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The Signpost That’s the Epitome of “Street Smart”

Another “boring” everyday item is about to get a tech-fueled facelift.

Throughout history, dating way back to the most primitive, medieval times, these items have performed two mundane, purely functional tasks: showing people where they are and which way to go in order to get to their destination.

I’m talking about signposts.

And in keeping with today’s tech-driven world, even these items aren’t immune to a makeover.

Thanks to a new design company called Breakfast, your run-of-the-mill street sign is about to be brought to life.

These Street Signs Tell You More Than Just Which Way to Go

Breakfast Co-Founder, Andrew Zolty, says his team has designed the world’s most sophisticated street sign.

Actually, make that a “smart sign.”

That’s because these signs aren’t just inanimate objects dumped on street corners. Zolty’s Points system is “alive.”

The signs know where they are and what’s around them – both physically and online.

In other words, they’re interactive with their environment. In turn, that gives people a much better sense of not only where they are, but what’s going on around them.

While traditional street signs merely point people in the right direction – toward a city, street, nearest metro station, landmark, etc. – Points does much more.

For example, because it’s online, it provides all kinds of information in real-time. For example…

  • When buses and trains are due to arrive.
  • The nearest local restaurants and pubs, along with opening hours. Again, this could change based on the time of day – coffee shops in the morning; restaurants at night.
  • Events occurring in nearby locations – sports games, concerts, theater shows, etc. As Zolty tells Humans Invent: “[Points] is able to understand via Foursquare [and other social networking sites] when something really popular has just begun to happen. We can cross-reference different social platforms and see there is clearly a bunch of people talking about something, find common words, and serve up events that may be occurring.”
  • Updating the latest news throughout the day, similar to the scrolling news tickers in Times Square.

Here’s a look at how the technology works…

The beauty of the Points system is that it’s both automated and interactive. Passersby can stop and look up a variety of information from the menus. Otherwise, Points cycles information on the signs.

As Zolty says, “We don’t want to create something that just sits there and does nothing until you interact with it. If it’s been set up to pull in news from feeds about what is happening locally, it’s constantly serving up this information whether people are interacting with it or not.”

Applications Galore

Before launching Points last month, Zolty’s design team worked on the system for three years. And he says the response has been “more than we could have ever imagined.”

In fact, due to the vast number of potential applications for it and the new ideas that people keep suggesting, he notes that it’s still a work in progress. His goal is to “get it in a bunch of places in the next six to 12 months and continually refine it.”

In today’s increasingly “techified” world, it seems nothing is off-limits. But given that our mobile devices already provide a range of smart services while we’re on the go, Zolty’s team at Breakfast clearly believes that making street signs smarter and more interactive is the next logical move.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

View More By Martin Denholm