IoT enables remote monitoring of billboards

The face of outdoor advertising is set to change as billboards are getting a makeover with the Internet of Things.

The Indian advertisement industry is projected to be the second fastest growing advertising market in Asia after China. According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), by 2017, Indian advertisement industry is estimated to touch $10 billion with both print and TV having a share of 38-40 percent each.

But wait! What about traditional billboards? It doesn’t matter whether you are stuck in traffic in broad day light or driving back home in the evening—the massive billboards are sure to get your attention.

The mess

India's digital advertising market has grown at a fast pace of 33 percent annually between 6820 and 2015, as per a report by Morgan Stanley. This indicates that digital advertising is still climbing the ladder to make it to the top, while traditional billboards are still dominating large parts of the country.

Now, think about this—how many times have you encountered a huge billboard in the middle of a broad street with torn posters? It’s a frequent phenomenon because the maintenance of billboards is no cake walk. Once a poster is put up, people from the advertising agencies need to visit the billboards from time to time to check the lighting and the status of the posters. This is obviously not only tiresome but difficult for both the billboard owner and his client.

The solution

It is humanly impossible to keep a check on the health of all billboards, and this is where IoT comes to the rescue. AdWise Analytics, a Bangalore-based start-up which is a subsidiary of the IoT firm Telematics4u, is giving a new dimension to the advertising industry by deploying IoT on billboards.

How does it work?

This IoT solution comes in the form of a cloud-based software platform which sources live photo inputs from a hardware unit installed on each billboard site.  This is integrated with a back-end analyzer unit manned by Telematics4U.  Any defects that are caught on camera automatically alert the media owner. The data is also archived for retrieval at any time.

Amit Taneja, director of AdWise Analytics points that many people today are getting the concept of IoT wrong. “The microcontroller in the camera alerts it to click pictures in case the light on the billboard is not working or there is a crease on the poster,” he says. Taneja also says that it sends an alert via email to the billboard owners and their clients with pictures for absolute transparency.

At the end of the period of display, a certificate is produced specifying actual start and end dates and exact condition of the display on each day during the display period. This certificate provides a clear record for audit purposes.

It also resolves the problem of illegal sites, which is rampant in the OOH space. All site details shared by the media owners are scrutinized by the company’s tech team. They visit all the sites, capture GPS details and also collect proof of the site being legitimate. If the data does not pass internal scrutiny regarding site authenticity, details of such a site will be removed from the platform.

The impact

Srinath DS, regional head (Karnataka) of Prakash Arts, the largest media owners in South India and a client of AdWise says, “There will be a camera fitted to the billboard and these cameras send us alert messages. In a day, I receive about five messages regarding proper lighting and other issues.”

In many instances, there is disagreement among the media vendors and the agencies as the clients are not satisfied with what they pay for. “Earlier we used to have a lot of issues with our clients. We had to give proof to substantiate that we had started the particular campaign on a particular date. These devices that are fitted over the billboards also send messages to the clients directly. If required, clients can get photographs. This has increased client satisfaction,” Srinath says. 

This platform functions efficiently even with 2G connectivity, so it can be used in rural areas where 3G or 4G is not available.

What next?

The implementation of IoT on billboards is in its initial stages and has been initiated in Bangalore and Kolkata. Efforts for covering tier 2 and tier 3 cities are also on.

“Traditional billboard market is worth Rs 2,418 crore in India. It can pull in more investors if we use IoT and offer full transparency,” Taneja says.

It’s about time your brand got a revenue hike courtesy IoT!

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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