The Perspective 
Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Glen Young
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Philips Signage Solutions


Can remote control apps damage your digital signage?

Smartphone technology continues to amaze with so many different features and functions. But the latest one is the one to be extremely wary of in certain situations. Among the most recent advancements coming from the smartphone is a TV remote changer app.  

This app can be downloaded into a smartphone, and all of a sudden, the person holding that smartphone has the power to remotely control a  TV just in case he or she misplaced the one usually found on the coffee table. Who knows? Maybe one of the kids may have picked it up for whatever reason.  

Not a bad app. Life is getting easier with apps like this one.  

However, there’s a downside to this TV remote control app, especially if a business has taken the low-cost route and is using a consumer TV and PC for its digital signage. There's lots of money saved there — but, boy oh boy, there are a multitude of pitfalls associated now with the smartphone remote control apps.  

Let's say it's a highly competitive business. Who's to say, anyone could stroll into a store, restaurant, fast food place, a small retail business or whatever business? With this new remote control app in their smartphone and a few quick strokes, a business's TV-based signage display could be turned off, switched to another channel, or the speaker volume, colors and contrast could be messed up.

It's one thing to take the low-cost route and incur a considerable number of potential problems associated with using consumer-grade TV screens and PCs for a commercial signage application. But it's another thing entirely to get sabotaged without knowing who or where the culprit is.  

Also, it could be that particular business or restaurant is one of the unlucky ones with a commercial signage that lacks a lock against others' remote control ability. But now, a business owner is placing himself in a position where almost anyone coming into the shop can sabotage all the sales efforts promoted on that signage, and the business owner wouldn't be not aware of it until after the damage is done. When I say damage, I’m talking about incurring glitches in the business operations by altering or jeopardizing your sales displays.

While it's a bit more expensive, it makes good business sense to not only upgrade to, or start out with, a commercial-grade digital signage display, installed professionally, as well as making sure to have the key feature of a remote control lock in that new signage or video wall installation.  

A business owner works long and hard to get the business to a healthy level. The last thing he or she wants is to be a candidate for competitive sabotage or a victim of a prankster who'll do damage to a place of business's signage just for kicks via that smartphone remote control app.

Posted by: AT 10:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 22 October 2013

 


By: Ifti Ifhar, CEO, ComQi

Thanks to smartphones, consumers have unprecedented access to boundless shopping options conveniently placed at their fingertips. Retailers are now facing the challenge of how to bring the attention back to their brick-and-mortar stores and revamp their sales.  However, through an innovative and brand-controlled mobile experience, the retailer can expect increased customer engagement, enhanced loyalty and boost in sales.    

Brick-and-mortar stores are still by far the top revenue generators, accounting for 94.2% of total US retail sales in Q2 2013 – a staggering $1,052B
according to the US Department of Commerce.  The retailer’s goal is to marry the offline and online sales for increased total revenues and EBITDA.

The solution lies in customer engagement which is the connection between a customer and a company or brand. Providing a positive, interactive sales experience, coupled with a quality product and on-demand convenience is essential. Being synonymous with sales and attrition, it is well known that retailers who invest in customer engagement enjoy premium ROIs. Based on a study conducted by PeopleMetrics, companies with the highest customer engagement levels were found to yield an annual ROI increase of 8% above the industry average, while companies with low engagement levels saw a ROI 23% below the industry average. 
 
The disruptive technology for in-store customer engagement is a real-time, two-way mobile interactive communication channel between the shopper (smartphones and tablets) and the brand (through the store’s digital displays). It is a cloud-based SaaS technology platform incorporating mobile, web, digital signage, social and video.
 
There is software complementary to digital signage and social media marketing that provides a dynamic experience to include two-way mobile interaction, personalization and influence to the shopper. Customers are stimulated and feel valued because they are getting tangible rewards and emotional gratification, which leads to future purchases and increased loyalty towards the retailer.

Further integration with the brand’s POS, inventory and loyalty programs leads to a seamless storefront structure: ultimately, customer engagement at its best.  The consumer gets custom discounts, instant product information, availability, price comparisons and reviews, access to online forums and a registry to the brand’s loyalty program for additional benefits. 

The retailer successively collects the social identity of the store visitors and can converge it with the analytics derived from the online platform for creating unified retailer’s shoppers Big Data, improving future marketing efficiencies.

