Trends in Digital Signage: Interview with Intel’s Jose Avalos

Mobile devices and social networks are making digital signage more interactive. Information adapts in real time based on location, time of day, online information feeds, and audience demographics. The possibilities for enhanced engagement are nearly endless.

Many brick-and-mortar stores are fighting to stay ahead while battling on-line stores with global reach. Amazon is a prime example of an online store that has grown into a serious competitor to stores with a physical retail presence. Online stores like Amazon have overhead costs that are quite different from those at a brick-and-mortar, with no showrooms to maintain, no retail staff at a cash register, a fluid ability to change prices globally in an instant, and consumers who freely labor to post product reviews without compensation. Online stores have an automatic advantage when creating personalized experiences for customers. The online retailers  can easily track visits and what customers shop for, as well as  obtaining customer data when customers establish an account to make payment easier.

Although consumers can see and touch products in brick-and-mortar stores, this is not new. It’s no wonder that brick-and-mortar stores, in addition to maintaining an online presence, are bringing technology into stores to personalize the shopping experience and maintain continuity between customer visits (both in store and online). One of these tools is digital signage, which covers several other areas in addition to physical signs. Digital signage brings aspects of the online experience to consumers, be it in a department store or a sports arena.

Embedded Intel magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Lynnette Reese, interviewed Intel’s Jose A. Avalos, IoT Group Vice President and Visual Retail General Manager, about the role of technology in enhancing the consumer experience.

Lynnette Reese: How do you define digital signage, and where is Intel within that market space?

Jose A. Avalos, IoT Group Vice President and Visual Retail General Manager, Intel Corporation.

Jose Avalos: Intel® defines Digital Signage as a remotely managed interactive compute-driven display for advertising and information sharing. Analysts report that around the world, about 70% of the visual experiences include Intel-based digital signage media players as an ingredient. These experiences include traditional digital signage, menu boards, video walls, interactive kiosks, interactive whiteboards, visual data devices, automated retail, intelligent shelves, smart lockers, digital jukeboxes, and more.

Reese: Are you seeing any trends in how digital signs and kiosks are being adopted in various venues?

Avalos: Intel-based digital signage and kiosk applications span across a wide range of verticals including retail, quick service restaurant (QSR), hospitality, transportation, healthcare, education, corporate, banking, entertainment, stadiums, and outdoors. The highest growth is in the retail, banking, QSRs, and transportation verticals; it varies by geography as well. For example, in Southeast Asia, banking is the fastest growing vertical at the moment.

Figure 1: Many stores are offering customers smartphone applications that combine with digital signage to create a more personalized shopping experience while adding convenience. (Image: Shutterstock)

Reese: What are retailers doing to blend the online and in-store experiences?

Avalos: When shopping online, today’s customers want all the personalization of an in-store experience. When they walk into a brick-and-mortar store, they want continuity from this online experience, based on the choices they made across all other touchpoints. Savvy retailers have met these expectations by pulling in incredible amounts of data for highly personalized cross-channel offerings. Online, they’re performing advanced real-time analytics on customer behavior to deliver digital experiences tailored to customers’ interests and needs. In the store, they’re using cutting-edge software to understand who’s looking at displays and to engage, entice, interact, and motivate action. This level of relevant personalization uses artificial intelligence (AI) for facial analytics. It is an essential tool for any retailer who aims to keep up with the changing expectations of digital consumers and find more effective ways to generate revenue.

Reese: Smart signs can display information for a customer that is tailored to their interests and needs. What is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in digital signage?

Avalos: AI and facial detection enable a deeper understanding of customers and create a more curated experience. A certain level of personalization can be provided by using AI for facial analytics. Digital and interactive displays go beyond facial detection. They can detect a certain level of demographic information for each customer, the time they spent shopping, the locations where they lingered, and much more. With all of this information, it’s possible to create an in-store personalization that can deliver experiences that are individually tailored. The latest digital displays can collect analytics and deliver content as precisely as what customers experience online, which leads to a better understanding of the customer, greater insight and personalization, and an improvement in overall customer experience. Data shows that interactive digital signage gets more than twice the engagement rate of top social networks. But to actively engage the power of how this works you need to learn about the customer, so you can deliver customized content that reaches them at the right time. Good salesmanship is about helping a customer solve a problem by offering the right solutions, and smart signage can pick up on the kind of clues that can deliver the right content at the right time without being intrusive.

