by John Edwards

Streetbeam Targets Consumer PDAs With Wireless Ads

Jul 15, 2001 2 mins

If an advertiser is beaming these days, it may not just be the result of a successful marketing campaign.

Streetbeam, a New York City-based wireless media and technology company, has developed a system that allows advertisers to zap customized messages to users of WAP-enabled mobile phones, Palm PDAs and other Palm OS-compatible devices.

Streetbeam’s infrared-based technology installs inside phone kiosks, bus shelters and other types of “street furniture.” As a mobile device user strolls by the fixture, an ad with a blinking red light invites the individual to point his gadget in its direction to receive a message. Seconds later, the user can view the message, which might include a list of store locations, a discount coupon, a product review, an interactive game, a sound file or some other type of promotional content. For additional interaction, the beamed Palm application can use Conduit?a downloadable Streetbeam application that links a mobile device to a desktop computer?to direct the consumer to the advertiser’s website.

Streetbeam is designed to bring much needed action to static outdoor advertising, says Jan Renner, Streetbeam’s president. “It takes the oldest advertising technology?a sign?and makes it interactive.” The service debuted in New York City last December, when clothing retailer Banana Republic installed 100 Streetbeam systems in locations around Manhattan. Backed by Viacom subsidiary TDI, the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, Streetbeam plans to bring its technology to Atlanta, London, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and several other cities later this year. Support for additional mobile technologies, including Windows CE and Bluetooth wireless communications, is also in the works, says Renner.

Diana Schwartz, CTO at Grey E Marketing, a New York City-based electronic marketing company, thinks Streetbeam could help both advertisers and mobile de-vice users. “Unlike spam, users are actually requesting the information to be sent to them,” she says. Schwartz also believes that the technology has the potential to make mobile devices more useful. “A sponsor, for example, could beam a show’s date and time to a user. The user could then beam that information to her VCR for future recording.”

Renner says Streetbeam is ideally positioned to reach affluent shoppers. “This is an urban, gadgety-type technology for urban, gadgety-type people,” he says. But that may change before long. “As mobile devices become more mainstream, we’ll be heading out into the malls,” says Renner.