It seems every year brings something new and exciting. We hear about 3D displays, holograms and interactive signage. While some of these technologies catch on, many others just make a big splash and disappear. A lot of innovation is driven by advances in display and computer technologies, but it doesn’t end there. Peripheral devices bring new capabilities and features that ultimately get integrated into digital signage applications. Its part of a continuous innovation cycle that pushes the industry forward.
While 3D and holographic displays have yet to become mainstream, interactive signage has taken off. Perhaps it’s due to it’s similarity with our smartphones and tablets. Touch screen interactivity is part of our daily lives so it makes sense to extend this functionality to turn passive digital signage into a fully interactive medium.
Why interactive signage?
Interactivity turns viewers into participants. What starts as a passive activity (look at an ad) becomes an event (show me where I need to go). Industry studies have proven that people who interact with a display, either through touch, movement, voice or other activity, retain more information than people who simply glance at a display as they walk by.
Non-intrusive ads and messages strategically placed within an interactive layout will increase the effectiveness of your message over static signage.
Types of applications
Interactive signage covers a broad range of applications.
- Advertising: Interactive displays come in many shapes and sizes which makes them ideal for out-of-home advertising. The technology behind them isn’t always based on touch. Rather, large displays can use motion sensors, webcams and Microsoft Kinect sensors to react to a person’s presence and movements. There are many examples of effective ad campaigns that use large displays and projection systems to deliver exciting experiences. These types of installations have been successfully deployed in airports, train stations, subway stations, shopping malls and festivals. These types of ad campaigns often go viral and help improve brand awareness.Interactive displays can also be used with electronic beacons to detect viewers who have a compatible app installed on their smartphone to beam product information, coupons and advertising materials.
- Information: Museums, resorts and businesses use interactive displays to inform visitors, guests and customers. Interactive signage displays let the audience select their topic which leads to a more memorable experience. Venue owners and operators use interactive signage to provide valuable travel information, order taxis, consult bus schedules and even make restaurant reservations. Businesses can deliver interactive company directories for office lobby kiosks. Retail stores deploy bridal registry kiosks and other self-service solutions for customers.
- Queue Management: A new generation of electronic beacons and smartphone apps can interface with interactive signage displays to provide queue management services in government offices, hospital emergency rooms and retail stores. Information can also be beamed to visitor’s smartphones to help direct them towards an available resource, and also reduce perceived dwell times.
- Wayfinding: The information desk in many shopping malls has been replaced by touch enabled displays and interactive kiosks. The content is usually made up of interactive maps that are used to show visitors how to reach various stores and destinations. Some wayfinding content is animated, others use POV videos to show a realistic view of their path. Wayfinding has made its way into trade shows, large venues and commercial buildings. The more sophisticated wayfinding solutions can interact with smartphone apps to exchange information so visitors can take their maps and directions with them.
Picking the best software for the task
Interactive signage requires software that is compatible with a range of external sensors, third-party software, interactive web content and databases. Here are some of the tasks that a professional interactive signage software must support:
- Content Triggering: Content and playlists must be triggered in response to an external input.
- Interactive Content Support: Web pages and other interactive content must be playable natively.
- Support for external sensors: To be effective, your interactive signage software should support the widest range of external devices, third-party software, databases and sensors.
- A complete set of APIs and SDKs: Professional interactive signage software products should always include a comprehensive set of APIs and SDKs. Otherwise their use will be limited to the few technologies the developer has chosen to support. Open and extensible software solutions let end-users and programmers extend their products so they can work with any technology.
The future of interactivity
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things keeps growing in popularity, and with it comes new opportunities for interactive digital signage.
Today, we have many types of devices already communicating together. Take for example an electronic beacon that triggers an event, or an RFID sensor detects someone wearing a tag, and a related ad or video clip starts playing on a nearby display. In each case, content associated with each type of device gets shown on screen, but it’s not a seamless process. Smartphones require a specific app to be installed and enabled, before it can start interacting with beacons and sensors. This is where the Internet of Things can help create a better experience.
Our devices will soon recognize each other and pass along data that will identify themselves over wireless connections. The process will no longer require device owners to load proprietary or custom apps. It will all happen seamlessly, if we choose to enable it.
Here are some potential advantages… First, smart TVs will be able to communicate directly with other devices, such as your smartphone. This has the potential to eliminate the need for dedicated beacons or other special hardware. All communication will happen in real time and compatible interactive signage software will be able to react to these messages and trigger appropriate content without any additional steps. Device owners will still have the option to selectively “turn off” certain types of communication but the functionality will be available should they decide to opt-in.
The Internet of Things will let venue owners achieve more meaningful interactions by providing more seamless interactions with visitors, and customers. Loyalty programs, frequent shopper plans and memberships can all benefit from this technology.
The Amazon Alexa voice service is fast becoming the standard in voice-enabled technologies. This Amazon hosted service is now available to developers who want to create their own smart devices. By integrating Alexa with digital signage displays and smart TVs, these devices will now respond to voice commands, just like Amazon’s own Echo and other Alexa powered devices. For example, Alexa could be used to trigger content or display answers in response to a viewer’s questions.
When you think of it, this makes a lot of sense. We’re already performing searches on our smartphones using voice commands. Many of us are speaking daily with Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Following on the heels of the Internet of Things, voice-enabled technologies are poised to become the next big thing.
It’s why Amazon is letting software developers tap into their Alexa service to voice-enable their products. These technologies are still gaining traction but they are poised for growth as they will be embedded inside many of the devices that we have around.
It’s safe to say that, we won’t just wave our hands at an interactive display.
Soon, we’ll be able to chat with it too!