Don’t Let Smartphones Hijack the Tenant Experience

2007 was a dynamic year. As the global financial crisis began to dominate the news, consumers were greeted with a transformation of their own: the introduction of the iPhone, the first smartphone to truly take off. It was one of the most disruptive product launches in recent memory, and its arrival signalled a new world in which information access would become almost instantaneous no matter the user’s location or activity.

The benefits of mobile connectivity are too numerous to explain here. But one downside is the negative impact of smartphones of cognition. As an extension of that, cell phones often also seem to limit engagement with our surroundings. The obvious example is driver distraction while texting and driving. But it isn’t just in cars. We walk through city streets and the hallways of our own homes staring at screens all day long.

A diverse group of built environment entrepreneurs is attempting to bring attention back to our surroundings by using digital screens to display a range of content. Art studio Wrapped uses their screens to display dynamic, moving art. Digital video and display company Captivate produces targeted content to captive audiences, whether in the lobby or the elevator. It’s a win win: buildings get a message board, tenants get content that is more contextually relevant than what is usually accessible via smartphone, and the opportunities to customize content are endless. But what does it take to keep people engaged with that content?

“Currently the biggest factors in determining the content mix are tenant types and dwell time. Dwell time in front of the screen is typically longer inside of the elevator each day and therefore we publish a greater mix of stories on our elevator environment to avoid repetition,” said Barb Huggett, GM of Captivate Canada. “The building/tenant composition could be considered for type of content i.e.: more financial news in buildings with primarily financial sector tenants.”

Between keying in content to the specific location in a given building for each screen and properly planning appropriate content, much of the hard work of ensuring effective displays is done. But keeping content specifically relevant to the surrounding neighborhood is important as well. Plenty of buildings offer local area discount clubs for their tenants. Utilizing screens to broadcast updates and timely deals is another option to keep space users engaged.

Whether it’s financial content or local news, properly planned screens can make a space much more interactive than a simple painting or static bulletin board. These devices may not have the power of an iPhone, but for the day to day experience within a building, they can make all the difference between boring and elevated.

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Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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