Illustration: Civiq, The Miami Herald
“Digital ads could spread across Miami-Dade bus stops under a deal to install high-tech kiosks with Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the county’s transit system.
The company behind New York’s celebrated transformation of old pay phones into high-tech digital way stations has negotiated a 15-year deal with Miami-Dade officials to install up to 300 of the kiosks at bus stops and Metrorail stations across the county.
Civiq also would take over the transit system’s current Wi-Fi network on all of its trains, expanding the service to all buses at no charge. The Massachusetts company pays for the equipment and operating expenses through digital advertising on the kiosks, and sees enough profit potential in Miami-Dade that it has pledged to spend $20 million in the county to get started…
Critics see the Civiq arrangement as a way to circumvent county restrictions on digital ads, which are strictly regulated and the bane of public-space activists. ‘It’s pure visual pollution,’ said Peter Ehrlich, a founder of Scenic Miami, a group that fights digital billboards.
Dusty Melton, a Miami-Dade lobbyist who has urged strict enforcement of the county’s sign ordinance, said Civiq’s digital kiosks could be considered roadside ads if installed at bus stops.
‘This contract appears, quite clearly, to be in blatant violation of the county’s very own sign code,’ Melton said.
Along with a requirement that digital signs be limited to properties larger than 10 acres, Melton noted the current law requires the electronic ads only advertise things available on the property with the sign itself. Bus-stop screens, he said, would seem to violate the rules ‘in hundreds of locations…
Alice Bravo, Miami-Dade’s transportation director, said at a recent committee meeting that county staff did not feel the county’s signage rules applied because the kiosks’ screens are designed for pedestrians.
‘These are small, isolated screens,’ she said. ‘They’re not designed for viewing by vehicular traffic.’
Bravo and other administrators negotiated the no-bid Civiq deal under a provision in county law that allows marketing arrangements to be signed without soliciting other proposals. No Civiq executives registered to lobby county officials during the talks, avoiding a step that can draw public attention to a potential deal…
Civiq is pitching its services to local governments across the country, but a company publicist said the closest example to Miami at the moment is New York.
In its online presentation, an executive with Civiq’s kiosk partner, Intel, described the use of cameras on advertising displays that can track a viewer’s gaze for interest and customize displays to match a passerby’s niche.
‘If a woman is looking at a screen’, Intel’s Karthik Murugan said, ‘you don’t want to show men’s clothing.’
Murugan also said three-dimensional cameras in the devices can help decipher whether an advertiser’s message is connecting. Along with ‘gaze tracking’, new technology allows emotion detection.
‘Are they happy? Are they frustrated with the content that’s being shown?’Murugan said. ‘The 3-D camera will help with that analysis.’
The Massachusetts Company pays for the equipment and operating expenses through digital advertising on the kiosks, and sees enough profit potential in Miami-Dade that it has pledged to spend $20 Million in the county to get started…
But while ads may come to transit’s Wi-Fi offerings, Civiq would also expand the service beyond the roughly 200 buses that have it now to the entire 850-vehicle fleet. And Miami-Dade could stop paying Wi-Fi providers for the current service, since Civiq would pick up the tab…’
–Douglas Hanks, The Miami Herald