Phantom billboards snap data for advertisers

Published on the 22/07/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

Locky Dock e-bike chargers

E-bike stations create new source of ad analytics…

New digital advertising screens around Christchurch – and soon to be installed in Wellington and Auckland – are providing a wealth of analytics for both advertisers and councils, while also providing free charging and locking stations for electric bikes.

The Locky Docks, from electric bike retailer Big Street Bikers, combine a smart city locking and charging system for e-bikes – using an AT card or the app to unlock/lock and book slots – with a double-sided advertising screen.

Cleve Cameron, founding director of Big Street Bikers, says the company, which began two years ago, quickly realised that there were two major barriers to people getting onto e-bikes: The fear of the bike being stolen and a lack of awareness of where safe bike paths were.

“We’ll have metrics that are incredibly useful for retailers and planners, as well as the advertisers.”

Investigations into locking stations found only a couple of companies providing what Cameron calls ‘smart city locking systems or 21st Century docks.

Locky Docks combines the locking and charging system with the advertising screen which subsidises the rollout of the docks and makes the initiative more scalable.

The screen includes a technology from digital signage analytics company Quividi and a camera. Anonymised data is collected, providing insight including how many people have passed the screen, at what time, how long they were looking at it, and the demographics, age and sex.

And it’s ‘scarily accurate’ Ben Stonyer, marketing manager for Phantom Billstickers, which handles the advertising on the screens, told iStart.

“It did add a few years to my age, but I’d just had a newborn so I was looking pretty haggard, but it got my colleague’s age spot on.”

Cameron believes the combination of the locking system with the advertising screens and analytics abilities to make the offering free to users, makes it ‘a bit of a world first’.

“It’s a communications, secure parking, data collection, infrastructural node,” says Cameron, laughing. “There’s a whole lot of tech in there that we haven’t announced.”

The advertising on one side of the screen subsidises the initiative, enabling the locking and charging stations to be offered free to users – in a move aimed at further driving e-bike usage.

The other side of the screen provides wayfinding and advertising for key supporter Mercury Energy.

The concept was pitched to councils around New Zealand, with Christchurch City Council up and running – or should that be biking? – first. Ten screens are already in place around Christchurch, with Wellington and Auckland expected to be up and running within six months. Consents for Wellington are currently being finalised.

The screens were installed during level three lockdown and in the first month of operation, 580,000 people – slightly more male, slightly more on the young side – walked past the Christchurch Locky Dock sites.

“That tells us that people are out and about again,” says Stonyer. “Whereas with car traffic we saw bit of a ramp up – four to six weeks before it was back to pre-Covid levels.”

While the data is useful on an advertising front, enabling advertisers to ensure they’re hitting the markets they’re interested in, and will be even more useful as programmatic advertising becomes more mainstream, it also has potential in providing data for businesses and councils.

Cameron notes that much of the data collected elsewhere is about road traffic, not pedestrian counts.

He cites the example of Ponsonby Business Association, which he says is keen to have analytics on pedestrian traffic and dwell time.

“With Locky Docks along Ponsonby Road we’ll have metrics on the pedestrian count footfall, and that becomes incredibly useful for retailers and planners, as well as the advertisers.”

But it’s not just the screens capturing information. Cameron says the docks themselves are providing a wealth of data – such as how many people are parking bikes at a site, how often and for how long – to enable future planning.

“One of the things for councils is they don’t have visibility on the usage of things. Now we can start to learn people’s habits to enable better planning,” he says.

As to the future, Cameron told iStart he’s got ‘heaps’ of plans.

The company is already working with Niwa to install air pollution sensors on each Locky Dock, and solar panel roofs and rain water collection to feed plants underneath are planned as are phone charging stations.

The screens are interactive, enabling both touch screen and gesture control, but that feature hasn’t yet been harnessed, with Stonyer noting that touching public property thing has gone out of vogue at the moment, for obvious reasons.

“We want to use that tech in the future. There is opportunity for some really cool interactive stuff.”

Cameron envisages a future where the users can view the wayfinding map, and book with providers direct from the screen, with vouchers or tickets sent via Bluetooth to the users phone.

“The interactive wayfinding nature of the screens is going to be awesome for domestic tourism,” he says.

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