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Apr272012

Smartphones, Tablets are Likely to Impact Direction of Future Digital Signage

Smartphones and tablets present digital signage with new opportunities to evolve.

The broad adoption by consumers of media tablets and smartphones, such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, is certain to impact digital signage in ways that today aren’t fully imaginable.

However, there are a few important data points about these devices that offer a clue as to what some of the effects will be and their potential magnitude.

First, the number of media tablets and smartphones in use is staggering. In the two years since they have become available, 55 million iPads have reached consumers’ hands. IHS iSuppli forecasts 275 million tablets worldwide (all tablets, not just iPads) will be sold by 2015. At home in America, 65 percent of the population, some 200 million, will have smartphones and/or tablets by 2015, an In-Stat study says.

Those numbers mean that whatever the ultimate impact will be of these devices on digital signage, it’s bound to be huge.

Second, these devices are changing how people like to interact with technology. Multi-touch screens, a critical component of the success of tablets and smartphones, will likely become an important component of some digital signage applications, too. After all, people by the millions are being trained by their devices on how to interact with screens.

Soon the desire to have multi-touch will shift from a want to an expectation in the minds of consumers who access information via a screen. This naturally will carry over to digital signage, particularly hybrid digital signage used in interactive kiosk applications.

It’s worth noting that the popularity of multi-touch is nearly overwhelming –literally. In late March, IHS iSuppli reported that the “runaway success” of the iPad and iPhone has created a boom in the shipment of touch screen display. That in turn will cause the market for the silicon that makes multi-touch possible to nearly triple in size over the next five years –from 865 million touch screen controller integrated circuits in 2010 to 2.4 billion in 2015.

Smartphones and tablets also will likely affect digital signage by giving this emerging communications medium a way to reach out to consumers in the proximity of a digital sign and wirelessly deliver information, coupons and QR codes. With so many smartphones and tablets in the hands of consumers, doing so seems like a natural way for marketers and other communicators to extend the digital signage experience beyond the public square and into the purses and pockets of the general public.

To be sure, my crystal ball is as clear as the next fellow’s. But it seems to me you don’t need to be Nostradamus to look a little bit down the road and see that smartphones and tablets will play an increasingly important role in the direction of digital signage.

While predicting exactly how these new devices will shape future digital signage developments is impossible to say, it is certain that digital signage vendors and the people who communicate with these signs will be hard at work seeking to find ways to benefit from the swelling ranks of their users.

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