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is starting to take on more than just what one would expect a sign to do. HD display and graphics? Yawn, it’s expected – everybody has that in their house. Networking? A given – content comes in from , maybe even over 4G . Rugged and maintainable computer and display? Again, a given to play the digital signage game. Think bigger. Here are three trends coming soon to a digital signage system near you.

Touch displays

Applications that used to be just signs are now expected to be interactive, more like a kiosk but with the striking, large format multimedia content of a digital signage system. The multitouch experience has captivated every potential signage consumer, and the expectation is for a very similar but scaled-up experience with digital signage.

The problem is touch technology hasn’t scaled very well to large format displays. Projected capacitive touch is great on a small display and highly rugged since it’s behind glass, but how do you get it on a large platform? Some of these signage systems have 52-, 65-, even 80-inch displays, and some are being projected holographically onto a glass panel.

On page 53, you’ll see one of our Editor’s Choice selections targeting this exact problem. Projected capacitance touch and haptic interface technology will soon be a mandatory component of digital signage, and the lines between a kiosk and a digital sign will quickly blur to immateriality.

Video analytics

A retailer would like to know what content drives what behavior. It’s not all that different a problem from measuring Web visitor conversion. Content can be varied based on time of day, time-sensitive offers, or other parameters. Studies say the first 3-7 seconds are critical, but maybe there’s an offer in second 14 that is the real objective. What works? How do we do more of that, capturing more impressions and ultimately conversions into sales?

The need for video analytics makes sense – what’s on the sign, how many viewers saw it, how long they watched it. The “what’s on the sign” part is known, but the viewer behavior parts are just entering the picture. Implementing a vision system (similar to those we described in our September 2009 issue) and using recognition techniques, one could detect the presence of viewers, record the number of seconds they watch the screen, and maybe even indicate if they dwell on a particular part of the screen. Certainly, touch interaction would give valuable data.

There have been rumors of video analytics going farther – detecting a viewer’s gender, race, age, and similar characteristics, anonymously of course – and then presenting targeted content. That is probably a way off, for both legal and behavioral reasons. (How good are your Amazon recommendations? Good, but not perfect, I’ll bet. We are used to that with Amazon, but not with signage.) Digital signage systems need better analytics, requiring a substantial amount of integrated vision systems processing.

Augmented reality

This is the Google Maps experience dropped into the retail environment, with a bit more information. You see the sign and scan a displayed 2D barcode with your phone; it tells you the item is on aisle 7 on the third shelf 40 feet from the endcap, then guides you with a virtual path, in addition to indicating the number of items remaining on the shelf, offering a coupon, and revealing items you’ll be passing on your way that might interest you.

Under the strict definition of augmented reality – 3D registered data, real-time interaction, real and virtual views – this is a fit. The possibilities for enhancing the shopping experience are incredible, and it’s all about the intelligence required to plug the virtual of information into the shopper’s real world.

Excited yet? Let me know if you see other big picture things going on. It’ll be fun to watch.

Don Dingee

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