in July 2004
By Lyle Bunn
ESNs can play a role in homeland security in addition
to traditional applications.
Stadium. (Photo courtesy Lighthouse Technologies.)
2002: $338 million to $2 billion by 2006, a CAGR of
47.3% for control/management software to $250 million.
An electronic signage network
(ESN) provides the means for real-time environmental monitoring
and information display that are critical elements of homeland
security. With the growing commercial capacities of electronic
displays, WiFi, narrowcasting, kiosks, satellite transmission
and mobile display devices, ESNs that comprise these elements
are key to public safety and community information infrastructure.
We’ll describe here how Dynamic Image Provisioning
Application (DIPA) software is enabling advertising/retail
ESNs, and allows ESNs to serve public-safety needs.
The public value in the ability
of ESNs to provide real-time environmental monitoring and
immediate alert, and instructions in busy or rural areas,
indicates the value of defining policies and commercial
practices that allow public-safety and commercial success
to be achieved through electronic signage networks and kiosk
Signage for Homeland Security
As the need for better methods
of providing public information for homeland security has
been growing, the electronic signage industry has been improving.
Capabilities in image provisioning that dramatically improve
the value and impact of electronic displays are fueling
the installations of signage and kiosk networks across the
US as a platform for environmental monitoring and public-information
display. Although some ESNs can be used for both commercial
and homeland-security purposes, the advances and advantages
of electronic signage networks suggest that their inherent
functionality makes electronic signage a critical component
in homeland-security requirements.
Although the enabling effect
of information and communications technology has served
people by providing greater productivity, extending medical
and scientific capacities and improving quality of life,
the elements necessary for monitoring and display in the
interest of public safety and security are available. Electronic
signage networks, which are the integration of digital storage,
communications and display technologies under the management
of DIPA software, respond to a new and needed service to
people: specifically, safety through environmental monitoring
and information display.
Public Safety is Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) declares it is “committed to using
cutting-edge technologies and scientific talent in our quest
to make America safer.” DHS’ Science & Technology
directorate is tasked with researching and organizing the
scientific, engineering and technological resources of the
US and leveraging these existing resources into technological
tools to help protect the homeland. Universities, the private
sector and the federal laboratories are defined as important
partners in this endeavor.
In the event of a terrorist
attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency,
the DHS assumes primary responsibility for ensuring that
emergency-response professionals are prepared for any situation.
This entails providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal
response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift
and effective recovery effort. Fiscal year 2003 EMPG funding
of $165 million to state and locals for all hazards preparedness
represented a 40% increase over FY/02.
Members of Congress and public-safety
organizations launched the Congressional E911 Caucus to
provide a consensus-building forum to elevate issues surrounding
911 services and implement an agenda that strengthens the
US ability to “better respond and communicate in times
of local and national emergencies.”
The Caucus was formed to educate
lawmakers, constituents and communities about the importance
of citizen-activated emergency-response systems. The Caucus
said it would support public policy forums; Congressional
tours of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs); technology
demonstrations, roundtable discussions; briefings and tutorials;
media events and education programs. Among the goals of
the Caucus are promoting citizen-activated emergency-response
systems and elevating emergency communications issues within
all branches of government at the federal, state and local
From Property to People
The threat of environmental
hazard through airborne substance represents a significant
threat. The need to identify the threat and provide directions
as rapidly as possible to those who could be affected directly
is a matter of both public and commercial concern. This
increasing emphasis on the protection of people calls on
the need for better environmental monitoring and public
These needs apply to busy
public locations such as transit systems, sports arenas,
cultural venues, government offices, airports, train stations
and others, as well as commercial locations such as stores,
malls, office towers, theaters, casinos and convention centers.
These needs also apply in remote and rural areas. Although
radio has a limited chance of providing public alert information
and direction, electronic roadside billboard signage can
reach virtually all motorists with urgent messages.
Signage provides the location
and technological opportunity for surveillance and monitoring.
Electrical and communications connections that enable electronic
signage can be used for monitoring devices including cameras,
motion/proximity/heat/sound detectors, environmental “sniffers,”
biometric scanners and more. Importantly, the signage itself
can offer a housing for such monitoring devices as well
as location-based (rather than centrally controlled) processing.
The inherent attraction of people to signage as an information
source during a threat situation adds value to electronic
Accelerating Public Information Display
The need to provide information
to the public in a civil-threat scenario introduces policy
questions that must be addressed related to the private
ownership or private property placement of electronic signage.
