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    Digital Signs: How Close is the Future of Advertising?
    Featured image by Scott Zhang via Flickr

    Technologies that used to be only seen in science fiction are now starting to come to life. We’re specifically referring to a scene from 2002’s Minority Report where the protagonist walks past digital signs in a shopping center and is greeted by advertisement screens. “The road you’re on, John Anderton, is the one less traveled,” a Lexus commercial says.

    This technology is now not only within our reach, but we’re starting to see the specific forms it will take in the next few years.

    Targeted Advertising Online

    To us, the journey to talking signs begins with targeted ads online. The technology behind these ads runs on information collected from our web browsers, also known as “cookies.” These cookies contain data as simple as your login information or as complicated as what you left in your online shopping cart.

    Coding on websites then reads this data and translates it into advertising tailored to us. I am sure most of us have experienced shopping for something like a couch online and then seen targeted ads for that same couch when we browsed through our feeds on Facebook.

    Some people love this technology; it shows them products and services they’re interested in. Others dislike it for its use of personal information. No matter where you stand on it, though, it’s clear that a similar process is being used with Omni-Channel, a transcendent new way to shop.

    What is Omni-Channel shopping?

    Omni-Channel cranks up the personal aspect of shopping. According to a press release from Samsung:

    “Omni-channel is a service that allows consumers to search for and buy products on various channels including online, offline and mobile.”

    While descriptions of this concept are vague, it seems to combine various methods of shopping, both analog and digital, into one convenient experience. The purpose of Samsung’s release, however, was to bring attention to their new “SMART signage.”

    Their new product will help bridge the gaps needed for omni-channel shopping. The way they plan on doing this is by using their digital signs to display shopping information (like targeted ads) to consumers in a brick-and-mortar environment. But how they will be getting this information sheds light on yet another futuristic technology: Near Field Communication or NFC devices.

    Real-Life Targeted Ads Via Digital Signs

    NFC is a technology that allows devices to transmit data to each other without physical contact. Currently, we see this in car keys that don’t need to be put in ignitions and “swipe-to-pay” credit cards.

    Samsung’s idea with their SMART signage is that consumers will be able to shop online and, as they walk past sensors in a physical store, their phones will transmit information (like cookies) via NFC. Their preferences and saved items will then be displayed on Samsung’s digital signs, which will be connected to the sensors.

    What does this mean for all of us?

    For us, this doesn’t mean anything right now. Not every phone has NFC functionality and, because SMART signage is a new product, most stores do not yet use it. However, in the coming years, we can imagine billboards, foyer kiosks, and even conference rooms for small business offices having interactive screens that know who is near them.

    While this technology does seem straight out of Minority Report, it’s also an exciting development in the tech field, even if we don’t know where it will lead us.