What's Behind the Digital Screens on Cooler Doors?

NBC Universal, Inc.

You may have seen them in the refrigerator section of a store near you: doors that flash pictures of the products inside, instead of letting you look at what’s on the shelves. But what you may not know is that some of those doors may be detecting when the door opens and movement likely to be a consumer.

Cooler Screens welcome shoppers at many Chicago-area Walgreens stores.  According to the company, the doors are “identity blind” with optical sensors that only anonymously detect motion, such as dwell time in front of a screen, physical interaction with on-shelf products and empty shelves.

The company is based in Chicago and declined NBC 5’s request for an interview.  However, a spokesperson for the company provided a statement that said the screens do not collect, capture or store any data that could be linked to an individual consumer, nor do Cooler Screens watch anyone.

DePaul marketing professor Jim Mourey said digital screens allow for ads to change in real time compared to traditional in-store displays. He said while some consumers may be concerned about the technology and their privacy, others won’t think twice about it.

“I think what’s going to happen is as this data becomes easier to collect, easier to analyse and in the moment update marketing collateral, what we need, kind of as a society is to say, 'Ok, what rights do consumers have in terms of how that data’s collected, how it’s used to market to them?'” Mourey said.

Walgreens said its collaboration with Cooler Screens can offer customers access to information to make informed decisions that best fit their budgets, tastes and preferences.

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