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WATERLOO, Ont. — There is a reason retailers prefer to use static signage tools like clings and decals on their windows instead of dynamic displays like TVs. That is because TVs and monitors block window space and look dim in bright conditions.
But imagine if TVs were transparent and looked as vibrant as a decal under the sunlight. Retailers could constantly change their ads on windows, and not have to compromise the aesthetics of their storefront. That is what Lumotune is enabling retailers to do, through a transparent digital screen.
In 2011 Matin Esfahani, Hooman Safaee, and Shafi Siddiqi began work on building transparent displays as a fourth-year engineering project. In April 2013, shortly after graduating from the University of Waterloo’s Nanotechnology Engineering program, they incorporated the company Lumotune and dedicated their lives to building transparent displays.
Lumotune comes from the Latin word “lumen” meaning light, and Anglo-French “tune” meaning adjust. The company is focused not on producing light, as most display companies are doing, but rather adjusting light.
Lumotune’s technology uses the surrounding light in the environment to show an image to the viewer, much like a poster. This means it does not cause light pollution and is a much friendlier medium to show information.
Lumotune is primarily selling their product to quick service restaurants (QSRs).
The product comes as a piece of glass that can be attached to storefront windows. The glass is connected to a small adapter through a wire which plugs into a power outlet. The glass is WiFi connected and receives all information through the Internet.
The message on the glass can be adjusted from anywhere in the world. “The best ROI will be for people with multiple businesses,” Safaee said. “They could control all storefronts in all locations, or customize them. Our technology allows stores to conduct A/B testing [of two different versions]; if something is doing really well, they can just go with that promotion.”
“It will be a long journey until we’ll be able to turn all surfaces into digital screens,” says Esfahani, the company’s chief executive officer. “For now, we are targeting storefronts of quick service restaurants, because they have an immediate problem that we can solve with our current technology. We want to give them the ability to perpetually change what their storefront says.”
“No restaurant front is alike, and we made sure we took this into account while designing our screens,” said Siddiqi. “We have the ability to cut the screens to the exact sizes of different windows, and easily retrofit them on top of existing glass.
“Our screens give the owner the ability to display information on their windows in a more dynamic and customized manner. At the push of a button, you can convert your glass to electronic blinds, a dynamic messaging board, or simply have it appear as a regular window.”
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