Princeton Identity, a company that develops iris scanning devices (U.S. 1, November 2, 2016), has been granted three new patents for its iris recognition technology by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office including a novel use for the technology: targeted advertisements.

This patent takes biometric identification in a new direction, proposing that iris identification be used to track individuals around the real world and make targeted ads appear in front of them wherever they go.

“Collecting and Targeting Marketing Data and Information Based upon Iris Identification,” patent 10025982, opens the door to tailored marketing and communications based on biometric recognition of an individual, including billboards that scan onlookers and deliver different advertisements depending on who is looking at them.

“For example, a customer in a grocery store can be detected, and their iris can be stored in a local or remote database,” the patent says. “If the customer enters the grocery store again, or an associated store with which the iris information is shared, the store can build a profile of the customer, the items they most often purchase, peruse, or the like by using iris detection and gaze tracking.”

The store could then use this information for product placement, or sell it to a third party as marketing data. This information could be used to target the user with more ads if he or she came back to the company’s website later on.

The patent also says that an iris scanner could be placed in a public area such as a bus stop or a billboard, where it would scan the crowd, identify passersby, and pass this information along to marketers so they know exactly where you have been and when. It would also let the billboard show advertisements “appropriate for the subject.” The patent suggests iris scanners would be placed in casinos, childcare facilities, drug testing collection centers, gyms, hospitals, medical labs, hotels, or other public places of interest to data collectors attempting to build a profile of the personal habits and hobbies of onlookers.

The scanners could also tell whether the subject was running or walking, the better to sell them sneakers.

“For example, if it is determined that a subject or group of subjects, each of whom takes the subway each morning at 7 a.m. are all interested in running or jogging, the electronic video display may include advertisements for running shoes at that particular time,” the patent says.

Two of the new patents cover uses that are already on the marketplace. Princeton Identity’s technology is already supported on devices like the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Patent 10042994, titled “Validation of the Right to Access an Object,” would appear to cover something like unlocking a smartphone with an iris scan; while patent 10038691, “Authorization of a Financial Transaction,” pertains to the biometric authentication used to confirm payments on systems like Samsung Pay.

In a statement announcing the patent awards, Princeton Identity CEO Mark Clifton said his team is “extremely excited that the USPTO has recognized Princeton Identity’s latest inventions and team of biometrics experts,” adding that the company now has 11 patented technologies “and many more pending.”

Princeton Identity, originally a division of SRI, has built its business on iris scanning technology first developed in the 1990s. Back then, the machines were bulky and impractical, and an effort to commercialize them by putting them in ATMs failed. But since then the technology has become so miniaturized it can easily fit into a smartphone. Samsung’s line of phones incorporates Princeton Identity iris scanning technology that enables users to unlock their phones just by looking at them.

The latest round of patents shows that the company is looking beyond smartphones for its next big application. In an interview with Security Info Watch, a trade magazine, Clifton said there were no customers yet for the proposed ad targeting system.

“People use just about anything you do online to target marketing towards you, so this is really another example of how this technology can be used,” Clifton said. “I don’t have anyone knocking on the door for that application but we thought when we were going through this brainstorming exercise of all of these applications that was one we thought might be worthwhile, so we went ahead and patented that as well.”

Clifton could not be reached for additional comments.

Princeton Identity, 300 Horizon Drive, Suite 304, Hamilton 08691. 609-256-6994. Mark Clifton, CEO.

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