Bluetooth and augmented reality are changing the landscape of the signage industry — while rewriting the rules of marketing. And for an industry that has not traditionally been known as dynamic or interactive, these new, strategic technologies could provide a much-needed boost.
Sharif Rahman, CEO of International Expo Consults, a company that been involved with the sign and graphics industry for more than 15 years, says, “Today Bluetooth-enabled signage can send messages to a person’s phone as he/she moves past a digital sign. Furthermore, merchandisers can also make window shoppers interact through the augmented reality feature in digital signage panels. This is ideal when you look at the global brands in the UAE. The UAE will definitely see a remarkable change in the digital signage space in the days to come.”
A proximity-specific form of advertising, Bluetooth’s potential for digital signage are virtually limitless, allowing content to be sent to Bluetooth-enabled phones. Augmented reality, on the other hand, offers a new interactive solution, and is unique in the way it interacts with the user on a more fun and informative level.
A feature that is yet to enter the UAE, augmented reality is “easy to implement with augmented software designed and tailored to every need, Augmented Reality allows users to place paper, maps, and products in front of the display panel, which then comes alive in a 3D format controlled by the user’s movements. Marketing through augmented reality will unleash a new technological revolution,” Rahman says.
Over the years, the signage industry has morphed into a dynamic, cutting-edge digital medium. Rahman says: “Conventional signage boards and neon signs are almost gone. People today need value for their money, especially during these challenging times. Now the strength of a product or service lies in its potential to communicate — so the louder you talk, the more people you attract. Communication has always been a necessity to make your presence felt, but today the medium has become all the more important.”
With the ability to be interactive due to embedded touch screens, movement detection and image capture devices, the market sees digital signage as better than its static counterpart because content can be frequently updated in the digital format, saving the enormous cost of printing.
Hendrik Verbrugghe, Marketing Director, Canon Middle East, says adopting new technologies, end-to-end large format print solutions and further enhancements in the photography, soft signage and in-house printing offerings help increase revenue growth and add new profit opportunities to their businesses. “We are seeing an increase in indoor graphics, specifically in retail shops as well as easy-to-operate short-term outdoor applications — or soft signage. A growth in digital fabric printing methods is to be expected due to improvements in digital printing equipment, advances in pigment-based inks (Aqueous) and growth in some market segments such as soft signage and trade show exhibitions,” he says.
Rahman predicts that the UAE will act as a hub for the digital signage industry in the region due to the entry of global brands and the large number of malls, metro stations, airports, and other facilities that need high quality, multifunctional and long-lasting display panels. “For example, with the installation of new digital display panels, one can watch the trailer of movies, select the seat, pay and watch the movie — all without standing in a queue,” he says.
The UAE and the Middle East and North Africa in particular have tremendous growth potential, he adds. “Digital signage is growing exponentially worldwide in sync with the growth in social media, such as Facebook and YouTube. The market is accelerating in terms of the number of installed units and total revenues. On the other hand, the cost of deployment is steadily declining, which gives UAE-based companies a good reason to view this channel as an excellent opportunity to expand messaging to existing and potential customers,” Rahman says.
Verbrugghe says that with print shops now looking for versatile, faster and easy-to-operate printers, investing in new equipment can help shop owners take advantage of opportunities in the soft signage market or in small-scale aqueous inkjet printing. “Expanding the range of applications for wide-format graphics printers is crucial to revenue growth for all stakeholders in the market,” he says.
The industry’s success in the future lies in providing retailers with an interactive solution that would help retailers connect with the customers in a personal manner, Rahman says. And with virtually no limits in taking advantage of the latest technologies, the industry is definitely going from strength to strength — while possibly changing the way we navigate the streets.