CIVIQ’s Gleeson On How Smart City Screens Are Covering Costs

May 11, 2017 by Dave Haynes

Here is the second part of a two-part Q&A session with digital signage veteran Brad Gleeson, now the Chief Commercial Officer at CIVIQ, on that company’s smart cities efforts in New York and beyond.

The completed Q&A was provided to 16:9 by a Samsung agency, but they’re the sorts of questions I’d ask. I thought about it, and concluded the Q&A content passed my sniff test on editorial versus advertorial.

These questions look at how these smart screens are being capitalized and monetized.

New York is not exactly a poor city, but this project is clearly going to cost a huge amount of money. How is it being funded?

Brad Gleeson

Well, the beauty of the situation in New York is that the payphones had long ago been monetized through the use of posters on the payphone structures which generated advertising revenue, which more than paid for the payphones and actually generated revenue back to the city.

What we’ve done is by replacing those payphones with digital displays, we’ve digitized that advertising model to the point where we generate enough revenue to pay for all the deployment and operation of the network and also return a significant amount of money back to the city that they can use for other purposes that they wanted to use it for.

But that’s not the only revenue model we have. We also can utilize the devices to deploy other technologies by cellular small-cell antennas and sensors, and can generate revenue through those technologies as well.

Does the use of this advertising funding model make it easier to implement systems like LinkNYC to other cities, particularly ones with smaller budgets?

Well, that’s certainly the goal. Obviously using advertising as a funding model, advertising is pretty universal but it isn’t necessarily effective everywhere. I mean, having an advertising display in the corner of a small town doesn’t generate the kind of interest among advertisers that having one on the corner of Fifth Avenue does. So to some extent we do have to be realistic about where that particular model will work.

But even in the cases of smaller cities, we currently are working and negotiating with, I would say, second-tier cities across North America right now which are cities that aren’t necessarily as populous or have the kind of pedestrian traffic that New York City has.

But I would say the concept is one that’s really intended to benefit cities where there is sort of a need for this kind of service and information, which tends to be the more populated cities with large commuting populations where people need to get around the city in order to do their daily business. It’s meant to really benefit those larger populations.

In the United States we have announced projects in Miami and Chicago as well as Portland, Oregon. Portland, Oregon is an example of a second-tier city, it’s a bit smaller than some of the other cities we gone into but they have much more broad vision of the ways that they want to use this technology to benefit their city.

So for advertisers that are interested in taking advantage of these machines, what tech is available to them?

Well, today it’s a high brightness outdoor screen distributed through selected neighborhoods and locations throughout New York City and so there are a couple of ways they can use them.

One, they can create advertising that’s localized to where the displays are and in some cases that can be very powerful because the message can be quite relevant when it’s close to the location where you’re trying to activate.

But the other thing we are doing is our partners at Intersection are creating quite creative advertising that maximizes the impact of the messaging for the advertiser. We have beacon technology which is being tested right now which allows us to message specifically to consumers in the area of a device different kinds of offers, as well as track whether one of these offers is redeemed.

So the advertising can be much more valuable if you know that the messages have been received and then the offer actually has been activated at the retail store.

We also have the ability to utilize cameras on the device to track the amount of people who are viewing the advertising. We’re not allowed to use the cameras to capture any actual personal identification like images or photographs, but we can use it to count the number of people who are viewing the advertising and looking at it, how long they’re looking at it and things of that sort.

So we can very accurately demonstrate to advertisers when their advertising is working and which locations are generating the most viewing traffic.

Are there other types of hardware platforms that CIVIQ use for places where Link machines may not be suitable for whatever reason?

The one that we’re having the most activity with right now is the device we call the WayPoint. The WayPoint is a variation of the Link concept where it doesn’t provide the phone service. The purpose behind the Link was to replace payphones but payphones are not that prevalent in a lot of other cities, they’ve already been sort of eliminated over the years.

So we’ve created the WayPoint which is more of an information terminal, typically associated with transit locations but it can be basically anywhere in a city. But it uses a large format touchscreen interface as opposed to the small tablet. It also provides free Wi-Fi, it provides many of the same services that we provide in the Link but in a different design concept. That’s the device that we’re putting into Miami and Chicago and Portland.

In addition to those we have a more transit-oriented touchscreen device called the travel station which is used in the New York City subway and other mass transit locations. And then we have a large format bus shelter type display, digital display, called the Totem and then we have a bunch of other ones as well. But those are the primary ones that we’re deploying right now.

And are these used for advertising as well?

Yes. They all provide advertising but other than advertising, they are different from case to case.

So like I said, the WayPoint is the one that’s kind of closest to the Link in that it has a large cabinet at the top which is used for the Wi-Fi and small cell and also IOT devices. So that system is meant to communicate with other smart city platforms like smart street lighting and smart parking to provide a communications conduit back to the city for other IOT applications.

The other devices, the totem is almost completely used for advertising. It does have an option for a touchscreen for sort of interactive use, but in most cases that’s used by out-of-home advertising agencies.

The travel station is used almost exclusively for transit information, transit wayfinding, in addition to advertising.

You can read the first part of the interview here ….

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