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Advertising monitoring system development for outdoor media analytics

Final Report Summary - ADMOS (Advertising monitoring system development for outdoor media analytics)

Executive Summary:
The public advertising market is a $30.4 billion large market with big, mammoth companies and thousands of SMEs. The market is already in mature phase that means it is very difficult to bring some really innovative solution on the market and to break through the walls and limitations. Therefore in order to capture a small piece from that or to increase the market share it is essential to find out innovative ideas that can revolutionize the complete sector or change its direction. Probably one of the most emerging market segment is the digital signage market which aims to monitor the statistical distribution of the audience of the public advertisements. This includes the anonymous audience counting, the gender and age recognition and even the emotion analysis. The task is not easy at all since the desired accuracy has to reach the 95 % success rate in the gender and age recognition at any circumstances with the highest level of the protection of personal data and privacy. However several already known solutions are stepped in the market since 2011 no one could make a breakthrough due to the above mentioned challenges.
ADMOS is a kind of project focusing on the monitoring of the effectiveness of the public advertisements. Our major goal is to develop a compact media monitoring device, which is able to follow up and provide useful statistical information from a defined advertisement or a whole campaign in order to measure and determinate their effectiveness and success. Therefore the device can count the people who looked at the multimedia billboard and can also determinate their gender and their age group. An additional extra feature is the ADMOS can also check the board itself providing useful information about the status of the advertisement for the advertisers and the billboards owners. During the development of the complete system data protection and privacy issues were always in the spotlight taking into account the national and EU relevant data protection acts and rules and considering the suggestions of the external independent experts. Therefore we can state that ADMOS is right now probably the only digital signage device currently on the EU market that fulfils the EU data protection and privacy regulations in 100 %.
Our system consists two cameras (crowd and board), integrated together with a mobile communication unit, in order to monitor and analyze the collected data anywhere and in anytime. The system also provides the opportunity to check the device from 0 – 24 h and to send automatic alerts in case of any failure.
As a result ADMOS will offer for the advertiser and media owner a powerful digital signage tool for continuous audience monitoring on a highest accuracy and quality level for any advertising board (digital or paper based) preserve the audience anonymity and privacy. To gain wide spectrum of users ADMOS can offer an easy-to-use interface designed by the latest trends with perfect quality, as our clients can check the effectiveness of their media campaign anytime from anywhere.

Project Context and Objectives:

The ADMOS project is two years long, it was started on the 1st of September 2013 and ended on the 31th August 2015.
The main objective of the ADMOS project is to develop a universal public media monitoring and analysis system that can be used basically on any indoor or outdoor media surface. The device can provide precious data for the advertiser, media owner about the number of the people who are actually look at the given advertisements and also can determinate their gender and define their age groups.
Beside the public monitoring the ADMOS system is able to scan the billboard itself with an additional board camera to give feedback about the status of the advertisement. All of these features are managed by a cutting edge web application or graphical user interface that allows for the ADMOS costumers to follow the success and effectivity of complete media campaigns and even a desired billboard. This device management software is a crucial part of the system since real-time statistic can be acquired in any time making the marketing decision easier and faster.

In order to achieve these overall goals the following objectives were identified in project period:

- To understand the end-user requirements, the data protection requirements and privacy regulations regarding to the ADMOS needs.
- To specify the ADMOS system and to develop the hardware and software models based on the system specification.
- To select the right hardware components (crowd camera, board camera, end-point system) and to identify and specify the software developer environment for the further developments
- To design the concept of the database concept and the graphical user interface.
- To develop the smart firmware for defining the age, gender distribution of the counted audience.
- To create the end-point intelligent control software for the selected hardware of the proposed ADMOS system.
- To develop the server side of the ADMOS including database design and design of the communication protocol.
- To produce ten prototypes keeping the estimated, planned cost for the system.
- To validate subsystems independently and the entire system thereafter.
- To ensure that the ADMOS system cannot be accessed physically or through the internet in order to get actual images of the public. To get ethical approvals/opinions/notifications by the competent legal local/national Ethics Boards/Bodies/administrations and submit it to the European Commission before the start of the field test validation process.
- To identify, protect and allocate exploitable IP developed in the project by the RTD partners and to transfer the generated IP from RTD partners to SME partners by providing sufficient documentation, presentations and personal training.
- To disseminate the results of the project in scientific, industrial and informative aspects.

