How Programmatic Digital Out of Home is Supporting the Growth of Smart Cities Worldwide

photo of city park with huge digital billboard over it

By Matt Oliver, VP Sales, Hivestack

Our world is becoming smarter. Our devices are advancing — from phones and speakers to homes and shared spaces. Welcome to today’s Smart Cities: a physical world that is now hyperconnected, enabling seamlessly integrated lifestyles.

Across the globe, cities are set to grow larger: the United Nation expects 68% of the global population to live in cities by 2050, with urban populations growing by a rate of two people per second. Increasingly, local authorities, city planners, and governments are turning to technology to manage urban spaces more effectively and efficiently.

Smart cities, by definition, leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) and vast quantities of data to run the city day to day. Increasingly, IoT includes a network of digital out of home (DOOH) screens. Business analysts and advertisers argue that the rise of the smart city and the expansion of the DOOH marketplace are inextricably linked. So, with greater integration between these systems, their data sets and other smart city infrastructure, how is programmatic DOOH driving smart cities to evolve?

Getting You There – DOOH and Traffic Management

It’s no surprise that ratings exist for cities with the worst traffic. Despite technological advancement including smartphone and in-car navigation systems, heavy roadside traffic persists.

Smart cities should take advantage of GPS positioning data to assist citizens navigating by car. Real-time navigation data can already be used by apps like Waze and other GPS service providers to efficiently redirect drivers to less congested routes in real-time.

It would not be a huge leap for local officials to use this shared data in conjunction with programmatic DOOH infrastructure to communicate information on the best route to take via billboard sized screens over roadways, allowing drivers to take action and minimise traffic disruption in the event of construction work, public demonstrations or celebratory parades.

Another interesting application is the integration of parking sensors with wider smart city infrastructure, as city parking is notoriously challenging.

With access to a city-wide map of parking sensors, relaying real-time information on parking availability integrated into the wider-smart city network, we’re close to a world where you can set your desired destination via your smartphone or in-car GPS and have digital screens ready to point you in the direction of the nearest free parking space when you arrive.

Navigating Unpredictable Conditions – DOOH I Need an Umbrella?

Smart cities rely on a network of data gathering infrastructures as part of their ‘internet of things’ and this network includes meteorological sensors that report on weather conditions like rainfall, wind speed, and temperature.

This information can be used within a smart city environment for a vast array of applications, on both an individual and a community level.

Communicating real-time messaging to citizens through DOOH infrastructure is already happening in our cities. Messaging can be set to be automatically distributed in real-time based on ‘pre-set moment’ triggers picked up by algorithms that analyse data, such as what topics are trending on social media in a specific location.

The scope of these dynamic moments is incredibly wide — with examples including public transport disruption, flights arriving at their destination or particular weather conditions. It’s easy to see their applications in a smart city context; imagine leaving the house without an umbrella.

The DOOH screens around you jump to life, telling you rain is on the way — a pre-set moment trigger — and pointing you in the direction of the nearest store that sells umbrellas and raincoats.

It’s not just about keeping individuals dry, either.

Developers are currently trialling systems to monitor rainwater levels to anticipate and communicate urban flood risks. Local authorities can then take steps to mitigate the impact of natural disasters through accurate 3D models of urban environments and real-time risk data announcements.

Coupled with programmatic DOOH, authorities can anticipate floods and communicate important safety messages with citizens across screens large and small.

Public Health and Safety Messaging — DOOHing the Right Thing

The global coronavirus pandemic has led to many examples of governments and local authorities using programmatic DOOH technology to facilitate the communication of vital, contextually relevant public health and safety messaging to as many people as possible.

Programmatic DOOH has long offered advertisers agility, scale and unprecedented targeting capabilities, using live mobile location data to reach the most relevant audiences at key times. It is these capabilities that public authorities leveraged as part of their public health awareness initiatives.

A key example is the Canadian government’s approach to sharing COVID-19 public safety messages. Communications objectives centred on encouraging behavioural changes that would save lives, and the government counted on the data-driven capabilities of programmatic DOOH to do so.

The activation served creative and impactful adverts to digital screens based on triggers, such as heavy street traffic, maximising visibility for passers-by.

This approach leverages real-time feedback on changes in patterns of behaviour and can be used to gain insight such as the most effective locations to activate public announcements — for example, among a high concentration of people not respecting social distancing measures, which can help to curb potential infections.

Social distancing reminders can be communicated via DOOH screens when ‘triggers’ such as a high concentration of mobile devices are located around screens that were not exhibiting social distancing behaviour patterns are recognised.

As a result, the initiative reached over 9 million Canadians with messaging about protecting communities, with post-campaign surveys finding nearly half of respondents had adapted their behaviour after seeing ads.

This demonstrates that programmatic DOOH is well positioned to play a critical role in delivering contextually relevant messages at scale, assisting governing bodies during times of crisis, while making valuable use of digital urban infrastructure.

Smart cities are, at their core, about communication and data-sharing in order to improve the lives of those who reside within them.

Programmatic DOOH is designed to communicate messages at scale — whether advertising public health messaging, popular products to suit weather conditions or traffic updates. It’s no wonder that those building smart cities are turning to this advertising technology to prepare them for the future.

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