Customers of a Carrefour store in Lille can trial a Philips navigation app for shopping ads

Lights beam ads to phones in supermarkets

Smart and connected lights pioneer Philips has launched a trial of a new system that uses supermarket lighting to beam ads to shoppers’ phones as they move through a shopping centre.

The trial, taking place in Lille, northern France, is a joint venture between French retailer Carrefour and the Amsterdam-headquartered technology firm.

Shoppers interested in using the system would have to install a dedicated Carrefour app that would allow the navigation system built into the light network to track them and send them discount coupons and product ads matching their interests while they shop.

The information is being transmitted from the LED lights to the smartphones by light impulses not visible to the human eye that can be registered by smartphone cameras.

“Retail stores are super-excited about this because it allows them to offer contextual adverts, which have proven to be ten times more effective than normal adverts, so the value for them is enormous,” George Yianni, head of connected lights at Philips told E&T earlier this year.

Since spring 2014, Philips has been trialling the system for indoor navigation in museums or shops. The major advantage of the system is that it uses an existing network and doesn’t require installation of any new hardware.

“You need to have lights above you either way. You don’t have to install dedicated hardware, it’s just replacing a light-bulb,” Yianni said.

“We have solutions that we are using now that by making a lightbulb connected and having every one of them emit a unique code hidden in the light which I can’t see but a smartphone can. We can tell under exactly which of these light points your phone is and then know exactly with 30cm accuracy where in the building you are.”

With the nascent era of the Internet of Things, Phillips is trying to redefine the concept of a lighting system – not only in indoor shopping centres but in homes and outdoor spaces as well.

The firm has already trialled connected streetlamps that allow municipalities to remotely control and monitor the lights. The controllers could see online which lights are broken and promptly replace them but also turn on and off individual lamps more flexibly according to the situation in the area.

Yianni envisions that in the future, lighting will be only one of the package of functions of Philips’s products.

“These lights are everywhere – that makes them an amazing platform for rolling out additional services,” he said. “You have one of these poles every ten metres in your city – why don’t we use it to give you better smartphone coverage in the city, like we are doing in a partnership with Ericsson. Why don’t we put air quality or traffic sensors on them so that the municipality has better insight into what’s going on in their city?”


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