As we move to an increasingly connected lifestyle around the world, it is important to understand and track how the same user may be connected via multiple devices such as mobile phone, desktop computer, even a television.
Tracking an individual via an application using authentication, or via their web browser using cookies (both client and server-side) are well-known technologies now, decades into the Internet and Web’s evolution. Mobile devices (apart from using a web browser), tablets and traditional televisions, however, do not support cookies. Also, the Utopic vision of “single sign on” remains an elusive unicorn thus making swift and successful re-targeting a Holy Grail.
How would an app developer or an advertiser know if disparate devices are being used by the same person? This complex landscape created an opportunity for SilverPush to create a novel system for cross-device ad targeting. One unique method they have implemented uses ultrasonic “audio beacons.”
When you browse the web, use a phone app, or watch a video that has one of these humanly-inaudible “beacons” embedded in the content, your other devices can “hear” that signal and report back. In this way SilverPush can learn if you were watching a particular show or ad on television at the same time you were browsing the web. Or that you were using an app or seeing an ad on your mobile phone while working at your computer. Now, your various devices can be correlated as being connected to you.
Beacons: the New Bacon?
Audio beacons are springing up everywhere in marketing, especially in retail. The international in-store media giant Mood Media Corporation announced in January 2015 it is incorporating audio beacons into its network of 300,000 retail and restaurant locations, which reach over 150 million consumers each day in over 40 countries. Proximity-based marketing using ultrasonic technology, once the realm of research, is rapidly being made turnkey using SDKs – such as those provided by Signal360. There are also ultrasound payment systems that have been in development for years and are now available from such venerable payment market leaders as Verifone that to allow you to pay your cab fare in New York City. Beyond ultrasonic audio beacons are radio frequency systems, such as Apple’s Bluetooth iBeacon. Whether ultrasonic audio or RF signal, beacons are here to stay.
All of this points to the mobile phone as the primary device through which to understand, reach out to, and empower consumers. Key challenges facing adoption and acceptance today include corporate responsibility and consumer protection for user privacy. Signal360 published a white paper on how to ethically implement such proximity-based marketing using clear consumer opt-in, and SilverPush CEO Hitesh Chawla is working with the Mobile Marketing Association to develop guidelines to respect users’ privacy. In an article on AdExchanger, SilverPush Co-Founder Alex Modon stressed the importance of privacy in data management, “We keep our clients’ data separate from what we are collecting on the database side and the data that we work with is anonymized. We don’t see specific names or PIIs, for example, only numbers.”
Scaling for the World
SilverPush had to architect a system that could manage users and their devices that could scale rapidly to billions of entities — with a staff of seven people at the start of 2014.
At first, SilverPush’s team implemented their solution on MongoDB. Over the past year, they rapidly grew their system and needed to process nearly 50 TB of data and 4+ billion ad requests daily using complex machine learning (ML) algorithms in their ad bidding platform. They soon found limitations in MongoDB and needed to find a NoSQL database solution to continue scaling, with high performance and without requiring the overhead of manual sharding.
According to SilverPush Product Manager, Debashish Mitra, “After testing a couple of other database solutions SilverPush found Aerospike matched its expectations in terms of performance, consistency and value for money. For instance, each additional Amazon Web Service (AWS) instance on MongoDB allowed the company an additional 3000 QPS, whereas the new Aerospike-based solution provided 15000 QPS on the same instance… With the new SSD-based solution, SilverPush was able to reduce their cost by roughly 10x compared to previous databases they were using.”
Aerospike allows SilverPush to scale their system to meet the demands of connecting billions of users using mobile devices, tablets, computers, and televisions. This ability to grow business by orders of magnitude efficiently and cost-effectively allows SilverPush’s small but growing team to serve the world.
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