Signs of the Times

Do customers tune out the digital wave or are signs still an effective way to get your message out?

Digital signage has become so ubiquitous that most consumers—as well as many marketers—don’t even realize how evolved this medium has grown, often missing out on the power it has. If you’ve been around since we moved sign stanchions from place to place, you’ve seen displays transitioning from backlit to LED, LCD and plasma.

With every year, screens are getting wider and wider, yet slimmer and sometimes even flexible. Video walls that used to be a “wow” feature are now commonplace.

The trend of content personalization and interactivity has spread to digital displays as well. Sensors on displays will adjust messages and creative according to real-world conditions. Raining? Then the content will respond by showing indoor activities. If it’s sunny, maybe the images will be your pool offerings.

Like all technology, digital signage is getting smarter in more ways than just content, and VSBLTY—a Carlsbad, California company with years of experience in software, retail, and casino marketing—is leading a revolution in the industry.

Company founder Tim Huckaby has been responsible for delivering innovation to many Fortune 100 companies. You’ve probably seen his tech in action even though you didn’t know it. Huckaby (through another of his companies) created the “Magic Wall” that CNN has used for election-night coverage to track progress and aid in projections.

Now, Huckaby has embarked on a new journey to the consumer level that started when he asked, “What if you could actually measure everyone who looked at an advertising message? What if you could track how long they interacted with the message? What if you added to that measurement age, gender, emotions, and sentiment?”

Soon, the company was deploying the new technology in a very ordinary place, your grocer’s freezer. Selected by a leading company trying to increase sales of their frozen seafood, the VSBLTY technology was tested at a Midwest retailer. Imagine digital signage as the freezer door. The results were more than expected, not only lifting sales in targeted SKUs but for the entire category.

“And that was only the beginning,” says Huckaby. “Where we are taking the tech today, with artificial intelligence and machine learning, will truly make digital signage a transformational medium for many public venues.”

VSBLTY has developed a technology called FacialAnalytics, which combines the power of facial recognition with real-time cloud-based analytics to identify people in milliseconds—alone, in crowds, and in motion. FacialAnalytics reveals typical demographic profiles, such as age and gender, as well as mood and emotion, in addition to interactivity, length of engagement, number of impressions, and even the percentage of people looking at the sign.

Additionally, the company’s Vector technology can aid in public safety. Signs equipped with the software can view crowded public spaces, identifying persons of interests (including banned customers) by cross-referencing a variety of databases. In seconds, Vector notifies security to mobilize, intercept and prevent. Ongoing software enhancements include object recognition and machine learning, allowing users to identify weapons that may pose a threat. This object recognition technology has groundbreaking implications, putting the company firmly at the intersection of marketing and security. VSBLTY’s SaaS solution can turn a regular passive digital display into a proactive digital display.

Since initial tests, VSBLTY has quadrupled the deployments of their software across major retail locations worldwide. The technology has been vetted for arenas and entertainment venues and is currently in place at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Additionally, VSBLTY technology has been deployed at NASCAR venues, amphitheaters and specialty stores.

When Former FBI Unit Chief Jeffery Muller assembled a security detail for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, he asked VSBLTY to join the team. With the show’s multiple points of ingress—waterways, aerial, underwater and pedestrian—and with thousands of attendees and billions of dollars of inventory to protect, the goal of prevention is challenging at best. With VSBLTY technology, Muller created a perimeter that used machine learning to warn the command center if there was a potential threat. Rather than guard towers, attendees saw everyday-looking digital signs.

So, now you’re wondering, how does this impact me? Glad you asked!

Two years ago, Salvatore Semola, a veteran gaming operator, was doing what most of us were, walking the floors of the Global Gaming Expo, meeting with existing and potential vendors and reuniting with friends and co-workers. One of those meetings was with a longtime friend and associate, Jan Talamo, a brand and marketing expert. They briefly discussed a new technology venture that Talamo was helping spearhead as its chief creative officer. Semola knew it could be a game-changer for a casino operator.

Now as president and chief operating officer of Gun Lake Casino, Semola is piloting proactive digital displays. “I saw a real opportunity to use the technology of our digital signage to keep our guests more engaged, drive frequency, help make them safer, and also aid risk management on the casino floor,” says Semola.

In their initial meeting, Semola ensured everyone participated: IT, security, marketing, surveillance, and risk. The forward-thinking casino executive wanted a true “casino-wide” test to see if his hunch was right. He knew everyone had to buy into the idea, and they did.

The property has deployed four kiosks with interactive touch screens to measure guest engagement, dwell time, patron counts and sentiment to determine if people are happy, frustrated, angry, or exhibiting some other emotion. Additionally, the property has implemented the company’s Vector and Advanced Object Recognition software to match guests on the floor against databases of persons of interest (such as the DAP list) as well as identifying assault weapons and handguns brought onto the property.

“If I’m right,” says Semola, “this technology will be standard issue on casino floors in the future. It will change the way we view unrated play, protect us from visits by disassociated persons and create a better customer experience. Moreover, nobody will know it is even there.”

All of a sudden, you’re looking at your signs differently.

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Julia Carcamo is the chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates consultancy. She has held leadership positions at the property and corporate levels at medium to large casino companies. You can contact her at Julia@jcarcamoassociates.com.

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