Street signage may be about to become smart and social, providing not only basic info for city passers-by but also services linked to commercial brands.

Points: Signage for the City of the Future that Can Be Fed from Social Networks

Urban street signage today provides only static directions or indicates the sites of buildings and fixed landmarks. In an era when objects in the physical world are increasingly becoming interconnected and when city environments are transforming to adapt to the multifarious needs of citizens, what new services should city signage be providing? Having worked for some years on a project linking urban information and commercial offers, the New York-based firm Breakfast has now launched ‘Points’, a directional signpost that takes feeds, from, among other sources, social networks. The signpost arms can turn through 360° in order to direct passers-by to the places they want to go to.

A customisable signpost, linked to social networks

Breakfast’s new Points signpost is 2.7 metres high. It has three rotating arms set at 0.9m from the top and a touchscreen menu on a panel at a convenient user height. Practical information on the city, tweets, etc, change on an ongoing basis as appropriate, as do the rotating arms, depending on the time of day, what is happening in the surrounding areas, or in response to an individual request. The menu might for instance display options such as ‘Breakfast’ or ‘Coffee’ in the morning, and ‘Dinner’ or ‘Drinks’ in the evening. If a passer-by selects ‘Transit’ on the touchscreen, the signpost arms will point to the nearest public transportation stations and at the same time provide detailed information, such as walking distance and estimated time of arrival. The system also draws on data from social networks, notably Twitter and Foursquare, plus RSS feeds and transport APIs to indicate what special events are currently taking place in the neighbourhood and suggest the most interesting places for the city’s inhabitants or tourists to go at that particular time.

Multi-functional, multi-situational

“The basic functionality serves to direct passers-by to places that interest them,” explains Andrew Zolty, Creative Director at Breakfast, adding: “But it also provides many innovative opportunities for commercial brands.” The Points directional signpost certainly looks likely to prove useful in the smart city or smart street of tomorrow, but it could also be used now during conferences, concerts and sports events, displaying in real time tweets linked to sponsors in addition to the basic practical information on the event. Retail brands might well envisage setting up this kind of signpost to guide customers in the absence of a physical store and/or disseminate social network messages linked to the brand during a specific advertising campaign.