I was at my local Tim Horton’s in Rochester NY, when a quick power outage caused the server controlling Tim Horton’s “menu displays” to reboot. And it started up with one system controlling the 6 displays, standard boot stuff came up and then I saw Linux 2.6* kernel loading, some modules go by (unfortunately it was my time to order coffee so I didn’t get a chance to see everything else) and bam, the displays where back up and running in under a minute (try that with MS). So I got curious as to how and who did the work. Of course the employees (and assistant manager) didn’t have a clue how everything works.
So…to google I went. Turns out there is a company in Canada (Ek3 www.ek3.com) that did all the work, the apparently also do the displays found in Wal-Mart’s, Burger Kings, and more around the world too. The systems seem to run standalone from everything else within the store. Not sure how they are updated, programmed, or heck secured, but it maybe something to look into in the future. From the sounds of it, there is a central server that pushes/pulls ad’s to all the Tim Hortons around the world. All of this falls under the definition of narrowcasting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrowcasting) for advertisement.
Not sure how much the local store has control over the ad’s. But could this be exploited? Could someone gain control and tweak the prices on the menu (the cash registers seem to be on a different system) for example and piss off customers who see coffee for 50 cents and end up getting rung up for $2? Or perhaps a new way to push SPAM? Just think if I was a spammer and could push my own ad’s to these systems at will…..all those enlargement ads showing up on those nice big screens would definitely be a bit disturbing.