Street furniture is the technical term for the various accessorial items on our streets and parks. Everything from fire hydrants to bus stops, billboards to benches falls under this category. Some of it can be attractive, some of it is downright ugly, but for the most part it is practical with recent technological innovations it’s likely to get a lot more useful.
In the City of London, recycling bins have been installed with technology that allows them to communicate with and track cellphones. Originally the idea was to allow advertisers to send messages to a cellphone, so that if a registered user was near a shop, they would receive messages about discounts. But the slightly more sinister aspect is that now these bins have been fitted with devices that recognize the unique Mac address of any nearby mobile phone and can track the users’ route and speed of walk. The potential for advertisers is huge, but perhaps unsurprisingly when this news leaked out there was a public backlash further rollout of the project has now been suspended.
However, the same technology is being sold to retailers, who could place receivers and transmitters in strategic locations around their stores to inform potential customers of deals in areas they aren’t currently looking. This information will also help retailers determine the walking patterns of their clients and therefore help them maximize their space and sell more goods.
But back onto the street again, other companies are trying to utilize technology to help. JCDecaux, one of the worlds’ leading outdoor advertisers, is developing products that will change the world around us. In Paris, they have work with the Paris City authorities and developed five new digital concepts to help visitors and locals discover more about the facilities that the city offers.
The concept bus shelter combines new levels of comfort, Wi-Fi connection and mobile phone charging points and includes a 72-inch screen to display advertising, historic photos and classified adverts.
The Digital Harbour, or island, offers a 100% connected area on the side of the street. Designed for people who want to rest, work or access information, it includes free Wi-Fi, recharging points and swivel seats with tables, underneath a roof, so they’re protected against the elements.
A standard type of street furniture is the totem, a pole with a board holder on top. New digital totems have large sunlight readable screens that show high definition images which can be controlled remotely and updated in real-time and will provide information about cultural activities and other municipal information.
Called the e-village totem, these differ from their digital cousins as they are much lower and include multi-touch screens, including ones that are low enough for wheelchair users and are designed to show job or other classified advertisements.
For fun and games in the park, the traditional stone chess board has been upgraded to digital play tables which have 22-inch multi-touch screens that with their off-centre axis are able to be adjusted for the best viewing angle for users who sit in one of the three provided seats or the wheelchair space. Using an open source platform, similar to that of online and smartphones, makes it easy for developers to create a wide range of games.
In a bid to become one of the most innovative cities, there are more ideas to improve their street furniture. Other ideas include: electric intelligent vehicle charging stations, new public transport information systems and low power high light advertising boards.
We may not like being bombarded with advertising, but technology is helping us receive more targeted advertising and is helping retailers determine the how to get the most from their space.