In parallel with the system development the Consortium investigated the relevant EU and national data protection regulations and directives regarding to the image capturing and analysis. The Consortium contacted 28 national data protection authorities (DPA) in Europe, presented the concept of the ADMOS. Three independent data protection experts guided the Consortium’s work with their skills. It was found that the ADMOS prototype complies for the requirements and regulations, if the realization of the device will be done according to the specification.
The Consortium submitted application of approval for the device and for the testing to the Hungarian and to the English data protection authorities. Both authority accepted the applications and gave a written approval.
During the hardware and electronics design the end point image processing electronics was selected. In parallel with the electronics selection SHU investigated the suitable camera and lens systems. Finally two different types of crowd camera was and applied in the final system. The housing and the wiring was done during the integration period without any problem.
From the server side the specification of the database and server computer were clarified. Thereafter the implementation of the database structure was performed and the testing with pre-generated, dummy data was done.
The Consortium developed the communication protocols which was realized on three levels: end point electronics, server side, client side (GUI). In order to make the communication between the server and the end point smoothly two special communication modules were developed.
The consortium developed the proper image processing algorithm which is the key part of the system. This module is able to detect faces and to determine their gender and age groups under real-time operation.
A remote monitoring graphical user interface was also developed (client side) in which the user/client can follow and manage their boards and campaigns and also can reach real time statistical analysis from the raw data.
The system tests were performed in two shopping malls in Hungary and in the U.K.

Project Results:
The main foreground of the ADMOS project is a working digital signage prototype. The final device is able to measure the effectivity of an advertisement or a complete advertisement campaign placed on any public media surface (paper based or digital) based on primary acquired statistical data. To accomplish this cutting edge goal ADMOS has the ability to determine the size of the audience of the billboard advertisements and also it can classify the data according to the audience’s gender and age pattern. Also the system can detect whether the subject noticed the advertisement or not.
To achieve this ultimate feature an innovative and smart image processing algorithm was developed and implemented in the system taking into account the data protection and privacy regulations. This algorithm is basically the core part of the prototype that is suitable to execute on any embedded system with custom camera and lens system.
During the project lifetime first the system architecture design was clarified and fixed: accordingly the prototype builds up three main parts: end point side is the heart of the system including a cheap but strong embedded computer and two cameras from hardware side. On this simple module the image processing algorithm, the control firmware of the cameras and the communication protocol towards the server side was implemented on smooth way to reach the fastest processing time as it possible. The integrated two cameras have two different purposes: the crowd camera is responsible for the monitoring of the targeted audience while the board camera provides an additional feature for the prototype by monitoring the board and the advertisement itself. This additional feature provides valuable information for the media company or for the advertiser about the status of their property.
The second main part of the device is the server side that collects and stores the statistical data coming from the end points, controls the end points through the implemented proper communication protocol and also keeps the connection with the client side. The ADMOS system can handle as many end points as the customers wants. For these aims a well-structured database was designed and a custom designed virtual private network was established in order to keep the gathered statistical data hidden from any third party.
The third and last part of the device is the client side that keeps the connection with the operator and the end-users. This part is a responsive, web based user interface on which the user can follow the campaigns, acquire the statistical data to get an instant results of the effectiveness. This powerful tool is the essence for the end users (i.e. media companies, surface owners, advertisers) since currently there is no a reliable but fast analytical tool in their hands for measuring the effectiveness of their marketing activities.
During the project lifetime these three parts were implemented and integrated successfully and tested under laboratory and field conditions. Two field tests were performed at the end of the project: one in Hungary biggest shopping mall in Budapest, while the second one in the U.K. in Hull St. Stephen shopping mall. Both tests were successful but from the results it was clear further improvements are needed in the image processing algorithm if the prototype once will be turned to device.
In parallel with the system development the Consortium investigated the relevant EU and national data protection regulations and directives regarding to the image capturing and analysis. The Consortium contacted 28 national data protection authorities (DPA) in Europe, presented the concept of the ADMOS. Three independent data protection experts guided the Consortium’s work with their skills. It was found that the ADMOS prototype complies for the requirements and regulations, if the realization of the device will be done according to the specification.
The Consortium submitted application of approval for the device and for the testing to the Hungarian and to the English data protection authorities. Both authority accepted the applications and gave a written approval.

