Interactive Beacon Technology

signagelive-0216I am writing this column as ISE begins to wind down. One of my favorite things about rAVe [Publications] is the way that it covers trade shows. The video interviews are so valuable to someone who is not at the show and wants to see what the newest trends are. I always spend some time poking around the web site to find a story about a product that is really cool, but gets lost in all the other really cool stories.

As always, I found one. This one was about a product called Signagelive. The company markets itself as a “digital signage software as a service company.” However, at ISE this year, it released NFC tags that are tied into the product.

First things first, what is an NFC tag? NFC stands for Near Field Communications. It is a communication technology that allows two devices to transfer data. You could consider it similar to Bluetooth in the sense that it is a wireless data transfer methods. It is the type of technology that Apple and the droid operating system use to do mobile payments. Near field quite literally means very near. If you have used mobile payments in the past you have already experienced this. The two devices need to be practically touching. This is by design, so to avoid accidental connection between devices. After all, you don’t want to buy everyone’s lunch at Subway because your phone keeps connecting to the mobile pay. One big issue that companies will have when trying to implement NFC at the moment is that Apple has not opened its NFC code to programmers. They are only allowing it to be used for mobile payments. Maybe this will be yet another driver of the Droid operating systems growth.

Now, back to Signagelive. They are now selling NFC tags to their customers. These tags allow a customer to place their phone, or other mobile device next to the tag and interact with the sign. A couple of examples of this were shown. One is where a customer is viewing the digital sign and interested in a product that is displayed. While it is displayed they tap the NFC tag. A coupon is produced on their phone that they can then use when checking out. Although not demonstrated on the video, this could clearly lead to many other uses. Through programming you could add a suggestion to the customer that if they bought those pants, perhaps this shirt would go along well with it. Perhaps you could also immediately check in the store to see if they have the correct size and style. The second demonstration is in the opposite direction. A customer has a product they like on their phone, and they want to learn more about it. Again, they hit the tag and information appears on the screen showing more information about that particular product.

This type of interactive technology is lacking in today’s digital signage environment. Just about any customer could use this technology immediately at most signs. Even for signs that are announcements of upcoming events. You could simply tap the NFC tag when reading about the event and it is added to your calendar. Similar things could be done in the past with QR codes, but those were much less interactive, because they always drove the customer to the same sight. And, let’s face it, QR codes never really caught on. These NFC tags on the other hand can be programmed and interactive. Take a few moments to check out how Signagelive is using NFC tags, and think about what customers of yours could benefit from the technology.