Full Speed Ahead for Digital Signs


Today, as you drive down the highway, shop at the mall, or hustle through the airport, take stock of how many digital signs offer up information for the mass consuming public. Chances are, the majority of these signs are passive; and while this is considered an effective way to reach a general audience, M2M connectivity stands to take digital signage to the next level.

In today’s increasingly connected world, passive technology experiences, such as digital signs that rotate messages based on a predetermined schedule, are not the most effective way to engage consumers. Thanks to connected devices and systems such as smartphones, tablets, and home-automation solutions that can be customized to fit their owners’ business and personal needs, consumers expect personalized information that is both relevant and beneficial.

M2M-enabled digital signs can deliver this value-added service. By networking digital-signage deployments, it becomes easier to refresh and revamp screen content so it remains relevant. The technology also allows businesses to customize passive content, potentially incorporating touchscreen functionality or features such as QR (quick-response) codes, which helps bridge the gap between digital signs and mobile devices. Interactive services more deeply engage consumers and can provide a stronger “call to action”—all of which can lead to a better ROI (return on investment).
Eric Simmons, general manager of M2M for Canada-based wireless provider, Rogers Communications, www.rogers.com, believes these types of “smart” digital-signage solutions offer many business benefits. For instance, he says, “Digital-signage solutions … extend customer reach, drive brand awareness, improve customer experience, increase product revenues, and save costs over traditional methods to communicate information and generate awareness.”

Simmons says networked deployments also enable remote manageability, ensuring a highly scalable digital-signage solution that is also fully supported. Rogers believes it is uniquely positioned to support the growth of digital signage thanks to its wireless-network infrastructure. The company covers 90% of Canada’s population with HSPA+ and has launched LTE (long-term evolution) networks in 24 major markets, reaching 54% of population. These higher-speed network technologies are better prepared to deliver the types of high-definition video content expected today, all over a wireless network.

But where will we see these solutions deployed? Rogers has seen companies use this technology in several places—from public transit, where the signs display arrival/departure information in realtime, to retail product displays that showcase special offers and often leverage interactive coupon codes.

Brian Anderson, vice president of marketing, solutions, and services for Sierra Wireless, www.sierrawireless.com, says his company has also seen some very effective uses of the technology. Sierra Wireless products enable digital-signage solutions by providing wireless-connectivity options, remote-management solutions for deployed devices and airtime subscriptions, and an M2M platform that enables communication from the digital sign to the businesses that manage them.

For instance, Anderson says the company enables displays for mall and movie theaters that provide interactive advertising and entertainment; digital display screens and wireless-payment capabilities in New York City taxi cabs; and digital signs that use facial and voice-recognition to identify a customer’s age and gender—information it uses to deliver demographic-specific content.

“Essentially the convergence of the need to have more messaging in more places in front of more customers, with the need to keep the message relevant and dynamic, provides a great opportunity for the wireless industry,” Anderson says. “ … Furthermore, by using 4G LTE technology, new content can be sent to the sign and customer-usage data can be sent back to record metrics.”

This last piece of the puzzle is crucial, according to Anderson. By integrating data gathered from the digital signs with the business that operates them, enterprises are leveraging the information now available to them to make the best business decisions possible. In fact, thanks to M2M technology, more businesses in more vertical markets are improving the way they interact with and respond to customers thanks to realtime data.
In the case of digital signage, “It’s safe to say that the potential for wireless digital signage is huge,” says Anderson. “We live in a world where increasingly marketers are vying for the attention of billions of customers. Those with the best content in the most places have a distinct advantage.”

Rogers’ Simmons agrees, pointing to emerging technologies such as age/gender detection and augmented reality that will further enhance the value associated with digital signs. Most importantly, these solutions not only have the potential to inform, educate, and entertain customers, they can increase a business’ bottomline. Because digital signage is relevant in so many verticals—from retail and hospitality to healthcare, education, transportation, and entertainment—its potential is nearly limitless.

Connected World Issue
June/July 2014
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