Swisscom is exploring the use of remote-controlled planes for targeted advertising. Such planes would have a WiFi or Bluetooth transmitter that would send out messages to phones and PDAs. By blinking its lights and beeping, the plane would signal to crowd members that a message was coming and that they should check their mobile devices. Lotto results and weather reports are two kinds of information that have been suggested for this technology.
From my childhood I fondly remember "Tan Don't Burn With Coppertone," a banner that was pulled endlessly back and forth across the crowded beach by a small (manned) airplane. (I burned.) Beach advertising is pretty straightforward: soft drinks, hotdogs, sunblock, rental chairs, etc. The interesting thing about Swisscom's approach is that the ads can be changed in real time. So when the soft drink vendor's business is slow, she can buy a few spots and have them go out immediately. When business picks up, she can ease back on the messages. (Think of it as operating a car's accelerator.) Applied to other brick-and-mortar retail establishments (restaurants, bookstores), this technique could provide a powerful new way of managing traffic. A restaurant, for example, might broadcast a limited-time 50 percent-off message if business were particularly slow at the moment. Back to the beach: I could also imagine a plethora of ads from personal injury attorneys--useful in the event that an unmanned aerial vehicle loses control and crashes into your slowly-frying back.