Screens are all over the place. Indoor and outdoor. Out of home, they invade retail stores, subways, restaurants, malls, universities, museums, stadiums, train stations... For the time being, communication goes mostly one-way: from an organization, an advertiser, an administration to a passer-by, a prospect, a client. Advertisers use them for branding, to build and increase awareness. Of course, we would like these screens to be smart. Above all, we would like them to be able to gather data, smart data, and by so doing, become smarter. Data, only data, will make a screen smart. How?
How to make a screen, a shelf, street furniture, smart ? Adding Wi-fi, NFC, Bluetooth, QR...The screens used for Digital Out Of Home (DOOH), outdoor and indoors, are part of the Internet of Things. They can be monitored to save energy, manage content and advertising, measure audience (reach, demos, dwell time, frequency capping, etc.).
Then come the Beacons for communication and location awareness. First Apple's iBeacon, and now Google's Eddystone. A beacon, as a wireless sensor, uses a battery to broadcast a signal around the beacon (via built-in antenna) ; that signal can be identified (Universal Unique IDentifier) and received by any device entering the range. The beacon leverages Bluetooth Low Energy to estimate the user proximity (distance between the responding app and the beacon). The beacons are therefore perfect for retail environments. The interaction is personal, intimate: the passer-by's device receives a notification and does or does not do what is suggested: looks at a product, purchases an article, shares information with a friend, etc.
You need an app designed to communicate with the beacon. You can configure apps to trigger events once you enter or leave the beacon's range (opt-in /opt-out). With beacons, advertisers can also broadcast the URL of their website (pushed in iOS Notification Center). In a retail store, when a customer picks up a product with a beacon or a sticker attached, the screen nearby shows a commercial about the product in question...
Beacons are bringing proximity and context to mobile, in a way that is simple and cheap. It works like geolocalization, allowing location-based actions. The beacon can trigger actions on the screen: suggest a coupon, show transit information, schedules, weather, traffic, nearby stores (maps), maps (path finding)... For instance, someone close to a screen, watching movie trailers may receive a coupon to visit the theater next door... Screens become smart.
Physical Web is on its way
N.B. Screens can also communicate with smartphones using Aware, a new Wi-fi standard that enables communication between Wi-Fi devices.