We live in a technology-based, interconnected world, and consumers are entering brick-and-mortar stores with smartphones firmly in hand. They are more informed than ever, and have clearly defined expectations of retailers. Luckily, they are more willing to interact with brands and products in totally new ways. With in-store access to detailed product information, personalized promotions, and an expedient way to shop, customers are experiencing the brand as envisioned by the retailer. The right solution can provides a 360 degree customer engagement vehicle, supporting the customer’s journey and the retailer’s longevity in the competitive and digital retail environment.

 

Posted by: Admin AT 02:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 05 September 2012
We had our second annual DOOH Media Cross Media event last week in cooperation with the Digital Screenmedia Association (DSA) and the Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA). Held at Gannett's HQ with a backdrop of Madison Avenue, the event attracted a mixed crowd of digital signage networks, agencies, brands, platform companies and mobile experts.

Speakers from NEC, MWW, The Wow Factor, Time Square Screen Alliance, Blue Bite and The Wall Street Journal dissected the overall growth of mobile, digital signage and best practices of this overall evolution of convergence. The common themes evolved around experience, media strategy and scalability.


Don Blanton, CEO of The Wow Factor

Theme 1: Experience

“It is so important to build an experience that creates an emotional response,” stated Don Blanton, CEO of The Wow Factor. Don is one of those true visionaries that had created some of the best campaigns in Times Square, bringing creativity and innovation to an environment where consumers are stimulated by digital media from every angle. He showcased some of the campaigns that had been successful, and shared techniques and strategies to best gauge the usefulness of the campaigns.

“We find that in order to have a successful campaign, the integration with the street-teams is a key part of process. We found that with mobile, sometimes the downloading of an app can be a bit of an obstacle. Getting users to activate the app is still not a perfect scenario, but overall integrating the campaign is effective in getting engagement with the massive screen,” said Blanton. 

Mikhail Damiani from Blue Bite also shared his vision on how to drive a campaign first from the strategy of experience that then determines the right technologies to use. “NFC is going to be a key driver of this interaction in the future,” he stated and shared some statistics that proved this is happening faster than we expected.  

Tom Hennigan of Times Square Screen Alliance and Blanton also shared a sneak-peak of what is to come with the connectivity of all screens. “Giving advertisers the best opportunity…massive emotional experiences are coming soon in our launch in October to Times Square,” Hennigan announced.



Theme 2: Media Strategy


The discussions also took on a perspective that the holistic view is a critical part in an overall media strategy with the brand. “Getting the strategy right from the beginning is essential and the platform with which you serve ads to the different screens is critical,” explained Carolyn Walkin of NEC. “When deciding on an ad server for your business, it is now the time to choose one that gives you the ability to work everywhere. That will make your planning much more streamlined.”

As we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the growth of digital place based media, having a strategy that looks to combine these areas is going to be quite essential. “Given that mobile is with you everywhere, especially when you are on the go, it can be a great resource in linking these strategies together,” said Michael Scheiner, executive creative director of MWW.

When asked by Jim Harris, CEO of the Wall Street Journal Office Network what we can expect in five years, the panel of speakers was quick to talk about the further fusion of media. And there was a strong consensus on the opportunities of augmented reality. “Augmented reality is going to bring amazing things to Times Square,” said Blanton.


Michael Scheiner, executive creative director, MWW

Theme 3: Scalability

Another common theme for the event was the issue of scalability. “When developing a plan, it is important to have a long-term scalable strategy,” said Scheiner. “Many campaigns that link these converging areas together have been created as one-offs without a long-term sustainable plan. But with the right strategy from the beginning, that campaign can have longevity and can bridge all the different areas of PR, social, interactive, mobile and digital out-of-home.”

Although scalability has been a topic discussed quite often and sometimes hard to qualify, in a world of an overwhelming flow of information, it is clear that getting the message right so that it can continue across all mediums is very important. Harris noted that this is a challenge they pursue every day when you have a 700+ location digital signage network. When he asked the panel their remarks on the subject, the common answer of “creating the right content experience for the user” was the key media strategy.

Matthew Snyder is producer of MXM Events and CEO ADObjects, Inc.








