Most major cities have a strategic vision to become smart cities. As a smart city, technology fuels growth and plays a role in managing the flow of people. Cities are becoming very aware that they need to use technology to impart information to both tourists and locals alike. Smart technology is already part of many people’s daily lives, and it is usually in the form of digital signage.

Digital signage has been around for some time now, starting out mainly in the restaurant industry, taking over printed menu boards. Then it became a must-have for wayfinding and directories. Now, it’s virtually everywhere seeking to inform and persuade its audience.

Because of the versatility of digital signage and the ability to change messaging at any time or trigger messaging at certain times, this makes it a great tool to route people. Digital signage can also react to sensors or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With all these opportunities, cities know they need to utilize digital signage in a meaningful way.

City Governments See Value in Real-Time Messaging

Many city governments have implemented digital signage to offer directional help, public transportation routes, and other location-specific information. This is because it can operate in almost any situation and is perfectly fit for street signs.

In Montreal’s central business and tourist district, hundreds of rectangular screens can be found advising drivers where to park and how many spaces are available so that they can conveniently find parking. The signs operate in real-time, gathering information from sensors in the parking decks. The intent has been to reduce traffic congestion, especially on some of the city’s most narrow and old roads.

Kiosks are another way that cities are using digital signage technology. These “smart” kiosks deliver information about local events, maps, and transportation information. Users can quickly see the route to take for dining or attractions.

They can also search for things like retail centers or museums. It’s a one-stop-shop for anyone to view what’s happening in the city and how to get there. Often these kiosks are actually paid for by the city selling ad space to local establishments, so there’s no extra budgeting for cash-strapped city budgets.

The city of Chicago began installing these in 2017 with 55” screens that also operated as free Wi-Fi systems, according to the Chicago Tribune.

What’s Next for Cities and Digital Signage?

It is no secret that more of the population is moving into cities. With more people to manage, cities will need to be creative and innovative.

One possibility for the future would be the ability of smart signage to interact with smart cars. Cars could receive information from sensors, and instead of only displaying it on the screens, the car could receive the information then determine the best route. Further, this application could be even more sophisticated with autonomous cars that can communicate back and forth with signage and sensors.

Signage can be expected to become more dynamic as well, and it could even know who you are. If the digital signage could communicate with a person’s smartphone—if they are on the same Wi-Fi network—the signage could then make the messaging more personalized.

These next-generation possibilities focus on communication, while the most vital opportunity of a smart network of digital signage could be all the data it takes in about how people move around the city, which can then be analyzed with an AI-engine to provide insights about how to improve and evolve infrastructure.

The road to cities becoming “smart” will be constructed with digital signage, interactive kiosks, and a connected network of IoT devices. Expect dramatic and worthwhile changes that will allow cities to thrive.

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