Video: Series Of LED Light Strips Create Illusion Of Full Motion Video Ads In Subway Cars

May 14, 2024 by Dave Haynes

I was a bit surprised to come across a post this morning about a company pushing the idea of using a series of digital light strips in subway tunnels to create the illusion of full motion ads in the windows of passenger cars.

It is an idea and technology that’s been around for perhaps 20 years, but it has not really caught on as a medium. It is reasonable to guess that the installation and maintenance costs for the technology are the big barriers to widespread adoption, even with LED display tech being FAR more affordable than they were even five years ago. You don’t stop subway service to run electrical and signal cables and put these things in, or to fix stuff, so that’s double or triple overtime labor for working quickly from 1 to 5 in the morning.

A Vancouver, BC company called adtrackmedia appears to be using a technical concept similar to another Canadian company, Sidetrack Technologies, which from what I can tell is defunct. There was also a New York company with a similar concept, and also has a dead website.

Adtrack says in its Linkedin profile that its “proprietary software and hardware systems deliver high resolution, full-motion video advertisements, creating a unique in-tunnel media experience.”

Adtrackmedia explains that it enters direct, long-term media concessions with subway and airport rail owners and operators and has systems operating in:

The tech uses the same sort of visual illusion as those madly-spinning LED light rotor thingies that draw crowds at AV trade shows, using the phenomena of persistence of vision. The big difference is the lights are not spinning, and the motion is created by the rail cars. A series of LED light strips create full motion visuals in windows when a subway or airport shuttle car zips along a tunnel at a defined speed.

I’ve taken a few different subway lines in Barcelona and not seen this, though that city has numerous lines and I probably just haven’t been on one where this is installed.

It is an interesting approach to mass transport DOOH, but as noted earlier, the install and ops costs would be terrifying. On the other hand, putting transparent OLEDs in subway car windows – as done in China – would also be expensive, even in that country.


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