Google to serve ads, come shine or rain

If you think the smarts of your smartphone are more for other people’s benefit than your own, you’re not going to like Google’s latest idea: handset sensors that exist to target advertising based on your environmental conditions.

The company has joined Microsoft (remotes that charge you to skip commercials) and Nokia (vibrating tattoos to indicate incoming phone calls) in what’s truly been a week of wacky patent ideas.

Google’s suggestion is for a smartphone handset than includes sensors measuring everything from temperature and humidity to light and noise levels. These would then be used to serve up “relevant” adverts. The patent application suggests this could work in an extremely simplified manner: ads for coats when it’s cold and air conditioning when it’s hot.

Other suggested uses of the system are a bit more ambitious: if you make a call, the phone could detect the sounds of sports or musical instruments in the background, identify the sport or style of music, then hit you up with more ads. This really doesn’t seem much of an advantage seeing as Google will probably have already got a much better idea of your tastes from your online searches, not to mention the fact that geolocation tools showing whether you are in Carnegie Hall or Giants Stadium are probably going to be a quicker and more reliable way to figure out your activity.

As with the other companies, Google is currently saying this is just an idea that it felt safest to patent, rather than something its actively working on to produce. (The filing was actually made back in 2008 but was only approved this week.) That said, it’s obviously already anticipated a backlash and makes a point of noting the feature could be switched off.