The popularity of digital signage is growing at a rapid pace, and applications within organizations are always evolving. In the never-ending quest for a better viewer experience, many new technologies are hitting the marketplace and vying for attention. Which innovations are clear winners? Which ones address specialized niches?
A recent webinar hosted by Digital Signage Today and Omnivex Corp., "Emerging Digital Signage Technologies: Breaking Through the Hype," looked at new display, mobile and interactive technologies and highlighted the pros and cons of each.
The webinar examined:
- Interactive systems – Touch, multitouch and gesture control
- Display technology – 4K, curved and transparent displays
- Mobile connectivity – QR codes, NFC, iBeacon, Bluetooth LE, sonic connections, SMS texting, email
Omnivex CEO and Director of Software Development Doug Bannister led a fast but thorough look at these new technologies and offered assessment of their current and future utility.
In his 20-plus years in digital signage, Bannister said he's seen "a lot of technologies come and go," and he's particularly interested in technologies that leverage data to provide a better experience for customers and more benefit to deployers.
As indicated above, the webinar focused on three main areas: interactive systems, display technology and mobile interactivity.
Touch in particular demonstrates how a technology progresses from novel or niche applications to more widespread adoption, Bannister said. "People are used to touchscreens and touching devices and getting through," he said.
He then introduced what he called the "appeal grid," which graphs out a technology's location on axes of "Users" and Uses":
Multitouch and gesture interactivity are still more niche applications, he said, that likely will progress toward more mainstream applications or uses in time. Gesture, for instance, is particularly useful for some applications — such as window shopping from the sidewalk or use cases in which newness or the appearance of high technology is appealing — but in many cases touch is the simpler, less expensive solution for screen interactivity.
Before looking at curved and transparent screens, Bannister dove a little deeper into 4K screen technology, looking into the definition of exactly what 4K means and the challenges inherent in the new technology, such as the need for 4K content to show on a 4K screen. He also offered a table showing the distances at which certain screen resolutions actually make a difference to the viewer's experience:
"The question is, at what point does it make it worthwhile?" he said.
The 4K screens will become mainstream eventually, he said, but they're not there yet.
Bannister examined the use cases for QR codes; compared NFC to Bluetooth and iBeacons; talked about texting and email; and took a quick look at sonic connections. He took extra time on the NFC/iBeacon divide, offering the benefits and drawbacks of both. With NFC for instance, while the tech is promising, Apple has thus far declined to offer it on the iPhone.
For a final note, Bannister said that too often deployers want to use a shiny new technology and then figure out their requirements for what they want it to do afterward. If he could impress only one thing on his audience, he said, it would be to encourage potential deployers to flip that around and determine requirements first and then pick the appropriate technology or technologies to achieve them. "If I could leave you all with one point, that would be it," he said.
The webinar then had a short question-and-answer session in which he fielded questions from the audience. One participant asked if the NFC/iBeacon fight was going to be "VHS or Beta all over again, with only one left standing?"
"I think it will," he said. "I think that's a good way to put it."
And at least for right now, he said, iBeacon or Bluetooth LE just has extra overhead and back-end processes compared to NFC — but the fact that the iPhone still doesn't support NFC remains problematic. "We're just going to have to wait to see how that shakes out."
To download and watch the free, on-demand version of the hour-long webinar, click here.