Interactive Digital Signage

Interactive technologies such as touch-sensitive and intelligent sensor technology transform passive viewers into active users. This is the approach taken by advertising technology with interactive digital signage. Find out here what this means and where the distinction to so-called kiosk systems lies.

interactive digital signage

What is Interactive Digital Signage?

We define interactive digital signage as advanced digital signage systems that allow user interaction. Among other things, the technology merges familiar kiosk applications with marketing, information, and advertising. This enables numerous improvements.

The question of where the difference now lies with kiosk systems is justified, as many companies like to market old wine in new skins to present themselves as highly innovative. So let's take a closer look at kiosk systems.

Classic Kiosk Systems

Kiosk systems and interactive terminals have been around since the 1980s. ATMs are their best-known form in the broadest sense. The latter, by the way, have been around since 1967 – without touchscreens, of course. AT&T patented its “electrografic transmitter” as the first touchscreen in 1962, but they were still clumsy and expensive at the time.

Kiosk systems don't necessarily need a touchscreen and are designed to do exactly one thing. The first ATMs in the 1960s didn't even have a real screen.

Old ATM
Old ATM (Wikipedia)
As so-called self-service terminals, classic kiosk systems have been performing their service at the Point of Interest (POI) or Point of Sale (PoS) for decades. They serve people at airports, train stations, tourist attractions, etc. with information or sell tickets or admission tickets with an integrated printer as a ticketing system. The advantages with this:
  • No Staff
  • Service around the clock (24/7)

The Fusion with Digital Signage

Digital signage replaces analog advertising media such as posters or signs with digital screens. The primary task used to be exclusively to distribute animated information and advertising for marketing purposes. Networking makes it possible to update media content, promptly via the Internet, and simultaneously administer the devices.

Both kiosk systems and digital signage nowadays have similar technical requirements, namely a networked digital screen. In addition, the typical locations where the systems are used are also similar. Info boards, touch screen kiosks, touch terminals, interactive advertising monitors, electronic posters, as well as display boards, are mostly located in the same public places.

So, it makes sense to combine these techniques through touch functions. Thanks to interactive technologies like touch and smart sensors, passive viewers suddenly become active users.

This fusion benefits both technologies and creates a much wider scope of applications. Interactive Digital Signage is therefore not a new synonym for kiosk systems, but integrates them as a sub-discipline.

What are the Advantages of Interactive Digital Signage?

Interactive Digital Signage brings the benefits of digital signage to kiosk systems, namely timely or automate updating of applications. This reduces costs, as digital signage installations now also run kiosk applications.

Digital signage software already offers a mature infrastructure for convenient content updates. However, most people only understand content in the context of media such as videos and images. If we expand the term “content” to include applications, we assimilate (resistance is futile) virtually the entire industry of kiosk systems. Digital signage is now becoming a new generic term for multimedia information systems. Regardless of whether they are interactive or not.

HTML5-Widgets

HTML provides the basic component for integrating applications into digital signage. The current incarnation of HTML5 in particular is like a revolution. While applications used to be dependent on the computer's operating system, nowadays standard-compliant HTML5 apps don't care at all. They run on Android, Linux, Windows, macOS on Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. Just like Google Docs, Canva.com, or other complex web apps.

We call these applications digital signage widgets in our industry, and the linked article discusses this brilliant approach in detail. Elaborate porting, complex integrations and switching costs become a thing of the past. The digital signage customer benefits from a broader set of solution options and the resulting competition.

Consequence

I cannot point out clearly enough the consequence of this technique. This goes far beyond simple weather templates! Taken to the extreme: An ATM additionally informs tourists, sells tickets or entrance fees, and does marketing through simple updates. The technical standards for synchronization and execution already exist with SMIL and HTML5.

Opportunities for Feedback

It doesn't always need to be the complex application with multiple nested menu hierarchies. Digital door signs with simple touch screens in a hotel also fulfill the requirement of interaction.

digital door sign Türschild
Interactive Door Sign in a Hotel

If, moreover, a simple feedback option is available, a seemingly small gimmick highlights sources of error and helps companies to improve their service. Actually, that's priceless.

