The digital signage industry is an ever-changing technological landscape - continually evolving to integrate more intelligent, perceptive interactions and targeted messages to a particular audience. In recent years, embedded vision technology in the digital signage industry allows for gesture-based recognition, augmented reality, and motion analysis to reach consumers through user interfaces. Embedded vision refers to the combination of embedded systems and computer vision, with embedded systems typically part of a larger system and dedicated to a limited number of functions. Computer vision is the ability for machines to understand video images and react to those signals, providing a valuable opportunity for audience interaction and analytics. As the functionality of these processors and sensors improves, while also becoming less expensive, this technology is being utilized in a number of digital signage applications such as retail, hospitality, healthcare, public spaces, and other vertical markets.
Gesture and facial recognition allows computers to interpret human body language, such as emotions, facial expressions or hand gestures, through algorithms that attempt to understand these movements. These interactions allow for valuable feedback based on the user experience, including dwell time, audience engagement, and demographic characteristics. Dwell time is often considered one of the key measurements many companies are interested in pursuing by using embedded vision in digital signage. If the viewer spends a greater amount of time interacting with a display, it allows for greater retention, brand awareness, and enhanced advertising recall, along with an overall more engaging experience. This technology can prove extremely useful for many companies and advertising agencies to subtly collect information tracking facial position and viewer reaction, providing data that can be used to manipulate the content being shown. Once this information is evaluated, more targeted, relevant advertisements can then be displayed specific to the viewer’s race, gender, and age. Currently, gesture recognition is a small portion of the digital signage market, most likely adding additional functionality to existing interfaces, but shows promising growth. Accuracy in gesture tracking technology continues to improve and consumers are gaining further awareness and acceptance of the technology. However, many consumers have privacy concerns with the information gathered and shared through gesture and facial tracking, which can result in diminished interactions and greater difficulty with more widespread adoption.
Augmented reality, a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world that provides a composite view, can be utilized for many interactive digital signage advertising or marketing campaigns as a way to target a particular demographic and promote engagement with ‘on-the-go’ consumers. Many companies use augmented reality to promote a new product or engage with their goods or services through the end-user’s smart phone or tablet, ultimately aiding in boosting sales and increasing brand awareness. Many advertisers are using augmented reality in digital signage to attract new customers, as well as retain existing ones, and the data collected through these interactions reveals browsing habits and triggers that lead to an increase in sales. These interactive screens are the largest application area for embedded vision algorithms in digital signage, especially in the retail sector, using this technology to make the consumer interaction more memorable.
Other means of interactivity in digital signage can also be incorporated through wireless interfaces such as Quick Response (QR) codes, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, Global Positioning System (GPS), Bluetooth, or Near Field Communications (NFC) through mobile smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices to provide further opportunities for marketing and brand awareness as an advertising medium. These technologies also allow for alternate data analysis regarding facial and gestural recognition, consumer demographics, dwell time, sales uplift, and other transaction details.
IHS estimates 1.1% of total digital signage unit shipments were used for embedded vision applications, including both augmented reality and gesture recognition. This penetration rate is forecasted to increase, but will remain below 5% by 2018. IHS expects the adoption of embedded vision in digital signage to face numerous challenges, primarily due to privacy concerns, as well as false gesture or facial recognition, which can prove frustrating for end-users and results in loss of interest or the use of the application altogether. In addition to having the proper hardware components and sensors in place, many companies also need to supplement this hardware with a ‘smart’ software platform capable of performing the analysis needed to integrate relevant advertising content, point-of-sale or transactional data, and any other pertinent information.