Parsing the Future: Disruptive Technologies That Will Drive Digital Signage


Across the scope of human history, from the caveman with the wheel to the modern human with a smartphone, there has always been a technological advancement that solves a challenge. After the initial advancement, of course, comes disruption— the innovative way to solve a problem in a bigger, better and more high-tech way. Highly advanced technology is becoming ever more present in our lives, and new technologies will continue to disrupt old ones. There are a number of current technologies that can be considered – for the moment – disruptive of the old way of doing things. And they are facilitating new forms of communication and interaction via digital signage.

LED, OLED, FOLED & SSL Projectors

Digital displays have been on quite a trajectory over the years. LCD display size has grown dramatically, meaning LCDs have gotten heavier. This led to alternative technologies such as LED backlighting as well as OLED displays, which are thinner and more lightweight. OLED displays are easier to ship and mount as well as install, opening up options for digital display installations that were not possible before. FOLED displays are an even more advanced technology and are actually flexible as well as thin and lightweight, creating new possibilities for digital signage design. The idea of a flexible display would have seemed impossible just a few decades ago, but they are now a reality. Video walls are a popular form of digital displays, and for years, LCD was the way to do this affordably. Now that LED displays are produced with finer pixel pitches, and as bezel size shrinks, they can be used on both indoor and outdoor video walls to reach new levels of clarity and picture quality, even from up close. Laser projectors are a recent innovation in the projector space. These projectors use a laser light source that allows up to 20,000 hours of projection. This facilitates extended installations in retail and entertainment environments as well as in projection mapping applications, creating a true 24/7 experience.

Analytics & Biometrics

Analytic tools dissect data captured by technologies such as heat mapping, RFID, mobile phones and cameras to cobble together a multidimensional portrait of the behaviors and habits of a person or group. There are endless ways to use this data in spaces such as retail, entertainment, security, healthcare and other arenas. Biometrics such as facial recognition tools or retina scanning is another way of gathering data. The ability to determine information such as a customer’s gender and age group can help target digital signage advertising toward a specific demographic. Ventura feature picFor example, using biometrics, a retailer can learn what age group and gender are shopping in a store at different times throughout the day, and can schedule digital advertising that would appeal to the customers most likely to be in the store. A facial recognition tool can show how long a customer paused in front of a digital advertisement as well as gender and age, and analytics can deconstruct that information to measure the effectiveness of an ad on a certain demographic. Analytics and biometric technologies have replaced data collection and analysis methods such as customer surveys, security camera footage and spreadsheets, which seem quaint and old-fashioned in light of these advancements.


Wearables like smart watches and fitness trackers allow technology to be literally wrapped around the consumer as the device collects and disseminates data based on a person’s touch, body and location. Currently, wearables remain a highly personal device, with a wearer controlling the content via apps, but future uses could allow integration with digital signage. For example, a wearer may be looking for a restaurant reservation via a smart watch app as he or she walks around a mall or retail area; the app will show popups for open reservations, while the smart watch alerts digital signage in the area to display dining options. Other wearable technology of the future, as seen at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, was found in clothing. Smart clothing can provide wearers with information such as the last time the clothing item was dry-cleaned, but have other applications as well. For example, as someone wearing a smart clothing item goes into a store, a trigger in the clothing item might “talk” to a digital display nearby, indicating what brand of clothing the person was wearing, and digital displays can show ads or sales for clothing items of the same brand.

Triggers & Interactivity

Triggers such as RFID, beacons and near field communications (NFC) coupled with mobile phones have disrupted normal ways of advertising and communicating. Beacons are a Bluetooth-based one-way communication tool that must be opted into. After that, communications can be pushed to a smart device to increase sales or drive foot traffic. Many major league baseball stadiums have adopted this technology, allowing the stadium to send maps, video clips, concession offers and seat upgrade options directly to an attendee’s phone. RFID tags can be a multi-way communication between a user, a digital display and a back-end data repository. For example, in a retail setting, if a customer is looking at a pair of pants, an RFID tag in the pants activates nearby digital displays that show accessories or shirts that would look good with the pants. As the customer scrolls through the options and picks out a shirt, he can select his size and color preference from the display, which pings a store employee to bring the item over. NFC allows mobile payment when a shopper taps a smart phone or device to an object and has a payment app enabled. The payment then is immediately processed without a shopper having to take out a card or cash. These three technologies have changed the physical and virtual ways a business interacts with a consumer during the selling and purchase process. NFC allows completely wallet-free payments to a vendor. Beacons let a business communicate with a consumer entirely via a mobile phone. RFID tags can trigger digital signage to be activated based on what a consumer touches or picks up in a store.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

Augmented and virtual reality tied into digital signage offer new ways to present content and assist in advertising and marketing by showing – not just telling – a viewer a new reality. These interfaces eventually will take over many existing protocols, including those used in retail, education and entertainment. It could be suggested that what is being disrupted here is the real world. Virtual reality glasses allow a wearer to be fully transported elsewhere, while augmented reality provides an enhanced or altered view of the world.

Always Something Newer & Better

Each of the technologies discussed has been a disruptor of older technologies, and they in turn will be disrupted by the next advancement. The future may not always be clear, but one thing remains constant: There will always be a better way to do something, and someone will always find it. New ways to deliver larger amounts of content faster via Li-Fi will drive these advancements further and deliver even more disruptive technologies in 2017 and beyond.

For more information on these and other disruptive technologies in the realm of digital signage, as well as companies implementing them, check out session BP7 at the 2016 Digital Signage Expo. You can register for DSE and the disruptive technologies session here.

About Author

Vice President, Business Development and Solutions
NEC Display Solutions

Richard Ventura is vice president of product marketing and solutions for NEC Display Solutions, managing the Product Marketing and Solutions Operations teams. He is responsible for the growth and market penetration of NEC’s award winning portfolio of products, as well as responsible for development of new go-to-market strategies and products for the solutions market. Ventura has spent 14 years within the NEC sales organization focusing on display solutions, display technologies and projectors. During that time, he has helped numerous client relationships flourish and spearheaded campaigns that have elevated NEC’s brand and products throughout the marketplace. Ventura has been honored to receive more than one dozen internal awards from NEC for his exceptional efforts and tireless work ethic. He is a regular speaker at DSE, having led Industry Roundtables focused on the retail and restaurant sectors and presented in the show’s on-floor workshop theater display trends during the past several years.

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