updated 08:50 am EST, Mon February 28, 2011
ATT ShopAlerts use GPS to send text ads
AT&T on Monday launched a voluntary ad system that uses the GPS positioning of modern smartphones to give deals. ShopAlerts rely on creating a GPS-aware perimeter around retail stores that will send off a text message promoting a deal whenever the phone owner passes nearby. Companies such as HP, Kmart, JetBlue, SC Johnson, Kibbles 'n Bits, and Nature's Recipe are all vowing exclusive discounts for those in the right place at the right time.
The rollout is based on technology from Placecast and will first be available both in that company's home town of San Francisco as well as Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. Customers have to be both an AT&T subscriber and opt into ShopAlerts for them to take effect. More advertisers and cities are expected in the future.
Location-aware advertising has existed in the past but has usually relied on the user taking some action, such as checking in with Foursquare or Facebook Places at a nearby venue. Many have been hesitant to offer automatic local ads in part because of privacy and the possible intrusiveness. AT&T's system at least theoretically avoids these by giving them ads they know are coming but can more easily ignore.