When it comes to personalization and custom messaging, I can’t think of a more frequently cited example than the 2002 Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.  In the movie, Cruise’s character enters a Gap clothing store and is subsequently served up personalized fashion options (OK, for you movie purists out there, the messages are for a Mr. Yamamoto, whose eyes Cruise’s character is ‘using,’ but that’s for a future post).

Technology to support online custom messaging has been around for a few years.  Account profiles contain preferences that online retailers can use to personalize product offerings we see or the order in which they are displayed.  Web browser cookies have long been used to ensure that we leave a trail of where we’ve been online and what we’ve been viewing.  The ability to do more customization based on our physical presence, though, was long the stuff of science fiction, until recently.

Thanks to the emergence of the Internet of Things, exciting new opportunities are opening up.  We’ve arrived at an age when a thing communicating with one or more other things can clearly begin to change everything… and by everything, I mean the ways in which we interact with the world around us.

Last week, for example, Cisco provided a glimpse into the future of billboard advertising.  Along the highway between the airport and a Cisco Live event in San Francisco, billboards using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)  are able to access data generated by traffic sensors.  With this real-time data, the billboards can automatically display messages of different lengths – shorter messages when traffic was moving faster, and increasingly longer messages when traffic was moving more slowly.  For now, the message isn’t what’s important; rather, it’s that a specific aspect of the traffic (speed) can be used in real-time to determine the content of the message.  It isn’t difficult to imagine a multitude of other condition/context possibilities.

The future of personalization

Image recognition software will replace human spotters for the purpose of identifying the car we’re driving and displaying custom messages.  Facial recognition software is already used to identify the age and gender of those walking past display ads.  The effectiveness of opt-in, location-based personalization using geo-fencing technologies is already being proven.

Locations frequented by travelers represent tremendous custom messaging opportunities.  Much of the data needed to ensure the impact of custom messaging is already in place, but leveraged solely through online activities.  The main thing that’s needed to take it to the next level – highly customized messaging and interaction with passengers and guests who are physically present at airport and hotels – is to tap into that data for a variety of new purposes to achieve the ultimate technology breakthrough for personalized travel experiences.