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Digital Signage: Confluence with built environments

Photo courtesy Perch Interactive

By Craig M. Berger
From large cities to small towns, digital signage deployments are expanding everywhere, due to reductions in costs and increases in ease of use and durability. As digital signage becomes more ubiquitous, however, the success of everything from pedestrian-facing kiosks to full light-emitting diode (LED) façades is leading to problems with visual clutter, especially where lower-quality messaging systems compete for space and the public’s attention.

At the same time as digital signage clutter is starting to become a major issue, the promise of more comprehensively integrating screens into retail and institutional spaces has not come to fruition, as organizations shy away from planned projects because they fear their messages will become invisible, particularly as the public focuses more on ‘personal’ screens—i.e. smartphones—than the ‘environmental’ screens around them.

All technological innovations go through this sort of transitional stage before they more fully mature with the development and implementation of industry best practices. Further advances will rely on leadership from sign companies, manufacturers, designers and other specialists, embracing the opportunity to move beyond the screens themselves to create exciting spaces that take better advantage of digital signage within a physical landscape.

Upgrading interactivity
Interactive digital map directories have been around for 40 years, but now many of them are declining in value, as the same functionality shifts onto smartphones.

Where directory kiosks can become relevant today is through greater ‘intelligence,’ given the capability to become more in tune with their environment through monitoring and by better tailoring content to visitors’ needs, including interaction with their smartphones.

Ottawa-based UTG Digital Media created a first-of-its-kind LED staircase for a nightclub in Las, Vegas, Nev.
Photo courtesy UTG Digital Media

Directories are also harder to ignore when they are designed to better standards and become landmarks within their environments. This is a question of combining the best attributes of interactive digital media and physical display structures.

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By way of example, Gable Signs of Baltimore, Md., has introduced new free-standing directories for Simon Property Group’s shopping malls across the U.S., combining touch-interactive screens with wireless connectivity. The two companies worked together for more than a year to develop the enhanced units from scratch, including a new graphical user interface (GUI).

Strategically positioned in high-traffic areas, the 1.7-m (65-in.) high-definition (HD) liquid crystal displays (LCDs) ‘come to life’ whenever a shopper walks within a few feet of them. Users can find out what’s going on at the mall and find the fastest routes to take to reach various shops and services. They can then send those directions to their mobile devices via beacon, near-field communication (NFC), Short Message Service (SMS) or other wireless channel. There is also location-based marketing functionality, allowing brands to connect with customers with relevant, real-time information.

Another possibility for integrating innovative technology with an interactive directory would be to add augmented reality (AR), thus allowing dynamic content to appear overlaid on the physical environment.

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