Intel, Microsoft, Cisco Make Digital Signage Push

At the National Retailers Foundation show, Intel and Microsoft announced a partnership to bring a standardized platform using Intel hardware and Microsoft software to the digital signage space. In addition, Cisco announced that it is adding touch capabilities to its digital signage offerings and using a pilot program with Harrah's to test it out.

Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems are using the National Retailers Foundation Convention in New York this week to outline their strategies around more interactive digital signage.

Intel on Jan. 11 demonstrated its multiuser digital signage prototype that is designed to be used in such places as stores, banks, hotels and airports to let customers manipulate the holographic screen to find everything from coupons and sales to product locations, consumer reviews and past purchase histories.

Intel also announced a partnership with Microsoft to create an open platform to enable developers to build digital signage applications.

For its part, Cisco, which already has a digital signage business, announced that it is working with Harrah's Operating Co. on a pilot for an interactive digital signage solution to be used by Harrah's customers.

Intel officials said interactive digital signage technologies can let brick-and-mortar businesses better compete with online stores by improving the customer experience.

"As stores seek more competitive advantages over online retailers, digital signage has become a valuable technology for dispersing targeted and interactive content to shoppers," Joe Jensen, general manager of Intel's Embedded Computing Division, said in a statement. "We ... designed the Intel Intelligent Digital Signage Concept to show that retailers can engage and interact with consumers in a more personal and compelling manner through new usage models such as augmented reality and interactive product explorations, which in turn could yield an increase in revenue and customer loyalty."

Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini first talked about the vendor's ambitions at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 7. Now Intel is putting its 7-foot, 6-inch prototype-complete with an LCD display and holographic glass-to show the multiple ways consumers could use the technology.

Along with finding information, customers also could submit feedback to the retailer and contact friends through their social media accounts and integration with their mobile phones.

The product is designed to let multiple people use the device through a side-by-side window display, according to Intel.

At the same time, the concept also gives information back to advertisers and businesses. A built-in camera technology looks at customers as they use the screen and analyzes such data as the person's gender and age, as well as the time of day they used the device. This allows businesses to display content and graphics based on the demographics of the people using the system.

In addition, the system sends the data to advertisers, who can use the information to see who is shopping, what they're shopping for and what messages will best reach the consumers.

The Intel partnership with Microsoft is designed to create a standard in what Intel officials call a fragmented space. The current prototype uses Intel's new Core i7 processor-introduced at CES-and Microsoft's Windows Embedded Standard 2011.

The platform is expected to be released in the second quarter.

The digital signage systems also include Intel's vPro with Active Management Technology, which enables businesses to manage the systems remotely, even if they're powered down.

For Cisco, digital signage is not new. The company has offered it in numerous projects, including in the Dallas Cowboys' new $1.15 billion stadium. The technology enables stadium administrators to quickly change such messages as food vendor lineups as well as visuals for fans depending on what event they're attending, whether it's a Cowboys game, a high school football game or a concert.

Cisco is adding touch capabilities to its digital signage offerings, which officials said will improve the customer experience by delivering services directly to users, reducing wait times and giving customers the most up-to-date information. Cisco is running a pilot program with Harrah's on the touch capabilities.