From restaurant specials to weather alerts, this is not your average Arlington Heights street sign
From a distance, it looks like any old street sign on a nondescript city street corner pole.
But upon closer inspection, there's LED pixels, movement and sound -- a piece of kinetic art that hearkens to the directional placards that dot streetscapes throughout cities and suburbs.
"It's a modern take on the wayfinding sign," Sajid Patel, CEO and co-founder of Optimal Design, said of his company's Points Sign, which the Arlington Heights-based technology firm has patented.
"It's the most advanced wayfinding sign in the world," added Michael Ottoman, the company's vice president of digital solutions, who is taking the prototype out to market.
Airports, casinos, cruise ships, shopping malls, theme parks, stadiums, colleges and businesses on six continents already are expressing interest.
But first, the digital sign had its initial public unveiling late last month in downtown Arlington Heights, just four miles from the company's office headquarters where engineers and artists have been working on it. The prototype should be refined and ready to withstand the weather and outdoor elements for a permanent installation in spring 2023, in time for the start of the annual Arlington Alfresco outdoor dining zone, Patel said.
Patel and Ottoman envision the corner of Vail Avenue and Campbell Street -- the heart of the Alfresco area -- as the ideal spot for the first sign. They also hope to eventually install a sign at the prospective entertainment campus surrounding a new Chicago Bears stadium at the Arlington Park property, should the redevelopment come to fruition.
"We know (the sign is) going to be global, but it's going to really start very local," Patel said.
With three movable LED signs atop the 10-foot pole, the panels display real-time messages pertinent to their surroundings, from how many tables are available at a nearby restaurant, to Metra train timetables. Any governmental emergency alerts, like weather and Amber Alerts, get precedence.
"The sign would orient itself and say, at Salsa 17 starting at 6 o'clock, there's $7 margaritas or something. And then later it would spin around and say there's a band playing at Peggy Kinnane's. There's a lot of different inputs on this," said Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Recklaus. "It's a thing that people would be drawn to, and it would be yet another thing that would kind of set our downtown experience apart because it's not something that anyone's seen before."
The village would have control of the sign and approve all messages -- done through a secure portal on a tablet, PC or Mac as part of a cloud-based system. And the cost of the sign would be recouped by selling advertisements to local business who want their messages on the street panels, under a lease-to-own arrangement that's part of the Points Sign's business model.
Pedestrians also will be able to search for things like local events and shopping and dining locales by turning and pushing a streetside dial.
The sign is customizable; some municipalities in talks with Optimal Design want to put a camera atop the pole for public safety purposes. And while the sign has sensors to know how many people are at a given intersection at one time, it doesn't have facial recognition technology, Patel and Ottoman said.
They said the sensors are only able to detect blurs of red heat and the direction of travel.
Among other ways prospective clients want to accessorize their sign, the tech firm is working to affix a scanning device, whereby airport travelers would be able to scan boarding passes, and the sign panels would point to where their flights are.
"It's the right information to the right consumer at the right time," Ottoman said.