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If you're walking around Philadelphia on a rainy day and take up a shopkeeper's offer to borrow an umbrella, then welcome. You may have just become part of an RFID-enabled experiment in mobile advertising.
A start-up called Dutch Umbrella is selling advertising spots on umbrellas to shopkeepers and restaurateurs in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia. Patrons can borrow and later return them, or leave umbrellas at the "RainDrop" of a participating business owner. Dutch Umbrella, whose name was inspired by the bicycle-sharing program in Amsterdam, has signed up eight merchants as sponsors.
But these aren't just any umbrellas: each one is identified by a Motorola RFID tag that's inlaid in plastic and dangles from the strap. Dutch Umbrella periodically dispatches an employee with a handheld reader to visit business sites and identify each umbrella. This information is later loaded into software developed by Concept2 Solution.
Dutch Umbrella uses this information in a few different ways. First, it shows merchants that are paying $100 a month to have 100 umbrellas circulating their advertising messages that the umbrellas are getting used, and where their messages are being seen through various parts of the city. And because umbrellas are easily destroyed and sometimes go home with patrons, it also lets the company track which umbrellas are still in circulation.
Dutch Umbrella also creates printouts from the software showing where merchant's mobile messages have traveled; data they can then use for marketing intelligence. A restaurateur may discover that umbrella-toting patrons who visited his restaurant often have come from or departed to places close to the city's museums, signaling that's a good area to target for other types of advertising and promotions.
Source: Information Week, http://www.informationweek.com
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