I had breakfast in Montreal with an industry friend yesterday, who filled me in on a project that genuinely addresses the notion of digital signage and smart cities.
There are 100s of rectangular LED screens in the central business and tourist districts, some in stacks of two or three, telling motorists where parking lots are located and whether there are spaces available. The information on the screens is updated by the minute using wireless networking.
The parking operators are using various methods – like sensors – to generate real-time data on available spots.
The idea is to reduce traffic congestion – particularly on the narrowed 300-year-old streets of the old city, by hopefully keeping drivers from searching endlessly for parking spots.
I am pretty sure it’s OK to say who’s behind the software, but just in case that’s not the case, I’ll just say they’re local, for now.
There is nothing terribly sexy about how these things look. They just cycle through playlists and query data sources. But they nicely do the intended job, and don’t need to be flashy.
What I like: the civic government bankrolled the infrastructure and is expanding it, and there is zero reliance on media companies. There are no ads on these things.
Compare that with the digital ad poster networks out there that are being marketed as smart, but exist almost entirely as digital posters, with modest revenue streams for the city. So they’re smart-ish.
I like these parking signs (which also hook to notification systems like Amber Alerts, and once I am clear I can add detail, will do so. My contact is on holiday this week.