Signage in such locations as train stations, subways, buses,
airports, malls, retail stores and at sidewalk and highway
levels provides a growing public information display capability.
The ability to send messages to displays makes them a powerful
tool in public safety and instruction.
The policies and collaborations
that enable emergency response organizations to provide
public safety information on electronic signage is an advancement
that could draw from such practices in the radio and TV
broadcast environments to leverage narrowcasting capability.
The E911 initiative appears to point in this direction and
may offer a forum to establish commercial practices at this
early stage in the projected high growth of narrowcasting
and signage network deployment.
Electronic display fueled
by DIPA can become a vital element in the homeland-security
infrastructure. As such, measures that can accelerate technological
capability, improved price/performance ratios and installation
are warranted. Means of support might include funding signage
networks, removing regulations or adding new requirements
that encourage the installation of electronic signage that
support the threat-detection and information-display needs
related to homeland security.
infrastructure for location monitoring and information display
has many advantages, including minimizing outlay, maximizing
value for money, reducing propensity for anxiety, making
display always on (alert levels), local custom- ization,
information to high traffic areas.
Electronic Signage Network
Electronic signage networks
are the natural evolution of image and information display.
Enabled primarily by electronic display and communications
advances, ESNs offer the powerful impact of motion imagery
with the flexibility to present site-specific messaging.
ESNs increasingly will challenge the merit of posting printed
images because they provide more image display flexibility,
the ability to change images (such as pricing information)
faster and the flexibility to present more images in more
formats at a particular location.
ESNs can reach more people
at a particular location to inform or encourage actions.
As such, ESNs are emerging as the next generation of broadcasting,
narrowcasting and standalone signage. The integration of
ESNs into transaction kiosks and mobile devices suggests
exponential ESN growth.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's food court
signage incorporates 54 video panels that could be incorporated
into a network. ( Photo courtesy Magenta Research.)
Electronic signs with dynamic
images get noticed. Retailers must convey their messages
where end-users make their buying decision. Decision influence
in-store at the point of the buying decision is enabled
by dynamic images.
Studies point to the effectiveness
of electronic display as a communications medium. Measures
such as attention capture, recall rates and decision influence
have proven significantly better than static signage.
In one study, two sets of
signs advertising selected restaurants and stores were installed
for a week each in the Forum Shops Caesars Palace in Las
Vegas. The first set consisted of traditional static ads;
the second involved digital displays featuring motion and
sound. Researchers stationed at mall exits surveyed 400
mall visitors each week.
The research found 37% better
recall from dynamic vs. static signs, caused 51% more respondents
to say they might visit one of the advertised businesses,
and resulted in 103% more people patronizing one or more
of the stores or restaurants involved.
Another study gauged the impact
of digital displays on patrons at four Loews theater complexes.
Running on digital screens in the lobbies were 11 modified
TV commercials, ranging in length from 7.5 seconds to 30
seconds. A total of 874 people were surveyed as they entered
the lobbies and again as they exited. A day later, 405 of
the same respondents were interviewed. Finally, a month
later, 323 of the respondents were again questioned.
Comparing the survey results with
an entertainment-industry benchmark study by Nielsen Media
Research about how prime time TV ads affect buying decisions,
researchers found that 5% of those exposed to the digital
ads recalled the products or services a day later, as compared
with a 4% recall rate for those exposed to the same ads
on prime time TV.
In addition, based on
responses from those surveyed 30 days after seeing the digital
displays, 19.1% of those who said they had been persuaded
by a message on the display ultimately bought an advertised
product or service, as compared with a purchase rate of
12% by those who said they were not persuaded by the display.
The “wow” factor
of some electronic displays shows dramatic behavioral impact.
A study of retail performance improvement using 3D aerial
imaging, or holographic projection illustrates this: 90%
of people in the area of 3D aerial display notice it; 90%
stop to examine the images without prompting and 38% interact
with the images. A whopping (in retail terms) 1.5 minutes
was spent per person in this interaction.
|This Fresh Direct billboard
in NY is reportedly the largest LED billboard in the
world. (Photo courtesy Lighthouse Technology.)
Tweenies, teens, adults and
boomers enthusiastically embrace the “wow” of
the images, with 30% being influenced by the display to
purchase the product profiled. 69% said the display greatly
enhanced the image of the store and 70% said it greatly
enhanced the shopping experience.
