A new kind of street sign is in downtown Arlington Heights:
With three movable LED signs atop the 10-foot pole, the panels display real-time messages pertinent to their surroundings, from how many tables are available at a nearby restaurant, to Metra train timetables. Any governmental emergency alerts, like weather and Amber Alerts, get precedence.
“The sign would orient itself and say, at Salsa 17 starting at 6 o’clock, there’s $7 margaritas or something. And then later it would spin around and say there’s a band playing at Peggy Kinnane’s. There’s a lot of different inputs on this,” said Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Recklaus. “It’s a thing that people would be drawn to, and it would be yet another thing that would kind of set our downtown experience apart because it’s not something that anyone’s seen before.”
The village would have control of the sign and approve all messages — done through a secure portal on a tablet, PC or Mac as part of a cloud-based system. And the cost of the sign would be recouped by selling advertisements to local business who want their messages on the street panels, under a lease-to-own arrangement that’s part of the Points Sign’s business model.
Pedestrians also will be able to search for things like local events and shopping and dining locales by turning and pushing a streetside dial.
The sign is customizable; some municipalities in talks with Optimal Design want to put a camera atop the pole for public safety purposes. And while the sign has sensors to know how many people are at a given intersection at one time, it doesn’t have facial recognition technology, Patel and Ottoman said.
The two keys to this sign seem to be that it is interactive and it pushes out information rather than standing passively. It does not necessarily replace static street signs, but it can help point people to opportunities. People can approach it and find something new. Such a sign could work well in locations with plenty of foot traffic and lots of local activity.
This reminds me of what I saw on my most recent trip to a shopping mall. The mall appeared to have fewer directory signs and instead I saw multiple recommendations to download the app for the mall. When I did use the interactive directory sign, I could search within certain categories and then it offered directions to the selected retailer.
Are we any closer to a more immersive sign experience that can provide an overlay of information on a 3D view of a landscape? Imagine going up to an interactive sign, searching for something or selecting something presented to you, and then seeing a 3D image of the landscape with paths and information.
Or, are we close to a time when signs are not necessary as everyone with a smartphone or smart glasses or similar devices interacts through the world through that?