Traditional digital signage has always been hard-pressed to demonstrate a real, measurable impact on customer experience and behavior. In early 2020, Synect embarked on designing a next-generation visual communication program to go beyond digital signage by providing meaningful results, measurement, and insight.
Synect’s long-term innovation partner the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA was the first to adopt the system. It was implemented at the Orlando International Airport (MCO) in late 2020.
The background for the experiment was the 2020 declaration of a national emergency related to the COVID pandemic. Both partners were eager to explore if visual communications could create a safer environment and better passenger experience when many people were hesitant to travel.
Synect and GOAA had two sets of objectives for this program. The first related to using visual communications to drive real-world impact on passengers, namely:
Influencing passenger behavior
Driving measurable results
Providing insight for optimizing results
Developing a roadmap for future results-oriented visual communication programs
The second set of objectives related to federal and local guidelines for traveling in 2020 and their effect on passenger experience. Those objectives were:
Encouraging passengers to maintain six feet of distance between parties
Delivering health-related messaging in a calming, friendly way
Synect approached leading scientists for insight. A team of researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the London Business School, and the Yale School of Management helped develop a framework to positively impact passenger behavior using visual communication. Using an approach grounded in behavioral economics and scientific literature, the team defined five guiding principles to establish a clear norm of compliance and increase internal motivation.
The core concept was to use crowd-tracking technology to monitor a given space's crowd density and visually communicate that information and strategic messaging to passengers. The science team devised a plan for testing and optimizing content using A/B testing of various nudges, including generic calls to “go towards green” to avoid crowds, authoritative messaging about CDC guidelines, prosocial messaging about protecting others, and pro-self messaging about staying healthy.
Synect and the scientists worked toward a program to increase social distancing compliance, boost passenger confidence, and facilitate acceptance of health protocols. The system needed the ability to track and measure crowd data, behavior and compliance, impact, and the response based on various message types.
Power in Numbers
Synect’s Evenflow Crowd Radar was the result. The implementation at MCO measured crowd density in public areas and delivered that data to passengers as helpful, visual information that changes in response to real-time airport activity. It also measured their response, and the effectiveness of different messages, using anonymous tracking. While the MCO program focused on social distancing, the system is endlessly flexible and customizable to measure any message, behavior, or response.
In the implementation at MCO, Synect’s ReadySeeGo® units displayed color-coded maps and messages. Custom-designed Social Lights displayed green, yellow, and red statuses as crowds changed in real time.
These easily consumable visuals helped passengers decide where to go, where to sit, and how to maintain social distancing. Soothing colors and messages decreased passenger anxiety.
Synect designed the system using the ReadySeeGo platform to enable quick, construction-free installation. High-resolution Lidar sensors from The Indoor Lab enabled crowd density tracking.
Synect deployed the solution just before the Thanksgiving holiday season of 2020 at MCO’s gates 101 through 109. For two weeks, the system tracked data anonymously without visual messaging or communication occurring. After gathering that baseline data, Synect activated the displays, social lights, and visual communication.
Content was changed at regular intervals, and the effect on passenger behavior was tracked in real-time.
The implementation made MCO first in the world to trial Evenflow Crowd Radar. The pilot concluded in late January of 2021. The results of the pilot indicated massive success and statistically significant impact. When displaying visual indicators accompanied by nudges focused on personal or public benefits, the system increased social distancing between approximately 9 and 16 percentage points. Of the content and messaging tested, prosocial and pro-self messaging had the greatest positive impact. In contrast, authoritative messaging performed the worst, providing no statistical impact and at times decreasing social distancing. These results aligned with the scientist’s predictions.
The scientist team reported their research in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed journal. The article Prosocial nudges and visual indicators increase social distancing, but authoritative nudges do not summarized the results, stating: “Our results demonstrate that visual indicators and informed nudges can boost social distancing and potentially curb the spread of contagious diseases.”
Dr. Dafna Goor, Assistant Professor of Marketing, London Business School and a leader on the science team, shared on Forbeshow the visual communication and messaging strategy can be used by business and political leaders as an effective response to public health emergencies. Dr. Good writes: ‘We analysed data for over 57,000 travellers and discovered that visual indicators affected social distancing. Importantly, by adding nudges to visual indicators, we found that some nudges boost social distancing, while others do not. Our data showed that the best way to get people to socially distance is to encourage them to do it for the benefit of others.”
The installation was also a success with travelers. People posted on MCO’s social media pages with sentiments including: “We saw these yesterday and loved them! Great idea!!” and “I really appreciated this when I was flying home earlier this month!”
The Evenflow installation won a Gala Award for Best Airport Installation at Digital Signage Week and a first-place Digital Signage Award for visualization of dynamic, integrated data for business purposes.
This historic project demonstrates how airports can use visual communication to solve operational challenges and provides compelling data on how Synect’s approach to behavioral impact, measurement, and optimization will drive digital signage implementations in the future.
Increase Social Distancing
Help Passengers Identify Open Areas
Deliver Friendly Health-Related Messaging