Although we began using the Internet by surfing it, increasingly we’re living inside it.
Take those big screens — called digital signage — in bars, restaurants, airports, sports arenas, and stores.
To increase the ways you can turn any such screen into “a giant smartphone” instead of just a display of canned information, digital signage platform Enplug is today launching a software development kit (SDK) for creating native apps as well as an App Marketplace.
The Los Angeles-based company says this is the first such marketplace of third-party apps for the growing population of display screens.
Enplug supports about a thousand screens worldwide over its platform, ranging from 32-inchers to the occasional Jumbotron. Stores and other venues buy the company’s $150 net-connected box and plug it into any screen, or they can use a Mac, PC, or Android device with the company’s software player to drive the connected display. Although multiple screens can be set up to show the same content, it’s generally one screen per box or Mac/PC/Android device.
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The platform already provides some apps to its customers, like one showing the weather and another one showing curated posts to a store’s social accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
In the latter app, in-store customers can post photos of themselves wearing clothes they’ve just purchased, viewing themselves on a screen in the same store. Cultural psychologists will one day have the perspective to make sense of this kind of shopping narcissism, but for now it is apparently seen by stores as a way to engage customers.
To add to the platform’s inventory, outside developers can now create an app, submit it for approval to Enplug, and then offer it to subscribing venues through the online management dashboard.
What kind of apps? Waitlist Me has created the Marketplace’s first outside app, which allows restaurants to show pending reservations and waitlists.
The company said that developers are creating maps showing local transportation routes and schedules, as well as ones displaying live status reports on the nearest Uber car.
An app to rate staff is another possibility for restaurants that are not worried their waitpeople are already over-evaluated. And, for bars looking for new ways of keeping people seated and drinking, there’s the possibility of a wide variety of single-player and multi-player games.
If a developer wants to charge for an app, the Enplug customer is redirected from the Marketplace to the outside site for payment. Enplug said it is not taking a cut.
Competitors in this space include Scala and Four Winds Interactive, marketing director Ryan Gushue told me. For differentiating factors, he pointed to Enplug’s easier-to-use Web dashboard, open platform, emphasis on social apps, and now the new Marketplace.