Yahoo Japan plans to scan passersbys, put up personalized content on billboards

(Comel digital signage terminals currently deployed in Japan/picture courtesy of Spec5zigen)

In Japan, there is only one company in the web industry that really matters, and that company is Yahoo. It’s safe to say that for many Japanese people, Yahoo is basically the hub of the Internet. Yahoo is king even in the search engine segment, clearly beating Google Japan (according to Comscore Japan, the ratio stood at 51.2% to 39% last September).

But that doesn’t seem to be enough for the company, as it now reaches out to the real world and plans to bring content to Japanese people via very special electronic billboards.

Starting this fall, these camera-equipped billboards will take pictures of people walking past by them, detecting a person’s age and sex. Once these characteristics are determined, the billboards will display content tailor-made (as good as it can get) for the person in question. This is a creepy and intrusive way to use digital signage technology, but it’s most probably more effective than static billboards.

This picture is the only official one currently available, showing a “recommendation” for a ramen restaurant (based on information provided by Yahoo):


A Tokyo-based company called Comel [JP] has teamed up with Yahoo and is responsible for the hardware. NEC Soft [JP] provides the facial analysis technology. Yahoo Japan will start using a total of 500 billboards in train stations and shopping malls in Fukuoka (Southern Japan), displaying content like news, weather and –  of course – ads.

The first phase of the project (that started in Fukuoka at the beginning of this month) will end this July. Yahoo then hopes to expand the service to Tokyo and Osaka, doubling the number of the billboards.

Via Nikkei [JP]