Some of the UAE's sprawling shopping malls will soon be a little easier to navigate thanks to a deal to bring a "mobile maps" service to the region.
Al Barq Digital, a sign company based in the UAE, has signed a two-year agreement with the specialist mobile maps company Whatamap, based in Finland.
The technology lets consumers download maps of malls and transport centres, featuring details of shops and services. The value of the deal was not disclosed by the companies.
The Whatamap service will be installed in Dubai Festival City mall this month, after which the technology will be rolled out in various locations in the UAE and wider MENA region.
The mobile maps will complement Al Barq's core product, a network of digital screens designed for public places.
At Festival City, the company has 32 "digital media units" on which it plans to sell advertising, as well as "kiosks" with interactive touchscreen maps and directories. Vouchers offering deals and discounts will be distributed through the mobile maps and kiosks.
Al Barq is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Digital Out Of Home (AD Media DOOH), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns and publishes The National.
The company plans to install 300 screens in regional venues such as shopping malls, airports and exhibition centres by the first quarter of next year. It also plans to sell advertising on larger outdoor digital screens, and through Bluetooth mobile phone technology.
Andrew Wood, the general manager of AD Media DOOH, said mobile maps would be created for the locations in which the company would install digital screens.
"We've signed an exclusive agreement [with Whatamap] for the Middle East and North Africa for the next two years," said Mr Wood.
The mobile maps "will be rolled out in every mall and every transportation hub we operate in … From a consumer point of view, it's [about] the ability to be able to find their way if they are in a shopping mall, airport, or wider city area," he said.
"With the use of Whatamap's mobile toolset, we will be connecting with and helping consumers at just the right moment and place."
The maps will be available on 8,000 handsets across "all the major phone types", Mr Wood said.
Outdoor advertising was badly hit by the economic downturn, especially in the UAE. But the "digital out of home" advertising sector globally is expected to grow by 10.1 per cent a year until 2014, according to the research company PQ Media.
US spending on digital out-of-home advertising last year
worldwide spending in the sector last year
estimated annual increase in DOOH spending in the US until 2014
estimated global increase in spending until 2014