Anti-terrorist tech used for mobile marketing

Image recognition employed for snap and send ad campaigns

Face-recognition technology developed for counter-terrorism purposes is powering a new cameraphone-based application for mobile phone marketing, called Snap Happy.

The imaging technology behind Snap Happy, offered by marketing firm Magnet Harlequin 's mobile division, enables camerphone users to get access to free mobile content or be sent details of special offers simply by sending an MMS picture message to a special number.

The Snap Happy technology uses complex algorithms developed by MIT for face recognition security applications to recognise cameraphone snaps, and match them to images used in promotional campaigns or advertising.

In this way, users can use their phone to take a quick picture of a movie poster, company logo or other branding on an advert, and send it in to a specified number. The system can then send the user back links to free mobile content or promotional codes for special offers.

Summer campaigns

The technology, which will recognise even partial images, debuted last month in a low-key campaign to support the recent release of the movie Mr Bean's Holiday . Universal Pictures is among the Magnet Harlequin clients who are planning to use Snap Happy technology, employing it in a campaign for at least one major movie release this summer.

Described by Magnet Harlequin's head of technology for marketing, Scott Seaborn, as "like mobile search on crack", Snap Happy was, he told Tech.co.uk "connecting the digital world to the physical world." It would, he said, "inspire a new generation of search tools by creating an internet of physical things."