Posted by: Matthew Snyder AT 11:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
There was no calmness after the storm last night in Times Square for the jointly produced MXM/DSA event around convergence of screen media between digital signage and mobile.
 
The event had over 65 participants (standing room only) in the board room of Duane Morris overlooking the digital display wonderland of Times Square; there is even a vantage point from the room where you can see both of the massive LED screens at either end of the square at the same time.


 
Stu Armstrong, immediate past president of DSA and managing director, direct sales for ComQi moderated the panel session.
 
Bob Gold, CEO, Gold Mobile, shared with the audience about how NFC will become a key part of the digital signage as a way to not only interact, but transact at the same time.  Bob also  mentioned that “mobile is the disruption to take us away from traditional impression based media strategies to one of engagement in real time right in front of the display. SMS, QR codes are part of the process, but there will be so much more.”  
 
In actuality, Jeremy Lockhorn, VP emerging media, Razorfish mentioned, “Out-of-home was always a hard placement as a media strategy as the content does not sit alongside media such as TV, radio or print. Now with digital out-of-home, the interactivity component can now make advertising marketing out of home more of a strategy with content engagement and delivery.”
 
“Today with interaction of digital signage you need to have a social-mobile strategy as well. Not only can you have Twitter integrated into a marketing message real-time, but down to the tweet can be controlled and moderated. Think about that whole new level of engagement,” said, Drew de Cavalho, sales, AdGent Digital.
 
Six Flags participated in the event with a presentation from Adam Oliveri, VP of corporate alliances, Sean Anderson, director, interactive and Lisa Checketts, manager of digital.  Together they mapped out the landscape of the potential of captive audience marketing from everything around how they “geo-fence” different areas of the parks to leverage location-based services to come in the future, to how they make waiting in lines more entertaining and enjoyable. 
 
“Today, you can interact with a digital sign with your mobile and win a spot at front of the line. We are integrating digital signage and mobile connectivity everywhere. Even though QR codes on signposts in the different waiting areas and SMS has become quite standard, we are looking to the future with our app and a variety of service integration to match our Six Flags video network,” said Adam. 
 
Adam also mentioned one of the biggest challenges they have been able to solve with their partners was the new engagement metrics and measurement strategies. “We are building a clear model around dwell as a key part of engagement.”   
 
The topic of measurement was strongly emphasized by all of the panelists. Tom Hennigan, partner of Times Square Domination (an ad network for the screens of Times Square) said that building impressions from one screen to multiple screens that all have interactivity has been a challenge. “We work in steps to build a campaign that grows over time to give the best for clients. ROI is critical for us and the level of brands we are dealing with for this media.”   
 
Other challenges with measurement were discussed deal with how to connect the actual campaign to a comparison across other screens.  With all the different formats it is becoming more and more complex to get a formula right across all the screens, but Jason Newport, SVP mobile for Carat said they are working hard on this as it is key to our clients. 
 
After this success, the DSA and MXM have started to discuss when the next event will take place. Please send in comments if you would like to participate and be involved.
 
Following the event, John Matthews, Comscient wrote:

Congratulations on an excellent MXM event last night at a great venue with a view! The MXM event was excellent with a great panel with above average content. It was a refreshing change from many of the digital media events that take place in NYC these days. The event also attracted a better quality attendee with more mature mobile and digital out of home media industry leaders and innovators. Definitely a worthwhile and valuable event with great insights and I personally am looking forward to future events.
 
Check out #MXMDSA on Twitter to see related tweets.
 
Matthew Snyder
Matthew Snyder is producer of MXM Events and CEO ADObjects, Inc.
Posted by: Matthew Snyder AT 02:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 04 April 2011


Jim Kruper
President
Analytical Design Solutions Inc.

The self-service industry has another new technology to absorb: mobile devices. These devices, such as the iPad, have become more functional and are available in a broader range of products. As companies seek new technology opportunities, usage has expanded from the consumer, the original intended user, to self-service. Unfortunately, this change in usage causes security issues similar to kiosk self-service applications. Security issues are mostly unavoidable in the iPad; however, the good news is that these issues can be addressed in Android devices.

Why deploy mobile devices as self-service apps? There are a number of factors. Mobile devices are easy to connect to Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. They have mature and intuitive touch screen interfaces. They also have the flexibility to be mounted in a fixed kiosk pedestal or to be deployed as a true mobile device. Since mobile devices were designed for consumer use, and therefore not made to last as long as higher-quality OEM devices, mobile devices usually cost significantly less.

