Intelligent digital signage looks to reshape mobile advertising in ways that make the SMS model of yesteryear look more like a homemade flyer taped to a downtown kiosk.

Over the past couple years, mobile has proven its effectiveness at reaching a targeted audience in ways that drive engagement in incredibly unique ways. Add to that the ability for brands to track the effectiveness of their mobile campaigns through realtime feedback and make changes on the fly, and mobile becomes one of the most cost-effective tools in a marketer’s belt.

GameTime Media TableMagnaGlobal Advertising’s 2011 Forecast suggests that mobile ad spend will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4 percent from 2011 to 2016. That’s second only to ad spend for online video, which MagnaGlobal expects to increase at a CAGR of 19.8 percent during the same time period.

It’s probably no coincidence that No. 3 on MagnaGlobal’s list, Digital Out of Home (DOOH) – digital displays – which is forecast to grow from $2.6 billion in 2011 to $5.2 billion in 2016, is quietly converging with mobile advertising in some innovative ways. While these are trial-and-error days for the interaction between DOOH and mobile, the budgets being thrown at mobile campaigns are anything but experimental, hence the drive to facilitate the interaction between mobile and other channels.

In its report, MagnaGlobal notes that its forecast points to the fact that “interaction with mobile devices, especially with short code messages, has made the medium more engaging for consumers as well,” which in turn means good things for advertisers who can bring DOOH and mobile together in an engaging campaign.

Add to this equation new technologies like NFC and 4G networks and the picture makes SMS look more antiquated than the telegram.

Jennifer Bolt, senior vice president of strategy for rVue, a company that provides a DOOH media planning tool to facilitate collaboration among the agencies, brands and networks, says that mobile is the perfect complement to DOOH and vice versa.

“There’s an opportunity for, first and foremost, every piece of creative that runs on Digital Out of Home to incorporate a call to action from the mobile perspective,” Bolt said.

Jennifer BoltBolt says that mobile could be the tool that proves out the efficacy of DOOH. Likewise, she says DOOH could help further the case to be made for advertising on the mobile.

It used to be that marketing to shoppers was confined to the store itself, but Bolt says that’s all changing, as consumers now have the power to shop and purchase right on their mobiles. “There’s the opportunity for a consumer to make a purchase whenever and wherever they happen to be through their mobile device,” shesays.

That presents a problem for retailers looking to keep bargainhunting customers in their stores, as opposed to going across the street where the item they’re looking for is less expensive.

But Bolt says it’s also an opportunity for retailers if they use available technology in the right way. She says digital signage might one day be able to draw a user’s attention from their smartphone and offer them a discount or matching price on whatever it is they happen to be shopping for. It’s a future-looking concept, she says, but NFC could definitely make it possible.

So are brands really aware of what’s happening in mobile? Bolt says the evidence that they are is building daily.

“Mobile is picking up steam rapidly from a media perspective,” she says. “For agencies that are still rooted in traditional media, they’re still dipping their toe in the water, whereas some of these other agencies that maybe are more engaged in mobile already are wondering how do I make it work harder.”

Making technology work harder for marketers is one of the aims of Alcatel-Lucent’s ng Connect Program, which seeks to facilitate collaboration between various technology and media segments. The hope is to create a symbiotic evolution of everything from networks to video games. Ng Connect brings app developers together with marketers and smartphone OEMs together with video game makers, allowing a cross-pollination of technologies and services.

Nash ParkerSo what are the fruits of this kind of collaboration? Nash Parker, director of emerging technology for Alcatel-Lucent, offers the GameTime Media Tableas an example. It’s a low table, such as you might find in a hotel lounge or bar, the surface of which is actually a 46-inch multi-touch screen; the table is also connected to Verizon’s 4G LTE, a feature Parker says is the ultimate game changer.

“We can talk about bandwidth ’til we’re blue in the face; people need to see what increased bandwidth can do,” Parker says, adding that the Gametime Media Table is one example of how bigger pipes could revolutionize the way smartphones are leveraged in the marketing and advertising play.

The Media Table tethers with the phone. Users opt-in to the service, essentially creating an account, which identifies them and allows them to interact with any table or screen that runs the MediaTable software. After that, the sky’s the limit.

“It’s a commerce model, it’s an anti-churn model for the carrier, and it’s a content delivery model,” Parker says, adding that this type of hardware could be sponsored by virtually any brand, promoting engagement in a variety of ways.

