David Weinfeld

Exploring the Convergence of Media and Technology

My Thoughts on Intel’s Acquisition of Cognovision

A significant amount of press was generated following Intel’s recent acquisition of video analytics company Cognovision. From mainstream technology blogs like Techcrunch to niche digital signage sites, Intel’s purchase of the facial recognition firm drew major attention to the digital signage and digital out-of-home industries.

While some of the reports identified a rumored purchase figure of $17 million, I have read coverage of the acquisition that cited the number as high as $25 million or more. For Intel, whose average acquisitions are in the hundreds of millions of dollars range, the purchase amount is moot. The figure will barely register on Intel’s balance sheet.

As I don’t have any knowledge of Cognovision’s revenues and operational costs, I can’t comment on the financial merits of the transaction. Regardless of the revenue multiple Intel paid for Cognovision, the importance of the purchase is not monetary. The significance of the acquisition is in the technology and its long-term future.

As the company has done from the time of its public entry into the digital signage industry, Intel has touted the importance of anonymous video analytics in heightening advertisers’ view of DOOH as a major media platform. Jose Avalos, the Worldwide Director of Retail and Digital Signage at Intel, has frequently highlighted the immense value facial recognition and anonymous video analytics have to the future of the digital signage industry. In a recent article included within USA Today’s Digital Signage Supplement, Mr. Avalos wrote that anonymous video analytics…

 “Will become increasingly important to advertisers and marketers in their quest for measurement,analytics and quantitative data. This data will allow the industry to create a “common currency” that enables advertisers to evaluate their purchases in digital signage against other mediums…”

I agree with Jose’s views on the power of AVA. It has the potential to elevate digital signage beyond traditional media platforms. The technology can measure exactly how long a consumer looked at an advertisement running on a digital display. This level of quantitative data is unheard of in the worlds of television and newspapers (industries that command billions of dollars in advertising each year).

Intel to Enhance Accuracy of AVA

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that the technology has not yet been perfected. The most common issue with AVA that I have observed is in analyzing whether or not a viewer is a male or femaleIt correctly guesses the right gender with about “70 percent accuracy,” according to Ashwin Kulkarni, Microsoft’s senior product manager for Windows Embedded. The analytics will only get better with time, he added.

Supporting the technology is one thing, but now that Intel owns Cognovision expect to see rapid improvement in the accuracy of anonymous video analytics. Intel’s resources will ensure that Cognovision’s software approaches 100% accuracy.

Intel to Take Lead Role in Consumer Privacy Debate

In addition to the developmental benefits that Intel’s acquisition will have on facial recognition software, the company will now surely play a larger role in the consumer privacy debate surrounding use of the technology. Advances in AVA are only making consumer privacy activists more motivated in thwarting what they see as an invasion of human rights.

Intel’s size and influence in the technology community make it the de facto leader in fighting against claims that AVA infringes on consumer privacy. It also positions the company to spearhead the development and application of standards governing use of the technology.

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