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Watching the ride-hailing watchers with computer vision tablets

Watching the ride-hailing watchers with computer vision tablets

A freshly minted public company is one step closer to getting its facial recognition software in ride-hail fleets to record ad impressions.

Founded in 2018, Alfi wants to be the intermediary between advertisers and passengers, collecting data from the faces of people watching content and ads on custom tablets. (It went public this spring.)

Alfi recently announced it had teamed with logistics firm All-Niter to fulfill, stage and ship an initial batch of 10,000 tablets with biometric software to U.S. Lyft and Uber drivers. Miami is scheduled to be the first U.S. city to see devices. It already is used by some ride-hail drivers in London.

It has been hard if not impossible for advertisers to know with any degree of certainty if people are watching their messages.

Small monitors showing local news and entertainment clips have played in the back of taxis for many years (it can feel like eons), and while everyone involved tells the ad people that riders pay at least some attention, the savvy know better.

Alfi’s product is a functional tablet (it responds to typical commands), with camera, mounted on a seatback. Computer vision captures real-time demographic information and reactions. In theory, an advertiser could audit a representative sample of sessions to gauge a campaign’s success.

Privacy protections, claims Alfi, are compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the California Consumer Privacy Act and HIPAA.

The company says drivers could get as much as $350 a month if their riders engage with the tablets.

There seems to be no provision for the actions of angry, inebriated (or both) riders picked up when the clubs close.

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