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Ford-Intel?s Project Mobii seen unlocking mobile-marketing opportunities

The recently unveiled mobile interior imaging project, known as Project Mobii, could use interior cameras, facial recognition software, and data analytics to send a message by smartphone to the owner if an unrecognized driver were behind the wheel, showing the driver?s photo. An owner also could set restrictions or permissions from a smartphone. The project shows how automakers are increasingly setting their sights on a connected-car experience.

?There are several different driving scenarios and behaviors that make great cases for marketers,? said Keith Robinson, strategist and consultant with Compass Intelligence in Fayetteville, GA. ?The great thing about this alliance, the user experience will be tailored made to the driver because of the authentication process using facial recognition.

?Another scenario is the driver stuck in traffic. They are more receptive to marketing messages because it would allow them to spend time at a place of business than being stuck in gridlock.? 

Seamless and intuitive
Researchers look to the project to make the car's user interface experience more seamless and intuitive.

Driver authentication would be a major feature of the system, according to Dearborn, MI-based Ford.

Once a driver entered the vehicle, a front-facing camera would snap a photo. If the driver were recognized, his personalized data -- such as contacts and music ? would sync to the vehicle. If he were not recognized, a photo would be sent to the vehicle?s primary owner. The owner could set restrictions or permissions from a smartphone. 

The system would allow parents to adjust music volume, speed limits, and phone access from afar for young drivers. 

The system could also be used to detect natural gestures and simple voice commands to adjust the systems and controls in the car. For example, speaking a voice command could change the temperature and waving a hand could open the sunroof.

Entertainment, shopping and points of interest are just a few potential marketable areas.

Maintenance milestones
?Marketers will be able to tap into oil changes when a vehicle is reaching its next oil change milestone,? Mr. Robinson said. ?Scheduled routine maintenance is another connection, such as the rotation of tires and tune-up. If the brake shoe on a vehicle is becoming worn, marketers can reach out to customers.? 

Marketers could also use the photo recognition technology to make specific clothing-store offers to the driver.

Despite the potential marketing opportunity, privacy concerns could be a drawback.

Demonstration of prototype technology for the Ford-Intel Project Mobii. 

?A driver may be annoyed if they are receiving a marketing alert while they have a set destination,? Mr. Robinson said. ?For this to be truly successful, the vehicle owner must have the option to opt out or turn it off depending on how they plan to drive the vehicle.

?In order to have it turned on at all times and not have an opt-out might be an opportunity for a company to sponsor the technology in the vehicle.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.