16 April 2013 13:19

‚ÄčA Google grant will enable researchers at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications to take work on digital sign analytics to the next level.

The money will help fund a one-year post for a PhD student to research sign analytics.

The World Wide Web relies on analytics packages to shape relevant content for readers. Currently there is nothing similar available for the huge array of digital displays and signage including plasma screens, advertising billboards and airport, railway and shopping centre information boards.

Professor Nigel Davies, from the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, said: “Our aim is to create the signage equivalent of Web Analytics, enabling operators to fine tune content to meet viewers’ needs and improve the quality of the information. It will enable them to shape effective campaigns and create targeted information that viewers will actually want to read.”

The work will build on the fact that modern signs are increasingly being equipped with sensors that can capture information on people interacting with the sign.

“As a sign operator you want to know if people are actually doing any follow ups on the action you show them – for example do people actually go to the coffee shop being advertised?” added Professor Davies. “We could tie that information into an analytics package, which has never been done before.

“If you think of the web without analytics, that would be a pretty strange place. Analytics work out what people care about, what they really look at, how they navigate and they help determine more relevant content that people viewing sites find interesting. There simply is no equivalent for signage.”

Professor Davies explained that while some companies had developed systems for audience metrics the work at Lancaster University will take things to another level.

“We will be able to connect the statistics into analytics for use by content producers so they can determine why a certain sign is so interesting and ascertain how we drive people to where we want them to go.

The Google award of £25,000 was great news, said a delighted Professor Davies. Google, he explained, ran funding awards to support world-class academic staff and, they were, highly competitive said Nigel, who was a visiting scientist at Google headquarters and research centre at Mountain View in California last summer and is due to return later this year.

“This is definitely very good kudos for us and builds on our work in this field over many years.”

Google headquarters-based research scientist Roy Want said: "One of the fastest growing new technology areas is Digital Signage, which Professor Nigel Davies has been researching with the help of a Google Focused Research Award.

“We're excited to see the outcome of his work, which should include a set of tools for the research community to build better mobile products that provide the best possible user experience when interacting with digital signs."