Digital signage goes mobile
There's no denying that mobile devices are dramatically impacting the way we live. Smartphones are now our primary conduit to friends, family and colleagues. And tablets are proliferating at a staggering pace, and not just for personal use. Case in point, on a recent business trip I noticed an iPad being used as a name placard by a driver waiting at the airport arrival gate, and later saw a sommelier deliver a tablet-based wine list to a restaurant patron. Digital devices are supplanting their analog predecessors at will, and there's no turning back.
This explosive growth in mobile is creating some great opportunities for savvy companies to use digital signage to their advantage. In particular, I expect a few key areas to experience significant growth in the next six-12 months:
The next wave of video-on-demand
One of our customers created a proprietary solution to remotely trigger video content from an iPad or iPod Touch. The solution is especially well suited for tradeshows, hotel lobbies and corporate events, and I believe it has great potential to be leveraged in a retail setting, too. In essence, an iPad sends commands wirelessly to a network-connected digital signage player, which then displays content chosen by the individual. And because the system is scalable, it can be built-out to fit anything from a small showroom to a large convention center. It's the perfect way to give the customer control of the content, while the vendor retains control of the message.
Remote content updates
Another area where I expect to see continued innovation is the use of tablets to remotely update and monitor digital signage. Screen size is important when creating a digital signage user interface, and tablets are perfectly suited for the job. They give designers ample real estate to create an interface that's as elegant as it is functional. Proprietors are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and they're asking for easy access to their digital signage networks. As a result, it's common for installers to offer tablet-based content-management systems that allow business owners to conveniently update pricing, daily specials and other digital menu content.
Signage goes social
Mobile devices are also spawning a new generation of digital signage applications with a social edge. There's a movement afoot that has bars and restaurants experimenting with a new "digital jukebox" that lets patrons make requests via their iPhones, selecting from songs that already exist in their iTunes library. Not only can people request songs, but they can also vote on other songs in the queue, resulting in a crowd-sourced playlist that's collectively determined by the patrons.
These applications are exciting, and I'm certain that we'll continue to see innovations like these in the months and years to come. Mobile devices will continue to proliferate, and our industry will support that growth by delivering signage solutions that take advantage of these versatile mobile platforms.
Jeff Hastings / BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.