Camera-fitted intelligent billboards launched at Migros

Camera-fitted intelligent billboards launched at Migros

There are no brakes on the relentless march of technology, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of artificial intelligence and facial recognition: the Swiss supermarket and cooperative brand Migros has confirmed that it has been testing new intelligent billboards that show different ads to passers-by based on their characteristics.

Clever screens rolled out to Migros supermarkets

Labelled as “clever screens” by creators Displayactive, the camera-fitted billboards are able to change the advertisements shown to customers based on basic characteristics. Using the camera, the technology can determine a customer's rough age and perceived gender, and show ads that are tailored to them. While they have already been rolled out to a few Spar and Toppharm shops, Migros has become the latest and largest firm to trial the technology.

The Tages-Anzeiger noted that the innovation will mean that men should receive different advertising than women when they walk past, and so too between the elderly and the young. While Displayactive were unable to say what exactly would change depending on who was in front of the screen, the newspaper predicted that men’s fashion would be advertised to those who were perceived as men, women's fashion for customers read as women and the colours of the ad may change based on age.

Speaking to the newspaper, Displayactive boss Marc Steiner said that they were “doing pioneering work” in Switzerland. “Interest is currently increasing strongly, but most advertisers are not yet taking advantage of this opportunity,” Steiner noted. 

Facial recognition tech under the microscope in Switzerland

However, companies that have tried similar technology in Switzerland in the past have fallen foul of the general public over data protection concerns. For example, after it was revealed that Swiss public transport provider SBB were planning to install facial recognition cameras in major stations, the company was forced to scrap the plans following backlash.

Iman Nahvi, the founder of Advertima, argued that this case will be different, noting that the screens do not recognise the personal identity of passersby, so data protection shouldn’t be an issue. “The faces are not recorded at all, passers-by are not tracked in their movements in the mall, and no personal data is stored,” he told the Tages-Anzeiger. He claimed that the technology would become the standard in the industry in five years.

The new smart screens are currently in operation at Migros stores in the Rosenberg shopping centre in Winterthur, Säntispark in Abtwil, Rheinpark in St. Margrethen and in other shopping centres in eastern Switzerland. Migros confirmed that while no national rollout is planned, other regional cooperatives may join in the future.

Thumb image credit: Sorbis /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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