You often read that digital signage is “on the move.” Generally, when you see that statement, it’s in reference to market growth and technology progress. It’s true! But there’s another way that electronic signage is on the move – literally – it’s running down streets and highways.
A case in point… Recently, we’ve been involved with an installation of digital signs on buses. You may say, “Not much new here.” There have been televisions and digital signs on buses for years directed at passengers that show movies, promotional videos, safety notices, even ads. Digital signage is a practical communications technology for tour buses, over-the-road buses and even local transit systems but, like Wi-Fi, it’s become a “so what?”
But this digital signage implementation is different. What I’m talking about is an installation of large digital signs on the outsides of buses – directed to the public. They are essentially outdoor ads – traveling billboards – that move down the streets through neighborhoods and past stores, restaurants and other businesses. You’ve heard of and seen shrink-wrapped buses – this is a more dynamic and flexible extension of the concept because the advertiser is not stuck with one ad per vehicle and the bus company has a much greater opportunity to sell ads to a larger number of local and national businesses. It’s an innovative use of digital signage and an opportunity for local resellers to get in on the market.
Here’s how it works: Each bus is outfitted with 2 ft. X 10 ft. all-weather flat screen digital signs on both sides that are connected to a linux digital media player located inside the bus. Obviously, since the aspect ratio of the screens is non-standard, the digital signage pages are custom-formatted for the application.
The server takes advantage of the Wi-Fi service on the bus to access a host digital signage server (in this case StrandVision) located in the cloud. The server on the bus also accesses GPS location data through a cellphone network. The digital media player on the bus periodically verifies and downloads new content from the host server cloud. The GPS location data governs what mix of pages is shown as the bus progresses through the route.
This technology is equally applicable to taxis, delivery trucks – virtually any vehicle that moves through populated areas. So, for instance, transit bus or taxi signage can show advertisements for local restaurants as the vehicle enters the neighborhood, or they can promote local festivals and events. It can supplement the location-specific ads with a rotating mix of non-location specific or national ads. Of course, non-advertising content, such as weather and news can also be added to the mix. With the flexibility of the system, the possibilities are endless.
And the possibilities for resellers are also endless. This is a new market segment that presents the opportunity to sell and install screens, mobile servers, communications and services. The backend is in the cloud which is managed by the software provider and the customers can manage the entire network from a central service provider dashboard. The intended market, transportation, most likely already has an advertising department so they will understand the potential of the concept and have their own processes to sell to advertisers and work with them to create the still or video content.
The system itself takes advantage of the generally available cell phone, Internet and GPS networks so the technology is well-understood and reliable. The technology model can be duplicated easily in many vehicles to communicate to passengers inside or to the public at large.
It’s also a market that lends itself to local reseller expertise since there are some particular challenges that your customer must consider. There may be local ordinances that govern vehicle advertising in general and digital signage in particular. For instance, in San Francisco, digital signage must be static (no video, no crawling text, no changing pages) at speeds of 35 MPH or greater. There may be other common carrier laws and regulations.
Mobile digital signage is yet another example of the virtually unlimited uses of digital signage applications for advertising and general communications. You only have to stay open to the opportunities to take advantage. Think about your customer base and how they could use this channel to reach their customers, members and employees.
Mike Strand is founder and CEO of StrandVision LLC, an Internet-based subscription digital signage service that is distributed through resellers. Previously, Mike founded StrandWare, a leading bar code software and AIDC company. Prospective resellers may contact Mike at mjstrand@StrandVision.com.