The Silicon Valley-based media playback device firm BrightSign has announced new supporting software for its little purple boxes that enables them to digitally throw touchscreen controls and lookup information to smartphones.
BrightLink is a software module that enable consumers who have smartphones to scan a QR code and get a URL that transfers control of the kiosk or other display screen – like a directory – to the phone screen. More simply, with BrightMenu, a QR code scan launches a menu file which would replace single-use paper menus.
The technical abilities for phones to take over screens, and certainly for QR codes to launch specific URLs (like a web page that has a menu file) have been around for years. I have dealt directly with companies who showed me how a device could be a local server and throw controls to a phone, but my question back, was always something like: “Why would people do that when they could just touch the screen?”
Because of a pandemic, it seems. The new capabilities tie directly to consumer worries about touching surfaces that may have a pathogen living on them, though things like handrails, door handles and plenty of other surfaces present equal or greater risks.
What’s interesting here is that BrightSign has, it appears, packaged up the capabilities to enable its huge reseller channel, software partners, as well as direct users. Maybe any of these parties could just develop this themselves, but why would they, if the hardware they use already has that sorted, tested and supported?
It reflects a continuing shift by BrightSign to get beyond a reputation for having super-reliable players to offering hardware that has a range of supporting software components and APIs that make them kind of indispensable. While BrightSign has a bunch of CMS software partners that now work on those purple boxes, it is increasingly possible for resellers and end-users to do all they need with digital signage, without requiring a CMS in the middle.
A look through the datasheets suggests the new software is backwards-compatible to devices already deployed, and there is nothing suggesting this is limited to certain product lines/series.
Says the PR:
BrightLink is a new touchless solution that eliminates the need to physically engage with touch-interactive digital signage. By simply scanning a QR code, customers transfer control of the experience to their phones to browse or interact with content as they normally would, eliminating the need for physical contact.
BrightMenu uses very similar BrightSign technology, but delivers a one-way experience whereby patrons scan a QR code and receive the restaurant’s menu on their mobile device – no internet connection, no app to download, and no printed menus.
“Safely resuming operations requires businesses to reimagine the experience they offer customers, particularly as it relates to any sort of physical engagement,” said Ann Holland, VP of Marketing at BrightSign. “We all want to get back to work, and at BrightSign we especially want to help our partners – retail, higher ed, corporate, hospitality and more – open up for business in as safe a way as possible.”
Touchless Control for Retail
The BrightLink solution announced today addresses many of the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19 – retailers in particular, but also higher education, museums, amusement parks and other settings where touch screens were previously in use. As a phased re-opening of the economy takes shape, customers will bring a heightened awareness of safe hygiene, gravitating to proprietors that take steps to curtail pathogen spread in their places of business.
“COVID-19 gave us pause to think creatively about how our platform and our core technologies can be applied to help businesses operate under today’s very unique circumstances,” said BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings. “Allowing customers to browse and control content via their phones is a natural way of empowering them to enrich their shopping and leisure experiences, while slowing virus spread by eliminating contact with high-touch surfaces.”
In recent years, many retailers have invested heavily in interactive signage that customers will now be very reluctant to touch. BrightLink enables customers to scan a QR code and remotely control the display via their mobile phones. The custom interface lets customers access detailed product information, discount coupons, wayfinders and even interactive product demonstrations – no app or internet connection required. And once a customer connects with the display, the retailer can then invite them to opt-in to the store’s loyalty program, or even complete a sale via the retailer’s mobile e-commerce platform.
Touchless Menu for Restaurants
Restaurants face their own unique set of challenges as they resume dine-in operations. With communal menu usage now discouraged or prohibited, proprietors seek alternatives to reduce the cost and waste of single-use printed menus. BrightMenu makes it possible for customers to scan a QR code with their mobile phone and browse the full menu. Additionally, restauranteurs can promote daily specials and invite patrons to join the restaurant’s frequent diner program, all from within the menu interface on the customer’s phone. This complete, affordable menu solution does not require an internet connection, a digital display or even an existing website menu.
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.