Growth projections for narrowcasting
are synonymous with ESNs. In 2002, VenCap Inc. identified
that the narrowcasting industry was projected to grow from
$338 million in 2002 to $2 billion by 2006. This includes
a compound annual growth rate 2002-2006 (CAGR) of 47.3%
for control/management software to $250 million. CAP Ventures
projects that, by 2006, more than 26,000 firms will use
narrowcasting systems with an installed base of 387,000
Narrowcasting growth is being
fueled by the price/performance of enabling technology elements,
its growing installed base, the desire to better target
advertising and the need to provide public safety information.
Advertisers have seen a fragmentation
of TV and radio audiences and difficulty in reaching targeted
audiences through these traditional means. Meanwhile, narrowcasting
can reach audiences at a point-of-purchase decision and
can generate ad recall rates as much as 300% higher than
TV and radio.
In addition to better audience
targeting, narrowcasting can offer ads at lower costs per
impression and enable interactive messages.
Revenue growth projected is comprised as follows:
Currently, 900 firms in North America have 100 or more separate
business locations for signage (i.e., retail and service
outlets). These large chains will account for most of revenue
growth in the next five years.
By 2006, more than 26,000
firms will use narrowcast systems, with nearly 92,000 sites
(i.e., locations or discreet premises) offering at least
one networked display, and an installed base of more than
This figure of 26,000 represents
only 1.6% of the 1.6 million retail and service firms that
have more than one business location that might implement
nar- rowcast systems. This suggests a conservative projection
and high growth potential for turnkey and all elements of
narrowcast systems beyond the 2006 projection horizon.
reported that the worldwide retail signage market was $501
million in 2003 with a growth projection of 29% CAGR to
$2.35 billion in 2009. 2003 display revenues were comprised
of plasma at $310 million with LED video at $156 million,
rear projection at $19 million and LCD at $16million.
By 2009, plasma displays are
expected to generate $1.14 billion in revenues, followed
closely by LCDs at $996 million. LED and rear projection
are expected to be $220 million and $30 million, respectively.
ESNs Displace Narrowcasting
Narrowcasting is the term
used to describe the provisioning of images or information
to electronic display devices using communications, control
software and media players. Typically, narrow- casting has
been used for advertising or public information display
in dedicated networks in high traffic retail and public
waiting areas, such as retail, airports, sports centers
and train stations.
Narrowcasting is the forerunner
of ESNs. The primary difference is in the flexibility to
display content on different screens at different times.
Nar- rowcasting began as broadcasting the same content to
display devices in a closed network. An example of this
is the display of CNN on monitors in airports. The limiting
factor in nar- rowcasting is in display control. The element
that defines the extent to which narrowcasting can be a
display medium is the lack of display control over each
screen in the closed network.
The ESN is the displacement
technology of narrowcasting because it allows greater levels
of flexibility in data and image presentation on each display
device in a network. This extends to the point of allowing
each display device to respond to individual inputs such
as RFID, biometric or other inputs in its proximity, an
inherent incapability of narrowcasting.
As with narrowcast networks,
an ESN integrates hardware, software and content elements
for the end purpose of data, information or image display.
Digital hardware is used to store, transport and display
images. Software controls each hardware device and the overall
management of the electronic display systems as content
is created, stored, scheduled, transported and displayed.
As in all multi-component
systems, the strengthening of its weakest functional element
defines its rate of growth. The weakest element has been
the software that knits the role of each device together
toward the display of content, in a way that allows screen
splitting, the ability to have different images on different
screens within a network, image schedules and playback in
multiple, non-proprietary, native formats.
DIPA is Critical
This control element, the
Dynamic Image Provisioning Application (DIPA), is the critical
element to enable ESN. Increased control and flexibility
of image display allows for the fullest utilization and
effectiveness of the hardware in the digital signage, narrowcasting
or kiosk system. Although functional elements define the
value of DIPA, the ease of its use plays a primary role
in signage network effectiveness and success. Just as the
emergence of DIPA is a key factor to accelerate ESN growth
and applicability, other elements support this growth projection:
• Connectivity using
internet, virtual private networks, WiFi and laser transmission
is easy to install and low cost. Satellite media transport
can meet this need as well.
• Image creation costs
are decreasing as more robust creation tools and players
• Image cataloging and
management tools allow maximum exploitation of image assets.
• The basic needs for
marketing productivity and information provision for homeland
security are fueling the demand for DIPA.
• The importance of
providing alert and safety information when and where it
is needed for personal safety is increasing.
