Smart trash cans collect people’s information without them knowing.
We talked about high-tech trash cans being installed during last year’s London Olympics, but now they’re due for an upgrade, getting new features that will allow them to track smartphone use.
Already outfitted with advertising screens, a handful of the city’s 100 Renew Pods are now equipped with new “Renew Orbs,” which use Wi-Fi to track the proximity and speed of people walking past, as well as identify the maker of their smartphone.
The marketing company allows their clients to carry out their own surveys on the types of demographics that are in the area of the trash cans. This would allow them to work out the density of iPhone users for example, and if there’s enough of them to warrant an advertising campaign, it would be easy to use the trash can’s built-in LCD screens to do so.
While this kind of technology has potential, there is a catch: Pedestrians are unaware they are being tracked.
This presents a lot of problems when it comes to UK and EU privacy laws, which require notifying someone that they are being tracked, as well as being given the option to opt out. No personal data is collected as such, but it still draws a blurry line between what is and isn’t allowed.
If the technology is given the go-ahead, it would mean store owners could use the data to tune layouts, offer discount coupons, or reward frequent buyers in a very similar way that online retailers operate.