6 min readUpdated Mar 23, 2023

How can digital OOH (out of home) media innovate with realtime technology?

This is the latest in our series of thought pieces to inspire agencies and brands with the potential of realtime technologies (like Ably) to deliver innovative and compelling customer experiences.

We’ve looked at ideas for retail with realtime that customers want and we’ve proposed five ways media businesses can innovate with realtime technology.

This time we’re looking at digital out of home (OOH) media where we think there are some amazing opportunities to deliver really creative, effective and engaging experiences.

What’s the state of digital OOH currently?

There has been a lot of innovation in digital OOH in recent years. One of the best known, and multi-award-winning, campaigns was for Women’s Aid, developed by WCRS and Ocean which used facial recognition technology to update what was showing on the screen as explained in this video:

Video showreel of Women’s Aid digital OOH campaign

You can read full details about how this was done in this article:

Women's Aid and Ocean Amplify the Violent Face of Abuse with the World's First Visually Powered…
Support from Prime time TV spot to air on Channel 4 In a world first for digital out of home, Ocean, Women's Aid and…www.oceanoutdoor.com

All the major OOH players are investing in digital and technology to deliver new experiences. You can see examples at Ocean and JCDecaux has launched a specialist division, Dynamic, to explore the full potential of digital OOH.

Currently the tech innovation centres around:

  • Image recognition technology e.g. vehicle recognition, facial recognition, gender recognition
  • Live feeds e.g. data, video streams, sports scores
  • Geolocation
  • Social feeds and integration

The video below showcases live data integration using Ocean’s Score:Board technology:

Video showreel of Ocean’s score:board tech

Similarly JCDecaux’s SmartContent system was recently used to take data from a Euro 2016 Press Association feed and automatically generate up-to-the-minute scores, fixture information, group tables and goal scorers to be shown on outdoor screens:

Press Association's Euro 2016 news and scores to air on JCDecaux outdoor ads
Uefa Euro 2016 live scores and news will be broadcast through outdoor screens by JCDecaux's digital editorial channel…www.thedrum.com

Walking past Old Street roundabout this morning I photographed outdoor digital ads for Google Apps which showed sensitivity to context in:

Time: the ad knows it is early in the day:

Location: the ad knows where it is and what is nearby:

Environment: the ad has a live local weather feed:

And the ad even showcases the product it is promoting (in this case Google Translate) in action:

How could realtime enhance digital OOH experiences?

So there is already a lot of encouraging innovation in digital OOH which will accelerate as the hardware and network infrastructure improves and is upgraded.

But we are particularly excited by what becomes possible when you use realtime technologies (not just ours but obviously Ably is the best.. ;) ) combined with sensors that are internet-connected and digital OOH displays.

A whole world of possibility explodes with IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and devices. Vehicles or clothing, for example, could interact with OOH displays.

But the most obvious immediate opportunity is using mobile phones as sensors and devices that can interact in realtime with digital OOH screens.

Currently most digital OOH is largely passive on behalf of the viewer. I can look at the Google ads above, for example, and they have a degree of intelligence and context-sensitivity. But I can’t interact with them or engage more immersively in any way.

But what if I, or other viewers, could, via our phones? And, of course, our phones have sensors and sources of data beyond mere geolocation: acceleration, movement, temperature, pressure, light levels, heart rate etc.

Before we give specific ideas, try this out to experience what we mean for yourself:

  • If you’re not already on your mobile phone, get it out
  • On your phone visit https://giveitalob.com/
  • Click on ‘Start Flight’ and look for your unique lob code at the bottom of the screen
  • Go to another screen (could be another phone or your desktop/laptop), go to https://giveitalob.com/ and type in the code (or click on it if it is listed on the page)
  • You can now see your own phone in realtime rendered on the webpage. Try turning it round and watch those movements reflected in realtime on the page.
  • If you want you can throw it in the air and watch the flight tracked in realtime. Try not to drop it!
  • Now just imagine that the watching screen isn’t your laptop/desktop but is a digital OOH screen. No apps or downloads or plugins are needed. You, and other viewers, could interact with the ad in realtime.

So what kind of ideas and experiences could this power?

Time for you to get creative, but here’s a few to get you started:

  • Wimbledon”… use your phone to become a ball boy/girl and throw a tennis ball (at the screen) and watch as a famous tennis star receives it
  • The Throw In”… lots of variations on the “Wimbledon” are possible. You could be throwing a football onto the pitch. With the Olympics coming up how about a shot put or javelin throw?
  • Autoglass”… use your phone to ‘throw’ stones at a windscreen and chip it. Can Autoglass fix it quick enough before you, and fellow viewers, smash the screen entirely?
  • Fun at the fair”… recreate fairground experiences using your phone and the OOH screen. How hard can you punch? How hard can you hammer? How well can you shoot? How well can you bowl?
  • And, of course, with recent developments in large screens that can project different images to people based on where they are standing, multiple viewers could participate at the same time on the same OOH screen so various games and crowd mechanics can be used to create an even more powerful experience.

If you can provide the idea and the inspiration we can easily provide the tech. We look forward to some great innovation in the world of digital OOH.

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