Monday, August 20, 2012

Short Reach Communications: Can we Talk?

Breaker-one-nine, short reach communications have been around for some time. They have also involved social networking, 10-4.

As digital signage becomes more talented in recognizing the consumer, is displaying "push" advertising on the screen the best way to interact with viewers. As home viewers sit in front of their TVs with their cell phones, how long until the TV learns to interact through the cell phone as well.

Cell Phones
There are four radio receive functions on a smart phone (Cellular, WiFi, Blue Tooth, and GPS). In addition the phone has other sensors that can be used to receive data (microphone, camera, touch panel, and motion sensor). In some cases the data rates are low, but the tiniest amounts of data can be used to set up a WiFi connection. The popular app Bump uses the phone’s GPS (providing location) and motion sensor (providing a time-stamp and impact signature) to set up a WiFi connection between two phones that are "bumped" into each other.

Smart phones also have a variety of data output options. There are the three radio output protocols Cellular, WiFi, and Blue Tooth). There is also the speaker, the display, and the camera flash. The display and speaker are principally for output to people and the camera flash is not principally a communications device at all. However, as with Bump’s use of the motion sensor, co-opting these as digital communications devices is foreseeable. Both inputs and outputs can be characterized by their data rate, range, and security (or sometimes more appropriately, privacy).

In addition to these channels there are others that could be added to the smart phone platform. Near Field Communications (NFC) is an updated version of RFID. It now comes in the traditional static version (conveying a never-changing ID for either the phone or the user) as well as an active version that is a genuine data link. Infrared (IR) data transfer used to be on the palm-top computers and some phones, but has mostly been dropped from the phone. Tablets, however, commonly do have an IR port as, of course, do TVs and remote controls.

TV and Signage
Currently, the most common mode of input from a person to their TV is via the IR link between the TV and remote control. In digital signage, it is either through a touch panel or the person accessing a displayed QSR code, opting in for more information. As signage grows smarter, the consumer’s very face becomes a mode of input as the signage recognizes the person to some degree (age, gender, etc.) and crafts specific content for that person. However, push advertising can be intrusive, especially if it singles out an individual in a public place. Even if a consumer opts in to interact with a digital sign, how best should they signal that and over what channels should the link be established. The sign could just display the requested content. It could also communicate via the consumer’s smart phone, not necessarily though the cellular or WiFi connection.

With the consumer's home TV, most cable systems have "push button to obtain more information" function. Advertisers do not use QSR codes as most sit to far from the TV to read a QSR with their camera phones. There is also the same question as in digital signage, should the requested information be put on the main display or delivered to the cell phone.

Conclusion Displaying push, or even opt-in information on the main display may not always be appropriate or welcome for either digital signage or TV. The cell phone offers a convenience and multiplicity of channels to deliver custom information securely and privately. Though the home TV solution does not necessarily have to be the digital signage solution, Having the same interactions at home and out of home would have some benefit. Particularly for the digital signage industry, some though should be given as to how interactions should take place.


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