Technology advances in image
display, mobility, communications and DIPA will fuel ESN,
kiosk and electronic display while increasing the effectiveness
of the next generation of public monitoring and information
networks. Key areas include:
• Dynamic Image Provisioning
Applications (DIPA), which fuels ESN, is the “Rosetta
stone,” the essential breakthrough element to fuel
explosive growth in electronic display installations. Automated
Digital Signage Network Inc. (www.adsn.ca) offers a robust
complete back-office solution demonstrating a leadership
role in DIPA for ESN.
• Holographic projection
or “3D aerial imaging” devices are being integrated
in retail, gaming, promotion and exhibition devices such
as kiosks and ATMs, and as freestanding image projection.
These images can be seen without the need for special glasses.
Images of actual, computer-created or moving objects can
be created inexpensively and displayed in stand-alone units
or through a network of units (i.e., narrowcasting).
This new, technology-based,
display product dramatically affects consumer-spending behavior:
30% of people seeing an aerial image are influenced to purchase
the product profiled. Holography is moving toward large-volume
adoption in retail, point-of-purchase, kiosk, game and signage
applications in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
3D aerial imaging technology available from American firms
has been integrated with entertainment gaming in Japan and
in commercial kiosks in Australia. The integration of holographic
projection as signage (stand-alone and kiosk) is being tested
and considered by organizations including advertisers, retailers,
museums, governments and service providers. See www.provisionentertainment.
•High Definition image
projection has evolved dramatically and is poised to change
the image-creation and viewing experiences at the targeted
advertising level. HD projectors for smaller environments
(i.e., smaller than 30-foot screen), that are lighter, don’t
require air conditioning, have built-in storage and presentation
functions, longer lamp life and lower cost are being advanced.
electronically activated panels offer high visual impact
while offering 360° visibility and consuming only 10%
of energy required by an LCD display. The Transparent Imaging
Matrix (TIM) offers an alternative to how buildings are
“windowed” while offering a new signage and
display opportunity. Activated 4mm pixels can present streaming
video in full color on a see-through panel.
• Circular LED
is being introduced to North America as a high-impact electronic
display for high traffic areas (sports arenas, baggage carousels,
etc.). This new signage offers potential for high image
volume and therefore the need for image provisioning. DynaScan
Technology Inc. is the only manufacturer of 360° true
color LED display. See www.dynascanusa. com.
• WiFi (Wide area Fidelity),
which allows wireless communications, is expanding rapidly
in data/message/image communications, mobility, surveillance,
device control and connectivity. WiFi “hot zones”
are growing in numbers, range and signal assurance.
On February 16th, WiFi suppliers
to the desert city of Lancaster CA (population 125,000)
announced it would become the first city in the US to install
a community-wide WiFi capability using advanced 2-10GHz
antennas. WiFi-plus Inc. of Illinois (www.wifi-plus.com)
is providing obstruction penetrating, multi-frequency, multi-polarized
antennas while Los Angeles-based XRF Technologies will provide
WiFi. With per-unit range of up to 15 miles and data transmission
speeds of up to 500 megabytes per second, the “last
mile” can be connected using WiFi at speeds 300 times
faster than T1.
WiFi Continues to Expand
The installation of community-based
WiFi has grown quickly since January 2003, when Long Beach
CA became the largest community “hot zone” west
of Denver. Others are expected to follow, as are many other
The base of private premises
with public access includes restaurants, retailers, universities,
convention locations, office complexes, etc. Campus and
community-wide WiFi are extending as antenna capabilities
Business models that include
aggregation and loyalty programs are maturing, in anticipation
of the build-out of WiFi-enabled products including handheld
devices, modems, etc. Security is being pursued with the
same vigor that has allowed interoperability of other devices
to have been achieved. And WiFi will accelerate the concept
of “information fueling” (as an alternative
to real-time, or online), whereby geographically or time-relevant
information is downloaded through WiFi. DIPA is central
to device image fueling.
The availability of WiFi has
significant implications related to how rapid the evolution
of “signage” might be toward personal and mobile
display devices such as laptops, handheld PDAs, in vehicle
displays, cellular phones, etc. Just as the electronic sign
fixed in a location is “fueled” using WiFi with
images scheduled for display or invoked by some means, the
mobile or personal display device could be similarly “fueled”
using DIPA. This display approach offers the potential to
significantly enhance homeland security and 911-related
public alert and direction, as well as response command
and control tools.
The work of the E911 caucus
must include an assessment of the implications of using
WiFi and DIPA to extend the reach and service of security-related
information provisioning. All organizations charged with
public safety, security and protection must understand the
potential of DIPA, which is an “eclipsing” technology
to broadcast and narrowcast in image and information provisioning.
