In Digital Signage, Old Can Be New Again … Apparently

February 1, 2016 by Dave Haynes


It was about a year ago at some trade show that I walked by a vendor booth that was trumpeting how lifting an item off a shelf would trigger content on a screen. And wasn’t that amazing!!!

Well, it was kinda neat when I saw it for the first time eight or nine years earlier, but in 2015, not so much.

I asked the sales guy what was it all doing, and it was indeed doing what I thought it was doing. A sensor behaving like a mechanical switch and telling the media player to do something when the switch was activated or triggered. That can be done with slot machine buttons, light sensors, pressure sensors, RFID readers, bar code scanners, tethers – all kinds of things.

I ran into a Vancouver company back in 2007 that had a crazy mash-up called Diva that could have shoppers in a store  smelling sunscreen lotion from scent-air canisters, feeling the wind via fans), sun from lamps, and getting blasted by the Phhht of a soda can opening – all from triggers and sensors. That was over and above the basic RFID picking-up-shoe- shows-content-on-screen thing it had.

So why am I now reading and seeing this mechanically-triggered capability being trumpeted as something new and even magical by multiple vendors? The tech may be better, faster and cheaper, and there’s undoubtedly more sophistication to these things because of all that – plus the benefits of time and experience.

To be clear, I like the capability, in the right context, and it is something worth marketing and selling. Showing content specific to what a shopper is looking at, at that moment, is great. But it’s really, really not new, and something a pile of software platforms can or easily could support.

What’s fairly new – and limited to fewer vendors – is data-triggered content that isn’t tied in to or related mechanical switches. Different animal.

Give the mechanical stuff a look, definitely, but understand it ain’t exactly a breakthrough.

Evidence, if you need it:




  1. Brad Parler says:

    Astonishing to see just how short peoples attention span is, thankfully we have resources that track this sort of thing and that will call them on their BS.

  2. That’s funny Dave. We actually found about eight pairs of shoes in our storage area from 10+ years ago we used to demo an RFID shelf that triggered signage. They included an original set of Michael Vick Atlanta Falcons high tops! We gave them away at one of our monthly meetings.

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