What applications are well suited for mobile devices? The sky is the limit, within the constraints of the hardware, including hospitality, retail, health-care and even construction. For example, health-care providers have begun offering paperless check-ins and hotels have used mobile devices to display all of their services electronically within each room.

The Apple iOS iPad was the initial breakthrough tablet device, but since its introduction there have been many Google Android tablet devices announced. Despite being first to market and such a success that it opened the self-service industry to the possibilities of mobile devices, the iOS operating system is surprisingly not well-suited for self-service. Self-service imposes many demands on an operating system that are far different from the standard consumer use of the device; unfortunately, by having a closed operating system, Apple has tied the hands of anyone wishing to write robust self-service applications. On the other hand, Android has an extremely open operating system that is well-suited for self-service. When Microsoft ships Windows 8, which is planned to target mobile devices, then it too will be a viable platform for self-service.

However, similar to the difference between a PC used in self-service and one used in a consumer environment, the mobile device needs to be protected from abuse, negligent or not, by the self-service user. The user’s personal information needs to be similarly protected, since the device will be used next by a complete stranger. This protection takes many forms.

Protect the desktop/launcher
It is critical to prevent the user from accessing the desktop/app launcher. The user should be allowed to run the specified application, but prevented from configuring or executing any other applications as well as downloading and installing any new applications.

Browser lockdown
If the application uses a browser, and most will, it is important to ensure the user is limited only to the domains or pages allowed. In addition, if displaying Internet Web pages, then links such as mailto tags or file downloads need to be blocked. When the user has finished, all traces of that user’s presence on the device must be removed.

Remote monitoring
An important aspect of any self-service deployment is the ability to remotely monitor the device to determine its current status. Is your application running? Are any components reporting errors? For a mobile device, the requirements can expand to include also the physical location of the device and the battery life remaining.

Device security
Mobile devices have one major drawback: they are mobile. It is important for the user to a) know the device needs to be returned, b) indicate to the user when the device is about to leave an approved operation area and c) lock down the device and provide retrieval information to the deployer when the device has left the approved operation area.

Mobile devices have great promise to improve the self-service experience; however, there are challenges to mobility that must be addressed. Today, Android OS is the best platform for self-service.

Jim Kruper is president of Analytical Design Solutions Inc., developers of KioWare kiosk software.


Posted by: Jim Kruper AT 11:53 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 19 October 2009
The average credit union member is 49 years old and is likely to be a very loyal customer. But credit unions need to do a better job of attracting new, younger members, says Karen Morgan, executive vice president of San Francisco-based oFlows Inc. OFlows works with credit unions to help promote paperless transactions — pushing more “green” operations.
 
“The credit union industry needs to do a better job of explaining to members what the difference between a credit union and a bank is,” Morgan said during her opening presentation at the Credit Union Services & Products Forum in San Diego. “They need to develop campaigns that get the word out about what they have to offer, and they need to do a better job of appealing to a younger audience.”
 
Are credit unions actively driving traffic to their Web sites, and is the user experience on those sites enjoyable? And what about mobile banking? Are credit unions exploiting the mobile channel?
 
Those were some of the questions Morgan asked of the 80 or so credit unions represented Monday during the forum’s opening day. Unfortunately, a lot of credit unions have not been able to successfully appeal to a diverse membership and attract the 18- to 35-year-old age group, while not turning the 45- to 54-year-old age group away.
 
One misconception younger consumers have, Morgan says, is that credit unions have too few ATMs and branches. In reality, because of cooperative alliances, such as shared branching and on-us ATM transactions through co-op arrangements, credit unions actually offer more convenience than some of the nation’s largest banks. But credit unions are not getting the word out.
 
“Credit unions actually have the largest ATM networks in the United States,” Morgan said.
 
Leading credit union ATM networks, such as Co-Op Financial Services’ Co-Op Network and Credit Union 24, have large ATM networks. The Co-Op Network includes surcharge-free member access at 28,000 ATMs in the United States, and Credit Union 24’s network includes more than 100,000 ATMs nationally and internationally.
 
“We need to promote the fact that we have a far-reaching network,” Morgan said.
 
