Digital Signage Serves up Customers with Data

Technology Advancements Enable Accelerated Development of Digital Signage Deployments

Digital signage must be designed to identify and engage the customer. But beyond that lies an infrastructure of data gathering, database and evaluation technologies along with networking that reaches from smartphone to kiosk and on into the Cloud.


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Companies are embracing digital signage as never before. One cannot step inside a retail store, airport or healthcare facility without seeing a kiosk or video display. And, there is great expectation that the evolution of digital signage will be ongoing and pervasive—as it has been projected that more consumers will view video on digital signs than on Internet sites. The growth is being driven as advertisers and retailers realize new ways to attract and engage consumers with innovative digital signage concepts. An estimate from Intel suggests that the digital signage revolution will continue to expand at an astronomical pace to more than 22 million screens and 10 million players by 2015. The expansion of digital signage is creating vast new opportunities as retailers and other organizations are discovering new ways to engage customers with rich multimedia content that they can manage remotely while measuring for effectiveness against goals and objectives.

However, developers have faced numerous challenges in the development of new digital signage deployments. First, there has been a lack of design resources and tools that allow for cost-effective development, which has lead to expensive and time-consuming integration headaches. The need for the signage developer to solve similar problems again and again as new hardware is reviewed or deployed painfully reveals why deployment costs have increased and is the main cause of the overall fragmentation in the marketplace. Second, OEMs developing digital signage for the infotainment, retail, vending and transportation markets need standards to ease their workload and that will allow them to focus on reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) and maximizing return on investment (ROI) while obtaining the edge to differentiate their solutions from the competition. Third, deployers of digital signage systems need quick and easy ways to measure the effectiveness of their content and to be able to dynamically change it to improve effectiveness (Figure 1).

Figure 1
The fragmented digital signage ecosystem is very complex and represents a major challenge for solutions developers.

Also impacting digital signage designs is that viewer expectations today demand that digital signage deliver a media-rich experience in any environment—be it standing in line, at the register or in transit. Another important factor for OEMs is that new technologies are now available that allow advertisers to monitor gestures, social media interaction and implement multiple screens to make up a network of intelligent and connected devices. All these technology features enable access to actionable business data that can be gathered from customers so businesses can make more intelligent decisions. This data is essential for companies to target content to the viewer, which can be used to significantly increase profitability and is one of the main reasons digital signage is pervasive and ongoing.

An Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) was developed by Intel with the goal of simplifying installation, usage, maintenance and upgrade of digital signage infrastructure. The OPS standard also contributes to making digital signage applications more intelligent, connected and secure while reducing costs because all OPS-compliant devices are interchangeable by design. Many suppliers are building OPS-compliant digital signage solutions, which allow companies to now deploy scalable applications that can more easily network with other components or devices. The availability of modular and pre-validated design resources and development platforms empower OEMs to build digital signage solutions that enable companies to achieve higher customer satisfaction. Advertisers also want to be assured of maximum reliability and uptime with the ability to integrate remote management capabilities that enable easier upgrades and scheduling of repairs. Using this design approach allows OEMs to future-proof design investments by maintaining interoperability and simplifying application upgrades.

High-End Processors Enable Optimal Image Processing

New faster processors are delivering power, performance and energy efficiencies to make it easier and more cost-effective to develop and operate innovative and interactive digital signage solutions. The 3rd generation Intel Core i7 processors with integrated graphics, CPU to GPU accelerator and reduced die geometries provide superior integrated graphics performance. For example, new processors are available that offer integrated graphics, CPU to GPU acceleration in a smaller footprint to provide the necessary feature set for optimal image processing that is an enabler of next-generation digital signage solutions.

Featuring the latest processor technology, the Kontron DSEK-12 system has at its core the Kontron COMe-bSC6, which delivers a proven Computer-on-Module (COM) solution that provides high-end graphics and display support features. Utilizing the Kontron COMe-bSC6 gives OEMs a modular approach that enables optimized and cost-effective scalability of application-specific implementations in terms of graphics and processing performance (Figure 2). This 100 percent OPS v1.0-compliant system integrates the 3rd Generation Intel Core processor and is pre-validated for use with a Microsoft Windows Embedded OS (such as WES7 Pro 64-bit) and Intel Audience Impression Metric (Intel AIM) Suite technology based on Anonymous Viewer Analytics (AVA) software. Digital signage systems employing the DSEK-12 with the AIM Suite and running a content management system (CMS) can simultaneously play high-definition video while gathering valuable viewer demographics without invading their privacy to push custom-tailored messaging to the target audience, which results in delivering a rich, immersive user experience that can offer significant infrastructure cost savings.

Figure 2
The high quality of real-time information attainable from the pre-validated content creation and content management software supported by the DSEK-12 gives companies access to actionable business data as well as being able to provide viewers with a dynamic, media-rich experience that is tailored to them.

