There has been lots of talk about convergence, with different combinations of digital signage, mobile and interactive getting most of the play. One of the more interesting points of convergence is digital signage and mobile. LocaModa has made lots of headlines and lots of friends with their very slick method of turning a cell phone into a remote control that can drive content on a digital screen. In effect, their method converges all three elements, using mobile to make digital signage interactive. As such, LocaModa has carved out a niche as a fulcrum between digital signage and interactive applications. But what their product does not do is make the phone itself interactive, it simply uses it (and the attendant network) as a tool for interactivity. It seems inevitable that using software on the phones themselves may well be the future lever for convergence.
The evidence is piling up: Apple’s iPhone AppStore has been a phenomenal success by any measure. The millions of iPhone users have shown little hesitance to add function to their device if it is cheap and easy. AppStore is both, perhaps with cool thrown in as a kicker. With the advent of pervasive 3G networks in the US, users are likely to evolve their view of cell phones toward way they are used in Europe and especially Asia: portable computing devices that happen to have phones built in, rather than phones that have some other capabilities built in, as we tend to see them in North America.
An interesting article in AdAge discusses one way that this merging of channels is likely to occur. 2-D barcodes, known as QR (quick-response) codes in Japan, are starting to make their way to the US. The technology allows cell users with a simple application installed on their phones to use their phone cameras to actually scan a simple barcode. The software interprets the code and redirects them to a web site that provides more information, special offers or coupons. Japanese 2-D campaigns have been launched from “magazines…outdoor posters…(and)promotional materials”. It is not a great leap to envision embedding a 2-D code in advertising or promotional content on a digital sign in order to gauge response and offer coupons and other opt-in information. The possibilities are endless, and case studies exist already. Scanning a 2-D code is clearly a step ahead of a text message/short code in terms of convenience, in that the phone does the communications work once the camera does its thing.
As the article discusses, there is the usual battle over standards and some element of cell carrier hegemony over choosing application providers and embedding 2-D scan software on the popular devices. But like anything else, demand and money will drive the carriers toward making choices to stay apace with their customers. As North American cell phone users adopt a more Asian-style view of that device in their pocket, we can expect software on the phones to play an important role in helping make digital signage content more engaging and effective. 2-D looks like an early favorite to be adopted, but there is certainly room for innovation.