Potential Impact:
The ADMOS system could be a solution for two actual problems on the media market. One of the biggest problems is that paper billboards represent the bigger number and percentage of media interfaces (in some EU countries reaching 85-90%). The installation of advertisements (creatives) is done manually by gluing the posters on the wall. According to it the removed creatives have to be eliminated as waste. It is also a frequent case that due to improper gluing the poster peels off before the removal and so contaminates the environment (because of the toxic glue and ink). As the advertiser does not have the opportunity to check the actual condition of all the billboards in their ownership, the photo taken from the billboard at the placement is the only evidence by which he accepts the implementation. The media agencies and the billboard owners are in a similar situation, as the placement of posters is usually done by a subcontractor who can use lower quality glues or unskilled personnel at the same price without being in risk, because the procure (and other members) has very little opportunity to check the quality of the finished task. ADMOS is capable to carry out this constant monitoring, automatically notifying the user if there is a problem with one of the boards (e.g. the poster peels off). The user can instantly fix the problem, so providing a higher quality service and creating the opportunity to handle the material waste in an appropriate way. Furthermore ADMOS forces the billboard placing companies to comply with the protocol and deliver their task with the required quality materials and competent manpower.
Another problem that ADMOS has to face is missing trust against the public media segment. The reason for this trend is that until now the only way to measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising was opinion polls and statistics. Furthermore media companies questions the reliability of those measurements. Contrary to this ADMOS is suitable to objectively measure the effectiveness of an advertisement showing whether the display reaches the expected contact number or not. Based on this information the advertiser will be able to optimize the campaign more accurately and objectively.

Billboard advertising is the largest segment of the outdoor advertising market. Unlike in online marketing where the advertisers can get instant feedback on the effectiveness of campaigns, for the outdoor media industry there are no such accurate and fast tools available.

ADMOS can offer a real-time monitoring system for any media surface. A compact monitoring device was developed, which gives instant feedback on the people who pass by and notice the advertisements and even classifies them by gender and age. Moreover, thanks to a second board camera the system monitors the media display 24/7 allowing the owners to check the displayed creative content anytime.

Technical advantages of the developed system:
• Real-time multiple face tracking
• Face recognition and gender and age classification on temporary captured images
• Operating with captured images and not with video stream enabling reduced data processing
• Audience and also advertisement analysis
• Integrated, smart system and costumer management system with real-time analysis of the measurement results
• Modular system that can be easily tailored to any hardware.
Non-technical advantages of the developed system:
• We investigated the device with external data protection experts and according to their statements ADMOS does not breach any EU and national regulations.
• The ADMOS device gets official data protection approval from the Hungarian and British authorities.
• Image processing is based on temporary captured images.
• No image is transferred to the server side
• The temporary captured images are erased right after their processing fulfilling the requirements of the privacy and data protection regulations.
SME partners of the consortium discussed the exploitation options, however it is recognized, that further fine-tuning is needed (especially on the image processing algorithm) before actual market entry. During the next 2-3 years, while the technological fine-tuning takes place, partners are planning to attend some international fairs where they can have DEMOs with the prototype and thus can build valuable relations with potential customers.
The SMEs prepared a detailed plan for the dissemination of Foreground, which allowed both an effective promotion of the technology and the communication of the results to the wider public, as well as to the advertising sector and the scientific community. A number of international exhibitions and fairs were identified and visited that served as optimal ground for dissemination as well, further fairs will be visited where product DEMO will take place.

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