Biological ads? Count on it.
This month’s Popular Science contains an incredible, if somewhat frightening view of our nation’s black ops projects.
This month’s Popular Science contains an incredible, if somewhat frightening view of our nation’s black ops projects. One project in particular struck me, because I couldn’t help but think that if (when) this technology hits the public sector, it will be jumped on by marketers and forever change the face of advertising.
The technology is called Smart Dust. I’ve read articles and blog posts about it since 2005, but the Pop Sci article was the best description so far, and the most insightful into how our intel divisions are using it.
Basically, smart dust are nano particles that we’d see as dust or sand, but in fact are tiny tracking devices. Think RFID chips, but too small to notice. Picture blowing millions of them across a city in with the regular sandy winds of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now you have a trackable population. No one has had implants, no chip-in-the-neck scenarios. Just dust in the wind.
Now picture it a few years from now and this tech is available to marketers. I can envision a CMO shouting across a board room table, “Screw cookies and pixel bugs! Now we can really track them. Anywhere!” This is biological tracking and it’s akin to naturalists tagging wildebeests with those dangly radio clips. Forget Foursquare, Shopkick and Gowalla. (OK, maybe not Shopkick. That hasn’t been gamed. Yet.) We’d really know what store they were in, where they took their kids for violin lessons and what clubs they went to.
This could get ugly and evil—real fast. I imagine hacker groups would rise up, developing outer gear that disables smart dust, or finding the one household chemical that will kill it. Within minutes, that video would be number one on YouTube and on the Today Show the following morning. Late night comedians will have monologues about how their wives are tracking their porn consumption with dirt from the ficus tree. Detectives will have ads proclaiming they will track that cheating spouse without them even knowing it. OK, maybe that’s a bit far. I’m just sayin’…
This post originally appeared on Campbell Ewald’s discontinued “The Next Engine” blog.