Marketing will be key for credit unions going forward, she says, as will enhanced technology.
 
I, too, gave a presentation yesterday about the need for credit unions to enhance their self-service channels and optimize their branches with more assisted self-service. Many conference attendees seemed reluctant to see the need for the leap.
 
But attracting younger members, or even unbanked consumers, will require a different approach — whether it is through stronger collaboration with retailers and ISOs for more off-premises deployments that offer advanced functions or through more mobile marketing.
 
Morgan says catchy marketing campaigns, such as the slogan oFlows helped one of its credit unions in Colorado develop, “ATM Fees Really Suck,” are going to garner attention among younger age groups. She also suggested that mobile campaigns, such as the ATM-locator SMS/texting campaign that some of her credit union customers promoted last year, can make a big difference.
 
After launching the “ATMATM” texting campaign, participating credit unions, Morgan said, immediately noticed an uptick in ATM transactions. The texting feature was quickly adopted by younger members.
 
Also, credit unions that launched campaigns that appealed to younger users, such as the “ATM Fees Really Suck” campaign, did notice an increase in new members between the ages of 18 and 35.
 
“We were able to increase assets for our credit unions as a result of these campaigns,” Morgan said.
 
Delivery channels need to be interactive and consistent, and technology will play an ever-increasing role — whether through self-service or the mobile channel. Morgan and I agree on that front.
 
More users, regardless of age and gender, prefer online banking. Making the leap to mobile banking won't be so difficult, since smart phones allow mobile browsing — the online and mobile experiences are similar if not the same.
 
And on the self-service front, basic transactions, such as cash deposits and cash withdrawals, can be moved to a self-service device very easily. I suggested during my presentation that even more complex transactions, such as funds transfers and bill payments also could be moved to the self-service channel — freeing tellers for more complex transactions and up-sell interactions with members.
 
Deposit-automation technology is the gateway to a whole host of new transactions. And the green element cannot be ignored. By removing envelopes from the transaction, credit unions improve efficiency and reduce paper. It’s something members, especially younger members, will appreciate.
 
No one wants to bank in an environment perceived to be outdated or boring. To stay ahead of the curve, credit unions will have to be savvy and show their members that they can be cutting edge.
Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 01:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 12 October 2009
Mobile banking is the next major, logical step in retail banking. And the exponentially increasing adoption rates prove its growing popularity. But how ready are financial institutions to choose a mobile-banking solution? Are they evaluating the options based on short-term knowledge of the technology, or do they truly understand the power this channel has to build and solidify customer relationships in the next two to five years? And have they truly considered what these new relationships can mean, not only to the customer experience but also to bottom-line profitability?

To truly understand, let’s take a look at a very real mobile-banking scenario: A consumer approaches an ATM to withdraw $200 from his checking account. His balance following this transaction will be $300. Because he has an auto loan from the same FI and also uses online bill payment, the FI determines that his balance will not cover his $325 car payment that is due in two days. A text alert is immediately sends a text message to his mobile phone to confirm he wants to proceed with the transaction, potentially saving him an unnecessary overdraft fee.

Never have financial institutions — or any other organizations for that matter — had a better opportunity to relate so intimately and relevantly with customers or members.

To fully grasp the impact, consider the long-term benefits of such an intimate customer relationship. Also consider the efficiency with which this relationship is delivered, when compared with other marketing efforts that can cost thousands of dollars with returns of less than 2 percent.
 
Today’s mobile-banking functionality represents merely a sliver of what the channel ultimately can do. For the FI, the mobile phone as a channel is really a proxy for the consumer. Wherever the phone is, the consumer also is. These days, half the world’s population is carrying a mobile phone. 

So how can an FI best utilize this channel? The ones that will succeed with their mobile-banking deployment are those that use the channel for the purposes of timely, contextual and relevant messages to consumers.

How FIs capitalize on the mobile revolution
 
The real value in mobile banking goes far beyond simple account balance inquiries, transfers and alerts. Sure, there’s immediate payback to the FI in migrating these basic transactions away from costlier teller or call center alternatives, but the most important role mobile plays for FIs is in relationship building. It’s in integrating other delivery channels to give consumers new, value-added services and unprecedented convenience and control. It’s in providing a consumer a greater sense of security during an ATM transaction by authenticating the user. And it’s in facilitating payments as a means of avoiding a late fee or as an alternative to more expensive, less convenient options.