Connected and Cloud-Based Solutions Push Content in Real Time

The rise in M2M (machine to machine) technology that allows connected communications to be enabled by WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Networks), WLAN (Wi-Fi), WPAN and the cloud, makes it possible to deliver content to consumers in real time while supplying analytics and data acquisition to advertisers. Connected signage networks are comprised of many types of signage including digital displays, billboards, transit signage, bus stops and more. Advertising management of all of these types of signage can be centrally screened and administrated in a connected Cloud-based signage network. Intelligent content distribution and scheduling is also managed centrally.

For instance, the ability to deliver messages to public displays according to pre-selected geography, environment or user behavior criteria is now possible. Messages can be disseminated at the most opportune time to increase awareness or responsiveness. Over a Cloud-based communication network, displays that are linked to a content management platform can respond to gestures, traffic and climate conditions to deliver messages crafted to enhance viewer engagement and targeted marketing opportunities. This type of connected content platform would also be used to produce audience or messaging reports so that advertisers could use the data to enhance viewer impressions or update content strategies against marketing goals.

Intel developed its AIM Suite technology to allow digital signage applications to anonymously screen viewer metrics such as gender, age bracket and length of viewer attention. The technology permits retailers and advertisers to deliver more relevant content for individual viewers and track return on investment with greater accuracy. The Intel AIM Suite uses Intel processor-based computers and small optical devices connected to a digital sign. Millions of pixels per second can be analyzed to identify viewers. The software then anonymously aggregates the viewer’s data to deliver the metrics to retailers. Optical sensors mounted on digital signage displays use the Intel AIM Suite software to detect an arrangement of pixels that resembles the general pattern of a human face. The pixels are analyzed using specific algorithms to determine a person’s gender, age bracket and dwell time. No images are recorded and no individual data is collected so the Intel AIM Suite maintains consumer anonymity by using audience detection algorithms, which cannot collect any personally identifiable information, and cannot record any images or video footage.

Advantages Derived from Multiple Screen Capabilities

New emerging screen technologies are exciting when one considers the possibilities of displaying compelling content on polygon and hexagon screens, concave and convex walls. The visual displays of messaging can now go so far beyond the flat rectangular formats to capture a viewer’s attention and deliver engaging content.

The ability to remotely manage multiple interactive displays for advertising and information sharing is driving the quick adoption of smart digital signage. Brands and companies are realizing the value of delivering targeted real-time content to a variety of display types. Using a multi-touch holographic screen, Intel has demonstrated how customers can explore products, learn about various promotions, provide product feedback, read other customers’ reviews, view past purchasing histories and share via social media audience impressions and reactions to all of the messages delivered. 

OEMs are also embracing the convergence of new technologies such as the integration of mobile devices and tablets with Near Field Communication (NFC) that allows devices to establish communication with each other by touching or being in close proximity. Useful too is the integration of multi-touch, gesturing and multi-user capabilities. The more interactive a display is, the more engaged customers become. Delivering this type of comprehensive merchandising goes a long way in improving the customer’s shopping experience.

Brick and mortar retail outlets understand that they need to present more advantages in-store versus their online retailer competitors. Digital signage makes companies competitive in dispersing targeted and interactive content to shoppers to put them on a level playing field, complementing their in-store offerings with their online offerings seamlessly. Retailers can engage and interact with consumers in a more personal and compelling manner through new usage models such as augmented reality and interactive product explorations, which can have a positive impact in increasing revenue and customer loyalty.

Putting Digital Signage to Work

A simplified example of a fast food ordering kiosk application explains the advancements realized with pre-validated platforms that offer Intel AIM software and content creative and management software. The ability to push tailored information to the customer as well as communicate information about user preferences back to the business in real time can be shown when a mother with a small child goes to the kiosk to order food. The Intel AIM Suite software allows it to recognize the aspects of the buyer, and is able to display a promotional screen about healthy child meals with a toy. The customer has the choice of either buying the promoted item(s) or going to the regular menu. The kiosk is equipped for credit card or cash transactions, provides a receipt and then communicates the order to the kitchen. When ready, a staffer gives the selected meal to the customer and scans the barcode on the receipt to confirm that the meal has been delivered. At the same time that the order is communicated to the kitchen, this customer data is also communicated to the corporate marketing team enabling them to have important customer data on the effectiveness of their kiosk promotions. 

An actual example was shown at the London Olympics and throughout London. There was a plethora of digital signage deployments—from signage at venues to displays on the subway system—demonstrating that the human-to-machine interface between digital signage and our normal everyday lives is growing and pervasive. Similarly, for the future Olympics and World Cup events in Brazil, organizers are planning a big role for digital signage. Estimates projecting that $350 million worth of digital signage will be deployed for those two events. 

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