Alcatel-Lucent has partnered with a company called Brass Monkey, which provides software that taps a smartphone’s motion sensors, allowing users to control multi-player video games on the table. Imagine the same technology being used in digital movie theaters, where consumers might be presented with a call to action before the feature starts, wherein they might text a shortcode to a number and then be given control of a game piece on the movie screen for a certain amount of time.

“Somebody has to pay for all this,” Parker concedes, but he’s not short on business models. “Budweiser might buy them. Hilton might buy them…or you might even have models where, because you have 4G LTE and there’s Wi-Fi out on these things, it might be worth it for a coffee shop to have one of these…It’s a good way of having a centerpiece that is more than just TV.”

But in the end, Parker says the business model for something that mashes so many technologies and different types of media together will figure itself out. “When I see, as I did last week, account managers coming down to take pictures of the table to take back to their clients…then I think maybe the time is right for this kind of thing.”

Roger Sanford, executive producer and vice president of Media Services for MediaTile, a company that worked on the MediaTable concept and designs intelligent digital signage, says that digital signage will facilitate a blurring of the lines between mobile and other screens.

“We can’t have dumb signs anymore. They’ve gotta be as smart, or smarter, than what I have in my hand,” Sanford says, adding that MediaTile hopes to be instrumental in that evolution.

Sanford is a 4G evangelist. Like Parker of Alcatel-Lucent, he says that more robust networks mean rich marketing experiences that will actually entertain, inform and delight users.

A real world example? MediaTile recently deployed LTE-enabled signage for Buick at the Future of the Midwest show. Users could approach one of the signs and using Google Maps, pick historic sights they wanted to see – like blues clubs or restaurants – and create a route that included those points of interest. When they were done picking their route, the signage produced a unique QR Code, which the user captured with their phone; their route was then transferred to their phone. The user then took their unique route on their phone to one of the Buick reps at the show and could go on a test drive in one of Buick’s cars that included all of the points on their route.

Virtual Concierge“While the key elements of what a sign should do, which is inform and tell you things, we think that a sign now in this world needs to be interactive and relevant to you, so that you can go find the information you really want,” Sanford says.

Sanford says QR Codes are currently a good way of creating interaction with digital signage, but technologies like NFC are bound to be employed in novel ways.

When asked whether the concept will be too complicated for consumers to understand and use, Sanford responds: not at all. He says these kinds of interactions between the mobile and larger displays are the natural evolution of the technology.

“It’s going to be even easier than SMS,” he says. “I’m on record as saying voice is the next killer app. Touch is the current killer app...Voice will be a major player and the way I’ll receive information will be visually. So I’ll say it and then I’ll get information back in my ear or visually.”

Sanford says for both marketers and end users, larger displays will mean easier access to their content and information while on the go. 4G networks are important, he says, because they’ll be necessary to quickly access information in the cloud from any device.

Media Hotspot“What I see as the biggest trend going forward is that people are going to have gigantic personal storage lockers [in the cloud]. People are going to have their own place, with their own identity, where they’ll have their encrypted files and they’ll be able to access it when and where they want,” Sanford says.

So what’s the cumulative effect of this kind of technological concoction? Nothing short of revolutionary, says Sanford, giving much of the credit for that jump to next-generation networks.

“The challenge that the brands have, even with the Web, is that they can’t really reach through to their end user,” he says. “But what happens with 4G LTE, is the brand can reach all the way through the channel to the individual. And that’s something we haven’t seen since the ’50s when they put people on street corners to go talk to people because the world’s population was so small that you could afford to do that.”

Imagine reading a copy of Sports Illustrated on a giant touchscreen table while waiting for your plane. When your plane is about to take off, you just tap a button and purchase a digital copy of the issue you’re reading and it transfers right to your phone. Imagine walking up to a vending machine, the front of which is a giant 4G-enabled touchscreen, that automatically taps your phone’s secure profile (which you’ve provisioned) and allows you to take a look at your photos or check email for five minutes once you’ve made a purchase.

It all sounds a little “Starship Enterprise,” but these models are based on existing technologies that already are being deployed. The relationship between humans and their beloved Droids and iPhones is a decidedly personal one, but certainly not a sacred one from the perspective of big brands that figuratively and literally want to be in the consumer’s pocket. Through the use of ubiquitous DOOH gatewaysand riding on the back of high-speed networks, marketers are hoping that consumers will see the value in taking their calls whenever and wherever they happen to be.