internet connected devices proliferate. Television is merging with the Net, billboards are becoming interactive and Net-linked devices will reach the 1-trillion mark by 2013 from 35 billion in 2010. And with 200 million mobile clips streaming on YouTube each day, it is natural that advertising services are so important for Valley's tech companies -- and startups too.

"Some platforms even allow users to opt in or out of ads with history stored in cookies, account data and social profiles. Now, consumer advertising on all platforms is headed in that direction," says Sam Rosen a senior analyst at technology consultancy ABI Research.

Yahoo, with its strong online media presence, has a few solutions. Over a million use the firm's Connected TV experience each month to access Internet and video content from over 180 TV apps. And Yahoo's IntoNow mobile solution uses the proprietary SoundPrint audio fingerprinting techto identify what shows people are watching, down to the details. "For an advertiser, it's a way to turn their TV buys from a brand experience into a n actionable one," said an Yahoo spokesperson.

Valley startups are not to be left behind. San Francisco-based Flingo's SyncApps platform lets advertisers make one-way broadcast content more engaging. And Vidillion is building an interactive TV ad network, which gives marketers a one-stop shop to reach users.


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