For many years there have been three seemingly separate industries whose revenues, deployments, and technologies have been somewhat compartmentalized. They’re almost the veritable fraternal triplets, separated at birth, who’re finally starting to make amends for the competing paths they have chosen to follow. The title of this post should immediately alert you to what I will be writing about. How digital signage, digital billboards, and kiosks share common blood and how the lines between the three are becoming more blurred as time progresses.
Digital billboards have–for a long time–been a simple extension of traditional out-of-home (TOOH). This segment could also represent the small form factor LCD displays which have–for the last several years–been taking over OOH. However, for purposes of this post, when I refer to the term “digital billboard,” I will be speaking of the larger LED-style displays. Much like those occupying freeways signs, sports arenas, and Times Square. They are the “jumbotron” signs of the world.
These displays have been around for quite a long time. Consequently, their smaller, more compact counterparts have certainly benefited from their campaign management tools and software. There are a few relatively large surviving players in the large format LED world, whose impact has benefited the industry greatly. Their scheduling, content management, and feature-sets have made a great segway into what has been accomplished in small form-factor signage over the last several years.
One of my long-time programmer friends has been working in the interactive display, touch screen and interactive kiosk space for over 25 years. His first experience was in Vegas shortly after he graduated from UNLV in computer science and computer engineering. He helped to implement large video-on-demand (VOD) systems for some of the large hotels on the strip. They would write the programming and build the hardware to run auto playback of video cassettes in this large room full of various VHS videos. The company he worked for installed all the hardware and programmed the software for free. Their revenue came from a significant split of the pay-per-view movies purchased at the hotel. Shortly thereafter, the company used its expertise gained in this field to delve into the interactive kiosk space. He helped to develop some of the first credit-card charging kiosks in the early and mid 80′s which were used worldwide. Some of his experiences in development, support and engineering seemed stress-filled. They were going where no man had gone before.
We truly do stand on the shoulders of giants. Aren’t you glad we are in a different place now than where we were 10, 20, and even 30 years ago? My friend is now in this industry. He has been a direct witness to some of the turn of events that have led us to where we are. Interestingly,
In the last decade, small form-factor and simple digital signage has become the norm–or at least the “hyped” norm. Thousands of displays have been installed in thousands of locations worldwide and will continue to infiltrate the lives of consumers, workers, and employees alike. If you want more information on this, you should simply follow the digital signage blog. There is plenty of info available to wet your appetite there.
Now, to the stuff that should be at least somewhat interesting. Digital billboard, signage, and kiosk similarities abound. And the lines are quickly blurring and disappearing. Let’s discuss a few.
Content management software. Billboards, signs, and kiosks all operate on the same basic premise of tools to manage content on displays. In the case of kiosks, the content is generally more practical, less aesthetically pleasing (at least it has been in the past) and more interactive. But the basic need to manage digital content assets is still present. Today, digital signage operators–if they haven’t offered kiosk solutions in the past–may be feeling a bit of the “blurring lines” coming to smack them in the butt. Kiosk technologies like credit card processing, touch screen applications, and automated employee software is now being implemented more and more into digital signs as well.
Sign and Kiosk Hardware. Many of the reasons kiosks were designed with the shape and size they were was because they needed guts to be able to perform their proper functions. This is not so today. With all-in-one signage displays becoming the norm, credit card processing, rich Internet applications, audience measurement devices, and wayfinding touch screens are being easily implemented into kiosk-like digital signage displays. The massive size once necessary to house all the components inside the guts of a kiosk for is now no longer needed. Digital signs are looking more like kiosks and kiosks are looking more like digital signs. Eventually we may just call them digital kiosks, instead of one or the other.
Content is content. When it comes to digital content, unless it involves some type of interactive piece(s), we’re generally the same whether kiosk, billboard or signage. This has never really been too dissimilar, but–in general–has not always required pazzaz! Kiosks, for instance, have and still do have some crappy content. I was at the store the other day and was mortified at the content display on the kiosk there. Kiosks have other redeeming qualities–at least that’s what the content creators probably thought. Anyhow, content is something that needs to be streamlined to include every segment of each industry.
Other blurring realities within these three industries will continue to occur. I’m interested to see what will happen down the road.