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Digital signage
can help
transform public
transportation

Author: Gary Hilson

Digital signage offers a range of benefits to public transit agencies and their riders. It can drive revenue growth to fund transit initiatives, deliver important messages to the public and allow advertisers to deliver more dynamic, immersive experiences.

Public transportation digital signage can display more information than a static surface while also being more accurate. These two benefits alone make it appealing for public transit agencies, advertisers and other entities who need to get a message out to a broad audience. But before the benefits can be fully realized, the planning and deployment phases require both business input and IT operations support.

Public transportation digital signage serves more than just riders

Digital signage meets the needs of a wide range of stakeholders, not the least of which is the average citizen and transit rider.

Accurate, real-time transit information

What transit riders want to know most is when their bus or train is coming. Signage fed by the real-time schedule and tracking of vehicles can be deployed at subway and train stations, bus stops, and even public squares and other gathering places so people can find out how they can get from point A to point B. On the vehicles themselves, riders can see if they're on schedule.

More details and context

More information can be delivered as displays rotate through multiple screens. In this way, enhanced signage can act as a wayfinding tool on vehicles and in stations, waiting areas and vehicles, providing up-to-date information on arrival and departure times, delays or cancellations, and emergencies that might affect the transit system, as well as weather systems.

Emergency management

Digital signage can deliver dynamic messaging in an emergency. Even in the event of a power outage, some signage can be maintained with backup power to keep citizens informed. It can deliver messages and live broadcasts from public safety and first responder personnel to the public to guide them during a crisis and direct them to safety.

Better commuter experiences

While delays, cancellations and emergencies are never welcome, transit riders are less stressed and upset when they know what's going on. Even on regular days when everything's on schedule, signage that's eye-catching and engaging can enhance the commuter experience. It can provide weather and tourist information as well as livestreams of news and sports and even entertainment on vehicles for longer trips, creating an opportunity to monetize signage by providing access to partners and advertisers. Public transportation digital signage can also drive foot traffic and revenue to nearby restaurants, bars, retail shops and tourist attractions.

Value for advertisers

Traditional advertising options via public transit stations and vehicles need to be manually swapped or risk becoming out of date. Connected, dynamic signage allows for increased delivery of real-time advertising inventory. Programmatic advertising enables a more creative approach to filling ad space per sign or as a network. Combined with a mobile network, advertisers are able to maximize return on investment (ROI) by placing signage where there's foot traffic even when there's little to no infrastructure.

Generate revenue 

Third-party companies can also be partners in providing the infrastructure to minimize the deployment and operations costs of the public transit agency. The agency instead earns a share of the advertising revenue while also requiring the advertiser to show schedule information, facilitate interactive features such as ticket purchases and deliver public service announcements. Revenue sharing can be flexible depending on how much investment the public transit agent requires of the advertiser, which may expect a higher share of revenues depending on their upfront investment.

Clearing a path for public transit digital signage

Despite the multifaceted benefits, it can take a lot of work to transition from static, physical signs to fully capitalize on the capabilities of signage technology. Maintaining digital operations is a lot different from accepting traditional media buys for display advertising on vehicles and at stations. Whether it's managed by the public transit agency, a partner or an advertiser, modern public transportation signage demands a constant feed of dynamic, engaging content.

Stakeholders need to determine what content they want to deliver to citizens, who will create it and how often—major considerations given that a dynamic, connected signage network is hungry for rich, animated and ever-changing content. Basic transit updates and weather are table stakes.

In addition, signage needs the support of IT personnel who can help scale the necessary content management system and connectivity to make sure the right content is displayed on the right screen at the right time, while taking into account all the display types and mixed environments that must accommodate different lighting and power scenarios. The signage must cater to people on the move as well as those waiting—foot traffic is critical for setting goals for each display and measuring ROI and advertising reach.

And, as with all technology investments, it's important to lay out the requirements for any signage solution, including screen and display size, connectivity and media support, and the tools to maintain the solution, including content and operational management. Being clear on key performance indicators is critical to sourcing and deployment, bearing in mind that there's no all-in-one solution, so initial total cost of ownership for the public transit agency is just as important as ROI.

Personalize the journey

Public transit agencies can engage with riders who immerse themselves in their smart devices during their journey. The agency can send personalized messaging and exclusive content by leveraging QR and edge Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and even conduct e-commerce.

Deploying digital signage is the first stop on a road to creating a dynamic system for valuable information exchange to improve the rider experience and generate revenue for key stakeholders, including the public transit system itself.

Discover how Verizon's IoT expertise and solutions can transform public transportation.