The ability to fully control image
presentation in an ESN is provided by the DIPA. Image presentation
control and flexibility provides advertisers and public-information
providers with a powerful tool for branding, advertising,
promotion, public information and safety.
Provisioning images from a central server allows advertisers
to highly target their messages and be more responsive to
market opportunities due to competitor and business partner
behavior, breaking news and current events.
DIPA provides immeasurable
advantage for homeland security, mass- and area-targeted
alerts, warnings and instructions. When linked to sensors,
proximity indicators, atmosphere sniffers, etc., DIPA can
enable the earliest warning and impact intervention.
DIPA’s value is entirely
dependent on its Reliability, Availability and Scalabil-
ity—the “RAS-ables” that are the backbone
of every information system. Reliability reflects predictability
in performance. Availability reflects operational features,
ease of use and operational efficiencies while the system
as a whole is meeting the business or mission needs. Scalability
reflects the capabilities (sometimes thought of as “elasticity”)
of the available system to maintain acceptable performance
levels while increasing transaction volumes and adding system
devices. These RAS-ables, which are inherently defined by
DIPA, determine the ESN’s limitations and service
Display space splitting allows
advertisers and information providers to reduce or spread
their message display investment. While large display providers
wish to sustain a “one area-one image” approach,
branding and advertising practice is expected to evolve
quickly to split screen capability.
Monitoring and Alerts
As noted earlier, electronic
signage offers a location to house monitoring equipment
that can trigger a human decision or automatic response.
Surveillance devices such as cameras, audio or infrared
can feed directly into a staffed security or response center
as already exists in many transit systems, retail locations,
secure areas, etc. Warning and alert messages based on detection
of a threat situation can be conveyed as a normal part of
a security system.
Using the features in DIPA,
threat signals could trigger an image display to provide
information or instructions automatically, in the same way
that traffic counters and motion detectors could trigger
traffic routing, arrival and departure information.
The public threat posed by
hazardous materials merits information signage systems that
can provide the earliest possible warning and instructions,
in order to minimize negative impact.
Many systems are mounted with audio-sensing devices that
will tag Security if the unit senses a slamming car door
or, worse, “hears” a gunshot. Software controls
that can close gates and doors, as well as turn alarms on
and off, can also be included.
Depending on a system’s
bandwidth, security systems can include up to 16 real-time
DVR units. The systems can also feed their captured images
into multiple web-browser systems so security personnel
can share the images with law-enforcement agencies. This
same video-data can be sent to a web server and multicast
for universal distribution. It can even go to an individual
on foot, such as police and security staff, via system-linked,
Using DIPA, the systems may
eventually not only notify security, but e-mail real-time
video images to concerned law-enforcement agencies. Via
WiFi, the images could also be picked up in police cars.
Sign-mounted surveillance systems, with remote swivel/zoom
DVRs (digital video recorders) could track a suspect in
real time as he/she moves through a building until apprehended.
Providing images and messages to an “audience of one”
grows in viability as electronic information is carried,
emitted and permissioned for use by individuals carrying
smart cards, magnetic strips, radio frequency (RF), Electronic
Product Codes (ePC) and other electronic identifiers.
DIPA allows images or information
to be displayed on electronic devices in total flexibility.
To be viable, the DIPA application must be operable across
a wide range of image and information file formats, database
formats and tools, file transport approaches (internet,
WiFi, satellite), media players, display products (as noted
earlier), interactivity formats and products (ePC, RFID).
Surveillance and Life Safety
Tools are required within the application that enable a)
the arrangement and segmentation of display area for simultaneous
presentation of multiple images, in b) multiple electronic
file formats and c) schedule these accounting for split
screen, picture-in-picture and multi media layout.
The DIPA must be scalable
to manage and provide audit trail of screen numbers ranging
from 1 to several hundred (a small installation) to several
thousand (a typical installation) to large global installations.
In conclusion, while technology
relat ed to each of the elements of an electronic signage
network (i.e., display, communications, environmental monitoring,
message triggering, image storage, etc.) adds high value
to the ESN or kiosk system, the key ingredient is the DIPA
that controls image presentation.
Lyle Bunn, a senior partner of
Apogee Partners, has held senior positions in national technology
associations, and assisted in development of technology
industry policy with the White House and the four levels
of government. He produced the first satellite-based educational
telecast in Canada, and created the business plan for a
transnational telecom equipment provider to advise the board
of director level of the largest 100 organizations in the
world. Currently he is assisting in the advanced application
of satellite, display and homeland security technologies.