Our Editor-in-Chief predicted video displays on beer pumps many years ago, but a certain 'Black Swan Event' foiled his other predictions for how we interact with digital signage.
I always knew it would happen!
I worked for a while as a CTO in the Digital Signage industry. As usual, I was prone to making wild predictions about the future. One of them was that, at some point in the next ten years, we would have video screens on beer pumps.
Well, what can I say? Nine years later, we have video screens on beer pumps (well, the soft drinks dispenser beside them). I rest my case.
I'm not always this prescient. Much of what I predicted then hasn't happened, but for very good reasons which were largely unforeseeable then.
Have you heard the expression 'Black Swan Event'? It's an event that changes everything and it's completely unexpected. Nine-eleven is the obvious example. The collapse of the Soviet Union is another.
In the technical world, you could probably say that the invention of the microprocessor was a Black Swan event. Perhaps, too, the arrival of the IBM PC.
For me, the biggest Black Swan event – ever – in technology was the announcement of the iPhone. This really did change everything. It marked the point when a telephone would start to become a Sat Nav, a video camera, a really good stills camera, a voice recorder, a video player, an iPod, a high resolution colour display and, basically, an all-round handheld computer that's today more powerful than many current laptops and all of them from just a few years ago. The App system heralded a revolution in virtualisation that's still underway.
It certainly blew all my ideas for the Digital Signage industry away. My vision was that shopping malls would be draped with interactive video screens and that eyeball recognition (just like in Minority Report) would channel personalised adverts and special offers to customers as they walked past.
I now realise that this was naive, not just because most people don't want to be chased around like this – not just because nobody wants to see video screens everywhere they look – but most of all, because none of this is necessary today.
The phone has largely taken over the interactive role of large video screens. It's the ultimate personal device and, with texting and email, it's easy for advertisers and retailers to target their audiences precisely. And we've only begun to use the mobile platform's full potential.
Nearly ten years ago, it was easy to predict video beer pumps. These days, it's hard to know even what's going to happen this afternoon.