I was reading a piece this morning about how the ride-hailing service Lyft, Uber’s main rival in the US and Canada, was going to start using a mash-up of beacons, lights and apps to help passengers better connect with their drivers.
This particularly intrigued me because I had a hell of time in New York recently syncing up with the location of an Uber driver, with us yakking on the phone and me trying to walk my way to him amid the mayhem of Lexington and 50-something. What Lyft was doing would have helped.
But I also thought, this tech offers some interesting ideas for certain digital signage jobs.
First, here’s what Lyft is doing: Instead of using cute pink moustache logos on driver grills or dashboards to help riders find their car, the company is shifting in the new year, in four markets to start, to lit signs on dashboards that work with beacons and the Lyft mobile app.
With Lyft, it means having your driver’s beacon light up a specific color once he or she is near. You can have your phone light up in that same color, too, then hold it up so the driver can see you.
Lyft says this will make it easier and safer for drivers and riders to find each other. This can be especially helpful at night, or in crowded areas where multiple people might be hailing a ride.
San Francisco-based says it won’t use the beacons for ads, though the passenger-facing side might be devoted to sponsored campaigns, such as a beer company warning against drinking and driving.
Those dashboard signs could just as easily be network displays in a public, retail or corporate environment, and assuming people have some cause and get value out of having a particular app on their smartphone, that same sort of color-coding or other kind of visual messaging could direct people to where they need to go.
Totally off the top of my head, think about a trade show and conference with multiple educational tracks, and people wandering into a sprawling venue trying to figure out where the hell to go. Beacons could initiate content, with directions, to a smartphone screen, but they could also light up nearby screens with things like color coding and session/room names on screens to send people in the right direction.
The same sorts of visual cues that Lyft will be using can work in a bunch of other ways. on networked displays. The wild card, and limiting factor, is that people who use Lyft MUST use their app – which then ties to beacons. App usage rates for retailers and conferences and major venues has nowhere the same level of user rates.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.