Flexibility of Screens

A digital signage touch display features incredible flexibility because a user interface is easily replaced and improved by a simple update. This is not so easy with a device that has analog buttons, switching elements and wired logic.

Let's take queue management as an example. The corresponding systems used to be designed elaborately and produced expensively in more or less small series. Any design or logic errors were extremely costly and had to be avoided at all costs. This complicated and made the development of the equipment more expensive. Only a few specialized companies were able to offer such solutions.

Nowadays, relatively inexpensive monitors and interactive digital signage software replace most components. This simplifies production, support and brings more competitors to the market. Customers benefit from increased variety and more favorable prices.

Subconscious interactions

Interactive digital signage does not necessarily mean conscious interaction. Cameras and other sensors record faces or other data and decide independently which content to display.

A few years ago, I developed a facial recognition software who detected gender and certain age ranges in a privacy-compliant manner without network access for a customer. As a result, men were shown different content than women. By the way, while the recognition worked great for gender, the results for age were rather modest.

During the corona pandemic, many DS companies developed automated customer counters. Sensors recorded how many people entered and left a store. Thus, the systems determined the current number of visitors and displayed a stop signal when this exceeded a set limit. This also works with multiple inputs and outputs using a central control system.

Sensors feature in DooH applications for a long time. The linked article shows a concrete example from British Airways.

Integrating Interactions into Marketing Concepts

Modern marketing concepts require companies to interact with customers via multiple channels simultaneously. Different forms of advertising, such as mobile applications, social networks, offline outlets and TV-like media, play an important role here.

In a so-called “smart city” of the future, various digital devices such as interactive cameras, personal mobile devices, stationary digital signage touch displays as well as applications link into a single system. An entire network of sensors and input devices thus analyzes various aspects of human behavior in real time to personalize information messages and achieve maximum customer satisfaction.

Woman on Public Info Display
Smart City with Public Info Display

What is the Future?

Development of DS systems is currently progressing rapidly. Advertising monitors such as all-in-one touchscreens are increasingly encountered not only in retail outlets, but also in buses, scheduled cabs, subways, airports, train stations, gas stations and car washes.

I expect the biggest growth in the coming years in Digital Out Of Home (DooH) areas, according to forecasts from advertising and information market analysts. The continuous expansion of sites for the deployment of digital signage networks, the expected redistribution of potential advertisers, the introduction of state-of-the-art project management business models do this business extremely attractive and high-investment in the era of digital transformation.

Do Digital Signage Systems have a Touchscreen by default?

No, of course, not all digital signage systems will feature a touchscreen. As before, many display boards or info monitors do not require a touch function. It doesn't always make sense to equip such systems with a user interaction option. Concerning a pharmacy, this is even rather contra-productive. However, the demand for interactive DS systems is increasing, so such information and display systems will become more common in the future.

In summary, digital signage solutions, whether interactive or passive for advertising and information transmission, have a great future. The low cost of customer acquisition, the targeting of advertising content to a specific consumer group, the extension of digital signage networks outside the indoor area to the outdoor area. All this turns DS systems into a powerful tool of targeted mass and advertising communication.

Conclusion

Interactive Digital Signage integrates kiosk systems into the DS industry. This is only partly old wine in new bottles and covers a much more enormous range of requirements due to the flexibility of digital screens. The range goes from simple feedback buttons to complex bank application or the combination of timetable information with a ticket vending machine.

Users are familiar with the use of multitouch technology through the now daily use of smartphones and tablets. They operate interactive content intuitively with various standardized touch gestures. The large touchscreens that are available today at low-cost offer almost unlimited possibilities with intelligent software solutions.


Gravatar Nikolaos Sagiadinos
Author: Niko Sagiadinos
Developer & Co-Founder SmilControl – Digital Signage
Visit me on: LinkedIn or GitHub

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