How Digital Signage Can Activate Smart Cities

Published: February 23, 2017
Digital signage has the potential do more than passively collect data--it can use existing data to change people’s behaviors.

The term “smart cities” is thrown around to describe almost any technology project in a city — a Google search for the term yields upward of 18 million results. But what does the term really mean?

Many current smart cities projects rely on new data flowing from the Internet of Things, in which small computers are added to physical objects and then all connected over the Internet to collect useful information.

This information is used in smart cities to more efficiently make decisions about how to manage day-to-day operations: waste management, transportation systems, and other community services. According to a McKinsey white paper, the Internet of Things, if properly applied, could have a potential economic impact of up to $11 trillion dollars in 2025.

At TransitScreen, we believe the next phase of the smart cities movement begins when all this data is harnessed and translated into information people can use to take action or change their behavior.

Unlocking Smart Cities with Three Elements

Encouraging behaviors has long been the mission of digital signage. According to Canadian industry group OMAC, 50 percent of people over 18 have taken an action after seeing an outdoor advertisement.

But how do we turn this ability into a tool to unlock the potential of smart cities? The key is to use digital signage to provide information that is locally relevant, real-time, and actionable.

When transit users have real-time information, such as what the digital signage at Fenway Park is displaying above, they spend less time waiting, and are more likely to use transit in the future.

It is essential that all three elements work together. For instance, if something is real-time and relevant but not actionable, the information is limited in the value it provides.

TransitScreen provides real-time transportation data curated to be relevant for a specific address made available in actionable locations such as lobbies, elevator banks, and window displays.

For example, such displays can improve afternoon commutes when a subway line is closed, which creates happier commuters and increased retention for the business. At one coffee shop in Seattle, the manager had to hire another barista when afternoon sales increased 33 percent. Why? People saw how much time they had to wait for the shuttle and would stay for a drink.

When transit users have real-time information, they spend less time waiting, and are more likely to use transit in the future. These small changes result in people being more satisfied with transit service and more likely to make it a regular part of their lives.

Smart cities are about using data to make things work better and improve quality of life. Smart cities are smart because they create smart citizens armed with information to make better choices in all aspects of their lives. Digital signage like TransitScreen has the potential do more than passively collect data–it can use existing data to change people’s behaviors.

Matt Caywood

In this particular example, the effects are widespread. Transportation is responsible for more than 25 percent of global carbon emissions and is inextricably linked with the economy and issues like housing that are essential to quality of life. By using digital signage as a tool to activate user behavior, we can give people the information they need to create sustainable, livable, and thriving cities.

Author Matt Caywood will serve as a panelist in the Digital Signage Federation’s DOOH Strategy Summit session entitled, “Digital Signage: Activator of Smart Cities,” on Tuesday, March 28 at 9:45 a.m. at DSE to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2017 or to learn more about digital signage go to For more information on the Digital Signage Federation go to

NEXT: 4 Ways to Make Smart Buildings Even Smarter

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