News / Digital

Piccadilly Circus billboard ads will respond to passers by with facial recognition technology

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Piccadilly Lights

London’s Piccadilly Circus has brightened up today with the turning back on of its billboard screens, the Piccadilly Lights, this time with facial detection technology. Cameras in the screen will be able to detect the age, gender and mood of the 100 million monthly passers by, and manipulate brand messages fittingly.

In the past, six screens made up the billboard, but now, a single permanent screen will take its place shared by six advertisers including long term resident Coca-Cola, and Samsung. Piccadilly Lights will be Europe’s largest single digital screen. The 4K LED screen holds the ability to host live videos, news and sports and social media feeds in real time.

In addition to facial recognition, the screen will be able to see the make of vehicles. Wifi capability will mean people can engage with the screen but will also open up the possibility of mobile phone tracking.

Landsec, which owns the screen commented: “Although the Piccadilly Lights screen will be able to display advertising content that responds to real-time factors – such as the weather or the colour of cars – the technology is not able to recognise individual people, or display individually targeted content. The screen does not collect or store personal details or data.”

The world-famous advertising billboard was turned off on 16 January 2016 – the first time that the lights have been switched off since World War Two, when they were off for a decade between 1939 – 1949, exempting power cuts and special occasions such as the funeral of Princess Diana.