Digital Signage

Embracing The New: Disruptive technologies equal opportunity.

Jill Giardino courtesy Aldebaran
Pepper the humanoid shares an “emotional” moment with its lady friend.

Smart signage and marketing professionals are always on the lookout for ways to improve proven solutions with some new and compelling ingredient. But it can be a real challenge to understand which new tech is merely cool, and which is ready for prime time.

Fifteen years ago, the integration of broadcast rights management and server control into a signage service package was a fringe concept. Now, it’s business as usual. A decade ago, few expected mobile phones and PTZ robotic cameras to converge in the signage landscape. More recently, innovative solutions utilizing mobile, WiFi, beacon, RFID, NFC and other solutions have enabled providers to offer engaging experiences to audiences, and a rich harvest of bankable information to system stakeholders. Many of us also may not have foreseen social media as a major element in today’s signage success. Moving forward, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, crowdsourcing and other disruptive technologies may offer even greater opportunities.

The “emotional” robot Pepper, from Aldebaran/SoftBank, has been making appearances across the United States. It has intrigued conference attendees, especially developers, with its ability to communicate with humans through voice, touch and a few expressions of emotion. Although this humanoid robot was not originally created for customer development functions, an SDK (software development kit) is available for customizing applications. Trials are already underway employing Pepper and NAO, a robot also created by Aldebaran, in airport customer service stations and other applications. Pepper can be programmed to learn, memorize facts and faces, and grow. It is being used in retail where it is able to analyze a visitor’s connection to a brand or message and can try to convert shoppers into purchasers. Innovative, programmable “devices” such as Pepper can provide designers and integrators with new avenues for the development of enhanced audience engagement.

Augmented Reality, until very recently, was the plaything of techno-geeks and avant-garde museum curators. Over the past few years, several companies have been experimenting with ways to harness the active combination of real-time video with images of different times, places and fictional dimensions to draw viewers into their message-world. For example, LEGO Systems has a simple, yet effective, retail application in a kiosk. When a customer holds a boxed LEGO toy up to its “Digital Box,” a 3D animation of the assembled pieces appears on the screen, and as the box is rotated, the model rotates on the screen, allowing the prospective customer to view the toy from different angles.

In the near future, it’s likely that combining Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence with mobile-social interaction and real-time data analytics will create a low-cost onscreen experience that immerses viewers in a world that synthesizes their attitudes and desires with the “real” world, and even involves them in an instant customer community.

Technologies are emerging and evolving at an increasingly rapid pace, and any combination of new tech with existing tools could provide solutions for challenges in the signage business today and in the future. How can we be sure which emerging technology will pay off best for business in the years to come? We can’t. But, one thing is for sure: If we don’t aggressively investigate the widest possible range of new tech, we will, at best, be left back in the middle of the pack.

If grinding out bids and cutting costs is at the heart of your long-term business plan, no problem. But, if you want to ride a wave of innovation and growth into the future, you might want to keep your eyes open and seriously consider how every new tech might give you and your clients a competitive edge.

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