Channel collaboration
 
By leveraging existing ATM technology, FIs can capture consumer preferences and integrate that data with back-end customer relationship-management systems. Marketing offers, for example, can be timely, in context and immediate — all of which is enabled by the nature of the mobile channel. For that reason, it is possible to achieve double-digit response rates that dwarf those of traditional direct-marketing tactics.

With marketing via mobile phones, there are many more data points that can be collected, which helps FIs customize their communications. These increasingly customized communications yield more intimate relationships. And this integrated, immediate approach helps FIs bolster service and promote cross-selling opportunities to consumers who rely on mobile devices and those who are underbanked or don’t have convenient access to brick-and-mortar establishments.
  
Facilitating payments

Mobile banking as a channel strategy allows FIs to provide value-added services in helping consumers manage their money. Consider the wallet-management philosophy that some FIs have applied as an extension to online banking. It provides consumers with seamless access to their finances, along with intuitive, tangible and direct control of their money through tools, graphs and interactive features that help track spending and other activity. Expanding this concept to mobile banking and the ATM enables a new service once only intended for the Web that can benefit consumers in how they use other delivery channels. Adding mobile banking to wallet management enables the immediacy factor and two-way text alerts to dramatically improve the service FIs provide to their most committed customers and members.

Offering new services
 
Person-to-person, or P2P, payments, which enable consumers to make and receive payments with one another electronically, is just one of the new opportunities FIs can offer to strengthen the consumer relationship. In the United States alone, account-to-account transactions are a $320 billion industry. Mobile banking allows FIs to provide this service more conveniently and less expensively than existing wire-transfer methods by sending money to an individual’s phone number. By leveraging existing technology, P2P transactions are conducted on a mobile phone and a code is sent to the intended party’s phone. The person is then able to go to an ATM, enter the code and receive the cash. The phone becomes the information conduit to make this transaction happen seamlessly, while the ATM allows the cash transfer to take place in real-time.

Enhancing security
 
An added security layer that mobile banking offers FIs and consumers addresses a high-profile area of vulnerability: skimming. For example, the end-user approaches an ATM to take out cash; he enters his PIN and instantly receives a text message requiring him to enter a one-time six-digit code at the terminal to complete the transaction. This consumer card-control solution utilizes one channel to protect what is happening in another. Other mobile banking security tactics include proximity-based alerts, which further mitigate fraud due to skimming. This innovative security software can validate the card being used at an ATM, as well as the location or proximity of the accountholder’s mobile phone in relation to that specific ATM. If the software can’t detect this relationship, the transaction is terminated.
 
Developing loyalty and profitability
 
Mobile banking provides unprecedented opportunities to build relationships with customers. It does this by delivering timely, contextual and meaningful messages in a very personal way. Mobile banking is a catalyst for developing a new level of loyalty and intimacy for FIs with their customers and members, and for building a new level of profitability. To achieve this, however, FIs need a partner that understands, shares and drives the same vision. An FI’s mobile-banking partner must have the expertise to implement and sustain a complete mobile-banking channel strategy and support its technology. But more importantly, it must understand the full potential this offering brings to FIs and consumers alike. Mobile banking truly is the next generation in banking.
  
Robert Usner is senior director for global market strategy and planning for Diebold Inc.
Posted by: Bob Usner AT 01:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 08 January 2008
Bill Gerba, president of WireSpring Technologies, regularly blogs about digital signage at Wirespring.com. The following column first appeared on that site here.
 
Happy New Year, folks. Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008 for all. For many, the new year brings with it connotations of renewal, a fresh start, infinite possibilities... and zillions of blog posts with top-10 lists and predictions for the coming months. While I'm as much an optimist as the next guy (oh, stop laughing already), I'm not much for making predictions. Maybe it's because I recognize the futility of trying to do the impossible. Maybe I don't want to trap WireSpring in a self-fulfilling prophecy that belies its full potential. Or maybe it's just because I'm always wrong. But regardless of the underlying cause, I'm not kicking off the first post of 2008 with some corny industry predictions. Instead, today I want to talk about the innovation (or lack thereof) taking place in the kiosk and digital signage markets.

