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Have you ever been served up an advert on your mobile device trying to sell something outside your price range? Apple thinks they have found the solution for that.

Apple has patented new technology which checks your bank account to target ads. No, you didn’t misread that. Maybe Fox’s popular animated sitcom Futurama were onto something when they showcased the great lengths some companies are willing to go to try to sell you something. A new pair of red space briefs probably aren’t in your immediate future, but something else more affordable may be.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been critical on such practices of data mining for profiteering in the past. Particularly, outing out the notorious G.O.O.G.L.E.  It’s a bold move to be doing your own data collecting after calling out the search engine giant for something similar. This is where the similarities end, as Apple’s approach is more personal.

What exactly is this tech and how does it work? It’s a new e-commerce system devised that checks your credit balance and bases which ads to serve to you off that. Essentially, ads are served as normal, but the results are tailored around the users budget — goods that are too pricey are omitted while others remain served. Here is the patent confirming Apple filed back on March 24, 2015 for our readers to check out.


Buy all the doughnuts! (within monetary limits of course)

There’s two ways to look at this. We all get ads, unfortunately we can’t always afford to get that shiny new gadget that taunts us. Apple is wanting to act as a middle man to make sure any ads you are getting are for products you can afford. On the other side of the coin, people who stress over privacy may be weary of a large corporation poking around their bank account for the sole intention of trying to sell something. Don’t worry, this service is opt-in so if the idea of a giant snooping around your bank makes you uneasy, you don’t have to comply.

On paper, the idea itself is actually rather innovative. No matter how many times companies dangle an expensive piece of kit in front of you (or something tasty), it doesn’t magically change your bank balance to be higher for you to purchase it. Advertising is simple when you break it down to the bare essentials. Company has product to sell, their product is shown to people via targeted ads and with any luck, a sale is made. To make this process more efficient, Apple’s new system omits results that go beyond your purchasing power.

From the patent document itself, Apple explains how this works using a pizza as the example:

An advertisement provided by advertiser 12 may be “We offer Pizza A for $4, Pizza B for $6 and Pizza C for $8. Click on the Pizza to order now.” In accordance with the invention, the advertisement being delivered to the users would be different depending on the available credit for each user. Thus, when the advertisement is delivered to users having at least $6.00 but less than $8.00 available credit, the advertisement would be “We offer Pizza A for $4, and Pizza B for $6. Click on the Pizza to order now”. Pizza C would not be included in the advertisement to these users since they do not have available credit to pay for it.

When the advertisement is delivered to users having at least $8.00 available credit, the advertisement would be the entire advertisement while when the advertisement is delivered to users having at least $4.00 but less than $6.00 available credit, the advertisement would be “We offer Pizza A for $4. Click on the Pizza to order now”. Pizzas B and C would not be included in the advertisement to these users since they do not have available credit to pay for it. When the user clicks on the word Pizza in any of the advertisements, a premium SMS is sent, and a pizza store with a delivery service is informed about the address of the user and about the order. The pizza store is provided with the money from the user’s account by the operator of the system.

Apple schematic for new system

Diagram of how the system works.

This could potentially revolutionize the way ads are delivered and sounds like a no-brainer. We’d all like to buy products we lust over, but don’t always have the cash on hand. Logically, a business isn’t going to make a commission off their products when the targeted customer won’t be buying it. If the average consumer is anything like myself, advertisements for expensive products get ignored entirely. We’re unsure which direction Apple plans to take this system in the future, but for now the paperwork is ready.

It’s worth noting that this is just a patent, it’s unclear when or if Apple will bring this service into the market or if the actual service will reflect the suggested wording within said patent. Much like Apple Pay, the likelihood of your data being sold to a 3rd party is low. For all intended purposes, you’ll be an anonymous hash with vague details about your age range and products you may be interested in. Still, this could be a brilliant service if it comes to market for those who would rather live within their means — ordinary people purchase Apple products too.

What are your thoughts on this patent and would you be one of those people who would opt-in if it became mainstream? Comment below!

Anthony Lee

Gamer since the NES era, computer nerd since 2001. Happily in a loving relationship with a happa who has been a gamer since the Sega Genesis era. Who says Sega does what Nintendon't?