If memory serves me correctly, my first encounter with digital signage inside a taxi cab came somewhere between McCurran Airport and the Las Vegas Strip. That was a few years ago, while I was en route to an InfoComm show. Tired, jet-lagged and suffering from the kind of indigestion that only airline food can engender, I tried to pay attention to what was on the TV screen between the front seats without feeling sick -- and failed.
The good news, for me, was that that particular taxi ride was short. The good news for the digital signage industry is that 'in-cab TV' has also moved on, and in more ways than one. When Digital Signage Expo opens its doors in Las Vegas at the end of February, Cabtivate Networks will launch a new kind of digital media network -- one that should work well in taxis, and which could equally be applied to other locations.
Launched earlier this month at Screen Expo in London, Cabtivate's narrowcast platform uses the content distribution facilities of a Russian-based company, IMTV. The platform's three initial geographical targets are Russia, Europe, and the U.S. Content is disseminated wirelessly via satellite, and the positioning of the standard 15-inch Panasonic LCD screen behind the taxi driver's head is designed to ward off the effects of motion sickness. Along with the screen, a standard content player, interface unit, loudspeakers and customer volume and on/off controls are installed in each taxi.
Cabtivate says it will use the average length of a taxi journey in each target city as the template for its AV content loop -- 20 minutes in London, perhaps more elsewhere. "In London," says the company's charismatic Chairman, Tony Yammine, "each 20-minute loop will contain no more than five minutes of advertising, and three different loops will be played in sequence to avoid repetition. The start of each loop is triggered by the taxi driver's meter."
To me, the Cabtivate initiative is a great indication of the way in which digital signage is maturing as a medium. The network has a global reach -- much sought-after for international brand launches. But its ability to localize content ensures relevance to each customer, and maximizes the marketing opportunity.
To any AV integrator that derives some of their income from digital signage (and, these days, that has to be a healthy number), the Cabtivate Networks business model deserves a second look. Whether it justifies the kind of fares charged by black cabs in London -- or their counterparts on the Las Vegas Strip -- is, of course, another matter entirely.