Reese: Privacy is always of interest; does Intel have any involvement in maintaining the privacy of consumers in digital signage applications? Or is maintaining an individual’s privacy completely up to the developer?

Avalos: Intel strives to protect consumer privacy related to our interface with digital signage under the Intel privacy policy. All offerings from Intel for the digital signage industry adhere to this policy. The policy starts out by saying, “Intel’s business brings technology to businesses, consumers and, society in a way that makes amazing experiences possible but doesn’t come at the expense of your privacy.” In addition, we advocate and influence our partner solutions to adhere to collecting and anonymizing data, so information doesn’t even register as belonging to any particular individual. However, in some cases, our end-customers such as retailers, for example, want to utilize detection analytics data for loyalty programs. In these cases, businesses and brands need to adhere to government opt-in laws. Ultimately, it is the solution provider’s privacy policies that apply in digital deployments.

Reese: How is Intel working with mobile integration to digital signage?

Avalos: Today, consumers are engaging with brands in a different way, merging in-person and online experiences as they take their interactions on the go and shop how they wish A significant change affecting consumers is the shift to mobile, as now most consumers use their phone to research, browse, compare products, and order from anywhere. Digital signs provide an almost infinite number of ways to do this. Digital signs can be interactive, and they can sync up with mobile devices and social networks. They can take the form of a simple one-way flow of information like a classic sign, or the information can adapt in real time based on location, time of day, online information feeds, and the demographics of the audience. The possibilities for enhanced engagement are nearly endless. Intel enables unified commerce-ready digital signage and kiosk solutions so end customers (e.g., retailers) can grab and hold their audience’s attention and make their business stand out.

Reese: Do you have any examples that come to mind of campaigns that combine with people’s mobile technology (smartphones and the like) possible?

Avalos: We see mobile devices as an extension of the visual experiences delivered on digital touchpoints and extend the circle of influence on the consumer much beyond the point of sale into point of wait and point of transit. There are many end customers that have included mobile integration into their deployments for delivering experiences like product lookup, digital couponing, sharing shopping experiences on social media, and so on. We can’t name these end customers for confidentiality reasons, of course, but there’s a case study online  and other proof points on

Reese: A trend in digital signage seems to be the blending of digital and physical worlds. What is Intel doing concerning VR/AR and digital signage?

Avalos: Augmented reality and virtual reality are certainly trends that are evolving in the digital signage and kiosk industry, enabling new use cases and applications. As part of our continued silicon technology innovation, we are adding additional compute and media performance to handle these workloads. Also, we are investing in enabling software that our VR and AR application developer ecosystem can leverage to unleash the hardware capabilities. Intel has also made several investments to offer AR and VR experiences into the sports experience, which are capabilities we can also extend into the digital signage and kiosk spaces

Reese: What types of Intel processors are needed for smart (AI) digital signage?

Avalos: For seamless experiences and a wide range of applications for smart digital signage, Intel offerings range from Intel® Atom class processors to Intel® Xeon class processors and everything in between. This can be augmented by visual processing units such as Intel® Movidius and a wide range of programmable logic solutions (FPGAs) such as Cyclone®, Arria®, and Stratix®. To expedite the development of applications and differentiated solutions, Intel offers several development kits such as OpenVINO™ for Analytics, Intel® Media SDK for media and graphic-effects intense applications.

Reese: In general, what can we expect from digital signage in the future?

Avalos: Today digital signage is delivering more productive, engaging, and fun experiences across many industries such as retail, banking, and transportation. Digital signage coupled with other technologies such as AI, analytics, and computer vision is enabling brands to have a continuous dialogue with consumers. This continuity with customers is critical to brands, as today consumers not only want to communicate with brands, they also want to help shape the evolution of their favorite brands.

Reese: Well the future certainly looks bright for creating a better overall customer experience using technology. Thank you for your time.

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