Monday, January 17, 2022

DNP: Technology snapshot

DNP’s new Smart Capture Photography System: modernizing selfies for the ultimate guest imaging experience

by David Paul Green

Meet DNP

DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation (DNP) is not a company that most people in the general public would be familiar with, but there is a good chance that if you have visited a theme park, amusement park, zoo, aquarium or sports arena you have seen or interacted with its products. The company is known for innovative photography products that engage guests and allow venue operators to extend their reach to become part of their guests’ personal mementos and social media feeds.

Drew Temple, Technical Sales Manager for DNP, said, “If you’re coming off the street, it’s not a recognizable name brand, but DNP is the dominant provider of instant image capture photo printers, and we have continued to grow in that space.”

Smart Capture is DNP’s newest product designed for venues looking to leverage photo experiences. “Think about your favorite sporting event or favorite entertainment venue,” Temple said. “People are already taking selfies and they’re posting them on social media.”

These social media posts seem to be replacing the photo print in some ways. “People aren’t printing to their local Walmart or Shutterfly in order to see their photos like they used to in the 2000s,” Temple said. “Instead, people are getting prints at events and during experiences. Think about going to see Santa, going to an event, going to a wedding: the concept of getting a photo print is so key and essential to that. With Smart Capture, we wanted to take that concept and look at different ways we can grow that technology. We wanted to leverage DNP’s competencies and see how we could take our existing customer base and grow new business.”

The Smart Capture Vision

“Our vision with Smart Capture,” Temple continued, “is to create a more institutional setup that marketing and venue managers can utilize so that when the cameras are placed to capture something interesting – whether it’s a beautiful overlook of the field, a team mascot, or something that’s iconic – it allows everyone to get into the shot. The user would take their phone, scan a QR code or type in a ‘text me a link.’ When the link is delivered, their phone provides a live feed from the camera and they can pose themselves and take the photo. Then the photo is automatically delivered to their phone. What’s exciting about this from a venue perspective is that the venue can actually create a custom overlay.”

That custom overlay is the key to enhancing the relationship between a venue and its guests, putting the branding of the venue on every image, and thus increasing its social media presence through every guest share and re-share.

Drew Temple

“For example,” Temple said, “if I’m the venue marketing manager and I want to promote my brand plus a sponsor’s brand, we can program the image that gets delivered to the user’s phone to have a digital overlay with those brands included. When the user receives a great photo of them and their family, they’ll want to share that experience, and those brands will be a part of it. They can easily put it up on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, email. We really made it very easy for people to share an experience and get pictures from angles they couldn’t do with their phone, while providing marketing opportunities for our customers.”

“The beauty for the venue,” Temple continued, “is that it allows them to activate areas that they want to activate. So, if they want to put a camera by a certain area to drive traffic or they want to create additional promotional opportunities for their sponsorship partners, Smart Capture creates strong social currency. This gets people talking about their experience. It gets people posting on Facebook. And the value of that is very, very huge. We’re very excited to see where that goes.”

The Guest Experience

The Smart Capture experience is designed to be simple for the venue operator and the guest. A camera with a fixed, 25mm wide-angle lens is installed in a selected location, plugged in, then pointed and focused. The guest scans a QR code, then stands in a designated area. The QR code turns on the Smart Capture camera and connects it to the guest’s phone. “You can see live view on the screen, where you are,” said Temple. “You can frame. There’s a shutter button. You press that. There’s a countdown – three, two, one – and then it takes a photo. Then the image goes straight to your device.”

Technology & Installation

Smart Capture is based on DNP’s proprietary technology. “It’s a relatively easy installation,” Temple said. “It looks like a traffic camera. The enclosure is something, we can very easily go back to those cameras and make sure that they’re running the latest software and providing the best experience.” As part of this “best experience,” Smart Capture is designed to provide end-to-end data security: guests’ images are not stored and no personal data is collected. At the end of each session, data and images are cleared. Temple noted the system also implements GPS geofencing technology to prevent someone from scanning a QR code in North Carolina and turning a camera on in Los Angeles. “The venue can control how far away from the camera you have to be to access the system. If designed to be weather-proof. So, if it’s hot or cold, rainy, dusty, the camera itself is in that enclosure so you don’t need to worry about it being damaged. The system also talks to its own network via a cellular connection. All we would need is an outlet to plug into. It’s a very, very easy install.”

The Smart Capture system requires guests have a mobile device with a camera and the ability to talk to the Internet.

“Two years ago if I were to say, ‘Scan a QR code.’ I probably would have had some people who’d be going ‘Hmm?’” Temple said. However, because of the pandemic, consumers are now familiar with using QR codes to access menus, museum maps and other information.

Ideal photo locations include zoos, museums and attractions.

Significantly, Smart Capture does not require an app. Temple said while apps have some advantages, they can also slow down adoption and increase friction in the process. People say, “I don’t want to download an app, I don’t want to have to provide personal information, I don’t want to have to go and post something in the app store,” Temple said, noting that the cloud-based system makes it easier for guests to interact with the system and benefits the operator: “If our software developers develop something, we can very easily go back to those cameras and make sure that they’re running the latest software and providing the best experience.”

As part of this “best experience,” Smart Capture is designed to provide end-to-end data security: guests’ images are not stored and no personal data is collected. At the end of each session, data and images are cleared. Temple noted the system also implements GPS geofencing technology to prevent someone from scanning a QR code in North Carolina and turning a camera on in Los Angeles. “The venue can control how far away from the camera you have to be to access the system. If someone has a print of that QR code in North Carolina and they scan it, they can’t access the system.”

Maintenance

Because the Smart Capture system is self-contained, it greatly simplifies maintenance. “If the system were to freeze,” Temple said, “all you would do is unplug it and plug it back in. It uses a proprietary camera technology that we’ve developed, but it’s rudimentary. There are no moving parts in our initial setup. It really is just point, verify focus, and then you’re all set.” Additionally, he noted there’s a back-end administrative side that a marketing manager can log into to upload custom or promotional borders and a content management system that allows them to schedule different borders during different times of day or different days of the week.

Photography and COVID-19

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DNP examined how its products could be part of a safe return to public events and gatherings. “Traditional venues have photographers,” Temple said. “They have people walking around taking photos. The beauty of Smart Capture, whether it’s the marketing or the sharing, is that it’s self-serve – there is no photographer. It’s a safe experience, and so from a venue’s perspective, it allows them to offer multiple photo experiences with the peace of mind that they don’t need to worry about the guests and the photographer being too close. They can promote it as a safe experience.” • • •

David Green
David Green is COO and President of lighting firm Visual Terrain, Inc. He has over 35 years of experience in managing and delivering large and small development projects, including user experience design, creative and technical writing, theme parks, film, website producing, television and animation support, software development, information architecture, project management, public relations and photography. David holds nine U.S. patents for user interface design and is a frequent contributor to InPark.

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