Admittedly, talking about innovation itself isn't very innovative -- I actually got the idea from this month's
HUB magazine, which focuses on marketing innovation. As Editor-in-Chief Tim Manners quips, "talking about innovation is kind of like the marketing equivalent of talking about the weather. You know the old joke: Everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it." Whether looking at marketing in general or the tiny microcosm of digital out-of-home media like kiosks and digital signage, I think Manners' observation holds true. There's certainly a lot of activity in the marketplace right now, both for interactive kiosks and non-interactive digital signage. But does any of it show the hallmarks of innovation? Does anything out there today make it past the "Gee, that's a neat demo" phase into the "Duh, now why didn't I think of that?" territory that so often marks a truly innovative idea? I can't think of a single thing in the last twelve months that's firmly planted in the latter category, though a few come close. For example:

Not very innovative - New and different form factors: 2007 saw the aggressive expansion of one company's interactive digital signage installations in taxis, on buildings, in public toilets and urinals, on the floor, on the ceiling, and even mounted on people. Are any of these ideas interesting? Sure, they all are. Are they truly innovative? Not in my book. Unique signage placement, even when bundled with (or reliant upon) a unique business model, hasn't solved any of our well-known industry-wide problems, nor has it opened up (or created) significant new markets or otherwise advanced the state of the industry. Likewise, when highly-touted OLED and electronic paper technology makes new screen shapes and mounting options available in a few years, they may offer significant technological innovations, but little industry innovation.

Somewhat innovative - DS that appeals to more than one sense: And throwing up a pair of speakers to complement your hanging LCD screen isn't what I'm talking about. The past couple of years saw some interesting ideas come to light, though. In particular, directional sound came of age, with Wal-Mart Mexico deploying something like 5,000 hypersonic sound speakers to reduce employee fatigue and improve audio targeting in their digital signage network back in late 2006. (Full disclosure: Wal-Mart Mexico is one of our customers
.) Since then, a number of other large deployments have followed suit. Directional sound represents not only technological innovation (which has been in the works for years, of course), but also a solution to problems that previously plagued installations. 2007 also marked the advent of scent marketing, with Japan's NTT testing a digital sign platform that could match specific scents with audio and video promotions. I don't think this tech is quite ready for prime-time, but it has a lot of potential for driving sales of food, drinks, perfume, and other products where smell is a big part of the customer experience.

A little more innovative - Interactive store windows: Although it only spanned a few locations, the interactive store window deployment at Ralph Lauren Polo stores this year scored some major headlines, not only in the interactive kiosk circuit but also in weighty, mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal. On the surface, it looked quite innovative: a huge, dynamic screen that users could interact with simply by touching the store window. In reality though, the true innovation was smaller: let passers-by shop the store after hours. That particular piece has been done many times before, and in a number of different ways -- just think ATMs. Still, it brought the solution to 5th avenue and the New York Open, garnered some positive press for the self-service industry, and from a technical standpoint was visually stunning. Still, we've encountered through-glass touchscreens and rear-projection onto storefront windows a number of times before, so I'd have to say that the combination of these elements was clever and eye-catching, but not something I'd call highly innovative.

Quite innovative - The rise of ad aggregators: In an attempt to solve one of the biggest problems plaguing the
ad-driven digital signage community, companies like SeeSaw Networks, Adcentricity and Artisan Live started working on ways to make buying time on screen networks easy for media planners and buyers. While each company has some successes to talk about, we're still a ways away from a digital signage media buy being as foolproof as it needs to be in order to see mass adoption over on Madison Ave (if in fact that would ever happen, and it probably wouldn't). Still, each of these companies (and others, I'm sure) are introducing unique solutions to a highly complex problem, and while the overall concept of "Let's take a bunch of little networks and sell them like one big one" might seem obvious, I'm sure it's quite the colossal undertaking, requiring all sorts of business, finance and technical acumen.

Most innovative yet - Direct feedback/interaction via mobile phones: It certainly wasn't invented in 2007, and it might even be old hat by now, but every time I see a particularly well-done piece of content that has a call to action featuring an SMS coupon or feedback form, I'm impressed. This technique addresses one of the most difficult problems for digital signage vendors: proving out an ROI. With a direct feedback mechanism, advertisers have an accurate gauge of how many people actually were engaged by their ads, and they even have the opportunity to collect some information about them. For viewers who aren't interested, there's no negative consequence. For those who are, participation is just a text message away. Considering the mobile phone and SMS penetration rate in the industrialized world, very few are excluded. Of course, the method isn't perfect: it still requires some effort on the user's part, and it doesn't do anything to address those individuals who were engaged, but not enough to whip out their mobile. But of all the solutions I've seen so far for measuring engaged audiences, this is my favorite.

