Now, an embedded system for monitoring outdoor advertising

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | January 23, 2009
Emerging Technology is launching an embedded hoarding illumination monitoring system for outdoor advertising

As & #BANNER1 & # the abacus has given way to the calculator, technology firm Emerging Technology has created a 'calculator' for the outdoor advertising industry, which it claims will do away with the need for manual monitoring. With the launch of its 'embedded system', media owners will no longer need to rely on manual monitoring of outdoor sites.

Emerging Technology engages in the design and development of real-time systems for applications in automation, monitoring and control systems with a view to assist corporations build defensible USPs in their product range. The company conceptualises, devises architecture, and designs and develops white label systems as per industry requirements.

It has now successfully developed an embedded system, called the Hoarding Illumination Monitoring (HIM) system, which can be attached to outdoor advertising sites such as hoardings, bus queue shelters, LCDs and LEDs. These will compute, record and even send updates to clients about their display's illumination and flex changes. The HIM system is installed on the site and connected to the electrical system.

The current challenges and disputable areas of the OOH business are the performance of illumination sources and unaccounted maintenance expenditure. The illuminating sources are electrically powered and their performance (or non-performance) is monitored manually at present.

Since these are electrical in nature, instantaneous failures, rather than a gradual deterioration in performance, are common. So, there are often inconsistencies between the claims of the client and those of the monitoring agency. This results in payment deductions by the client and, hence, revenue loss, in addition to the costs incurred in manual monitoring, for the agency.

The maintenance agency undertakes repairs in order to minimise the down-time. But exact replacements and repairs are difficult to ascertain. The HIM system will arrest the failures with a time stamp and the number of light source failures.

The HIM system consists of a small metal box measuring 8" x 6" and weighing less than 400 grams; it is battery backed and consumes less than 10 watts of power. The system is tamper proof and friendly to the Indian environment.

The HIM system has a dedicated microcomputer with a built-in communication unit. It sends out communication as and when the hoarding is powered on, during power blackouts, failure of electrical light sources and on replacement of the light sources. The data is time stamped and, hence, accurately computes the down-time of the hoarding. It also indicates clearly how many light sources failed.

Thus, it addresses both performance and the exact number of failed light sources. Each model can monitor up to 90-95 light sources. Besides, it also senses changes in display material. It then sends instant notification SMSes to the client. It can send these to up to 10 mobile numbers at a time.

Raj Parmar, chief executive officer, Emerging Technology, tells afaqs!, "Out of home is a growing market and there is fierce competition amongst the players. Only technological innovations will help leverage market opportunities firmly."

Parmar was a scientist with BARC after completing his Masters' degree in computer science from IIT. He has also spent a large part of his career span (25 years) in print industry. He headed the technology team of Observer India - a Reliance company and later worked with Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited (BCCL) as general manager - modernization. Parmar has also worked with BPL Mobile as CIO before he co-founded Recreate Solutions, a digital media company. He later started Emerging Technology.

Parmar shares that where a non-lit hoarding site may cost Rs 50,000 per month, a lit hoarding can cost Rs 3-4 lakh. A client, therefore, pays premium rates for the few hours of the evening that the hoarding is lit and he should get value for his money.

Currently, the sites could be monitored by three parties: the media owners, the agency and the advertiser. The monitoring is executed now by the 'feet on street' method, with people on motorcycles checking sites and ticking away in their log books. Photos from the first and last days of the campaign are sent to the client.

The advantages of using the HIM system are that the advertiser is assured of the deliverables, it enhances the credibility of the advertising site, helps manage vendor/client relationships and eliminates data presentation errors or misrepresentation. There are no extra monitoring costs during the campaign and no scope for negotiations at the billing time.

The cost of installation of each HIM system is around Rs 35,000, which is a one-time expense. In the advanced model, an SMS can be sent to the hoarding to switch off the illumination lights as well. Parmar claims that the return on investment (ROI) can be achieved in less than one year.

The company plans to launch HIM in the metros in the next couple of weeks and is currently in talks with outdoor media owners, explaining and making presentations to them on how the technology works. Parmar adds that for now, the industry has given the company a very positive response on this new technology.