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Smart OOH For Smart Cities

By Soneeta Sethi - June 23, 2016

The idea of a smart city is to bring in an inclusive growth through development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. Now, how important is the role of OOH in the development and sustenance of a city and what will this industry gain in the long run?

A very ambitious government at the centre has started its work in presenting brand India to the world market. India is moving from a pure agrarian economy to one of urban economy driven by digital technology where better living is the key for every citizen. Creating Smart Cities is definitely the right step on this path of progress. Cities, after all are the driving force for the economic growth of a nation. So, with the increasing urbanisation, urban areas are expected to house 40% of India's population and contribute 75% of India's GDP by 2030. And with the current Smart City Project, GOI plans to develop 100 smart cities across the country.

The idea of a smart city is to bring in an inclusive growth through development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. Now, how important is the role of OOH in the development and sustenance of a city and what will this industry gain in the long run?

There are two main aspects to look into on how OOH and smart cities can collaborate for a bigger cause.
- What Smart Cities can offer OOH industries.
- What the OOH industry can give back to the cities.

An insight into the first aspect tells us that Smart Cities will be designed to improve the quality of life and increase the investment opportunities. This would require building infrastructures that would improve transportation, facilitate better living standards and provide a good work-life balance. Projects like escalator based Foot Over Bridges, modern stainless steel BQSs, public conveniences and street furniture will change the look and feel of the city. These infrastructure can provide immense opportunity for OOH industry to explore. And with increased and improved transportation, the industry will also get a vast transit medium to bank on. Looking at this win-win situation, it is imperative that the OOH industry should collaborate with the civic bodies to be a part in developing smart cities.

C.D.V Subba Rao, CEO, Prakash Arts who has done many projects in Bangalore on a PPP basis said that one should not just rely on the work and cooperation from civic authorities. "As citizens, media owners should take responsibility to beautify the city. This can be done through smart and innovative advertising. Infrastructure like FOB, transit medium and public convenience should be given a modern touch that also serve the purpose of quick and easy communication,” C.D.V Subba Rao, CEO, Prakash Arts says.

Benefits that the city will get from the industry are many. When we talk of OOH, we only talk of hoardings and billboards sprouting all across the city making it cluttered and an aesthetic nightmare. A smart city would need smart thinking and that's where OOH can help in not only beautifying the city but also by being a medium of information, communication and business.

Indrajit Sen, Representative of Indian Outdoor Advertising Association, says, "OOH in a Smart City should have elegant unipoles with scrolling displays or digital displays, neat bus shelters with signage indicating schedule for next bus to arrive, a well-lit tower with revolving display, a beautifully laid out park, well-lit parking areas, public toilets - clean and pleasant - conveniently located, digital signages that also guide on traffic density, directions to nearby places of interest and also provide latest news.”

PPP projects where media owners can invest in building structures like bus shelters, FOBs, public toilet etc. and hold the rights of media ownership on them is a way where both OOH industry and civic authorities can work together to build better facilities for people. Green advertising is steadily increasing in an attempt to court new generations of eco-savvy consumers.

Media owners can enable their advertising panel with solar panels that reduce power usage. This can even lead to positive power ROI and reduced CO2 emission. This is not only innovative but also a positive step towards a greener environment. Shripad Ashtekar, Director, Street Talk Connect Pvt. Ltd./ Signpost India Pvt. Ltd says, " We must emphasis on creating renewable energy, water harvesting and green technology enabled structures and signage.

What's the problem?

The opportunities are innumerable for the outdoor industry and they are not restricted to just smart cities. Then what is it that is stopping the industry to grow in its full glory?

"For OOH to prosper in Smart Cities, industry players need to gain in-depth knowledge, invest in resources and strengthen their R&D efforts to design smart street furniture that is both functional and aesthetic. They need to come out with concrete long term plans and must move over billboards as the only form of OOH,” says Pramod Bhandula, Executive Chairman, JCDecaux Advertising India Pvt. Ltd.  

Atul Srivastava, CEO, Laqshya opines, "Most of the projects are awarded on BOT Basis, investment is crucial and it must be arranged. It is needless to say that technology and innovation must be upgraded to meet the global standards.”      

Besides, media owners should also take responsibility to maintain assets that they create on a sustained basis over their entire contracted life - which is expected to be at least 10 to 15 years as per the policies envisaged.

Mukesh Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, Graphisads Pvt.Ltd. suggests, "We need to take up the issue of outdoor media's importance through the industry body with the respective civic authorities and impress the need for framing policies for organised outdoor media in these smart cities. All the cities will then follow a uniform rule so that everything is in black & white.”

Smart cities can only be possible when when businesses and civic bodies work together to modernise the place with clean, green and sustainable technology. OOH industry plays a very vital role in connecting these businesses to the common people, be it digital advertising, transit medium or interactive billboards. All that is needed now is right polices at the government level and right attitude of the outdoor industry players towards building a Smart City.

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