All considered, this year is likely to bring many incremental improvements to the solutions I've covered above, and that's a good thing. Part of becoming a mature industry is realizing that it's not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. In fact, the best approach is often to learn from (and work from) the accomplishments of others. But there's always the chance that we'll see some real innovation happening -- solutions to the "big problems" that we all face every day:
calculating ROI, measuring impact (heck, merely defining "impact" would be great), engaging more viewers, and delivering messages to those viewers effectively.
Posted by: Bill Gerba AT 10:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 02 January 2008
It all happened on my first day at NetWorld Alliance.
 
I had just wrapped a new-employee orientation meeting and was making my way back to my cubicle when my cell phone buzzed. It was a text message from my older brother.
 
It said: “(J)Soy rod mrkm o contsta.”
 
I sighed. The message was obviously Spanish and my brother — an  electrical engineer who works in the materials-handling business — had just spent several weeks in Mexico on an extended business trip. He arrived back in the States yesterday. No doubt he was now trying to impress me with that all-encompassing grasp of the Spanish language he picked up during the trip. My own Spanish vocabulary is somewhat limited (mostly to words describing products in the Mexican food industry) so I had no idea what it said.
 
I never replied, but I brought it up with my brother during a phone conversation that evening.
 
“I never sent you any text messages,” my brother exclaimed. “Which phone did it come from? My business phone or my personal phone?”
 
“The personal one,” I said. “The one with the 550- number.”
 
“No way,” my brother replied. “That phone is still in my suitcase. I never once took it out during the whole trip.”
 
Confused, he unzipped his suitcase and peered inside. Sure enough:  the phone was missing. At some point during the trip — probably at the airport — some fiend had gone rummaging around in my brother’s luggage and stole his cell phone. Now the thief was sending text messages like a madman, possibly with the intent of taunting people on my brother’s contact list. There was no doubt that he’d soon be dialing all sorts of international calls — calls to Zimbabwe and Sweden and tiny little republics — all at my brother’s expense. There was only one thing to do.
 
Within minutes, my brother was calling up his service provider and cutting off service to the stolen phone.
 
There’s a happy ending to the story. The phone was cut off immediately and he wasn’t charged for the text messages. Thankfully he discovered the phone was missing before the thief was able to use it to organize resistance leaders on distant continents wanting to rebel against the high cost of paper clips. No big losses, other than the cost of the phone itself.
 
But the incident did give me pause.
 
As the self-service industry veers closer and closer to the concept of mobile banking, there’s going to have to be a fundamental shift in the way we view our personal wireless devices, such as cell phones, blackberries and PDAs. The core concept of mobile banking is that consumers will be able to use these devices to interact with ATMs, and to make wireless transactions. Taken to the next level, that could mean that the cellular phone could ultimately replace the credit card.
 
If that’s the case, then we’re going to have to treat our cell phones with the same care we treat our credit cards.
 
You wouldn’t forget and leave your Visa card lying in a stall in a public restroom. You wouldn’t let it fall between the seat and the center console of your car and you certainly wouldn’t loan it to a friend to use on a Friday night trip into town.
 
The same must hold true for our mobile devices. They’re not just compact wireless telephones anymore. They provide access to our e-mail accounts, our personal records — and soon — our bank accounts. They’re like tiny laptop computers that hang on our belts.
 
And like any other electronic device, they can be stolen.
 
That means the onus is on industry leaders to find new and innovative ways to block malevolent hackers from stealing cell phones and mining them for priceless personal data. It means that — as mobile banking becomes a reality — we educate consumers about how they can protect themselves against identity theft. And it means there has to be a clear channel of communication between ATM manufacturers, cell phone manufacturers, cellular service providers, financial institutions and ISOs — in  short, all of the industries that are working together to make mobile banking a reality.
 
(J)Soy rod mrkm o contsta.
Posted by: Travis K. Kircher AT 10:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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