www.herald-journal.com
Watch TV and Google for directions at the gas pump

November 12, 2007

by Mark Ollig

Have you noticed those television screens at the gas stations lately?

The first time I came across one was a few months ago in Monticello.

As I got out of my car, I saw this 20-inch television screen (with audio) above the gas pump.

A commercial was on tempting me to purchase some hot coffee and bakery from the gas station.

When I started to pump the gas (it seems a full tank costs almost as much as my car is worth), a brief local TV news broadcast began, followed quickly by traffic, weather, and a sports update.

“TV at the pump? Well, this is nice,” I thought, as I continued filling the gas tank.

Is it possible they are putting TVs out there so we think of something else during those four minutes besides how much money it is costing us to fill up our vehicles with gasoline?

There is even a new acronym for it, GSTV, which stands for Gas Station TV.

GSTV started last year in Dallas, Texas, and is broadcast over an IP-based digital television network.

See, everything does seem to be moving onto the Internet.

A message intended for the gas station retailers from the GSTV web site says, “Gas Station TV is an incremental revenue enrichment program for gas station retailers. Integrating the GSTV media solution into your pump provides retailers with a modern, high-tech, satisfying customer experience at your station, resulting in increased traffic and higher store sales.”

And here I thought they were just trying to provide me with a pleasant gas refueling experience with no hidden agendas.

It should be noted that the GSTV test marketing folks said “Consumers look forward to filling up at a GSTV-equipped facility.”

Yes, for me, it was convenient to catch the latest news and weather . . . but I will still keep an eye on the price per gallon, also.

We have TV on our computers and in our vehicles. Now, we can also continue our hypnotic gaze at the big screen while filling up the car with gas.

Did I mention, in some areas, you can also watch TV on your cellphone?

Can we imagine how popular GSTV would have been during the infamous OJ Simpson trial back in 1994 and 1995?

It seemed everyone was glued to a TV, watching the trial. I will admit to my readers that your humble columnist was one of those “OJ” watchers, too.

Imagine driving by a gas station in 1995 that had a television screen above every gas pump with just the OJ trial on as the motorists . . . very slowly . . . filled up their gas tanks in order not to miss anything.

You thought we had gas lines in the 1970s?

What other reason do some of us stop at a gas station? No, not that one – although it is an appropriate answer . . . how about asking for directions?

Not only will we have the TV on when we get our gas, Google has come up with a new idea to install viewing screens “in” the gas pump unit itself.

Why?

So we can Google for directions and local information.

The special gas pumps are being made by a company called Gilbarco Veeder-Root, which is headquartered in Greensboro, N. C. The “Applause Media System with Google” includes an Internet connection which displays Google’s mapping service in color on a small screen.

Folks filling up their cars with gas will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants, and hospitals.

After the person selects a destination, the pump will print out directions. Eventually, motorists will be able to type in a specific address and get directions. It will even print out coupons from the local restaurant you “Googled.”

“We think the service will create more customer loyalty for retailers,” said Gilbarco Veeder-Root spokeswoman Lucy Sackett.

“Making maps available at gas pumps appealed to Google because the Mountain View-based company wants to make its services available whenever and wherever people need them,” said Karen Roter Davis, a principal business development manager for Google.

I, on the other hand, believe it makes a more “stealthy” way of getting directions without the embarrassment of asking someone at the gas station.

A picture of the actual Google map display, to be incorporated into the gas pump, shows a map of a downtown area. Located along the side panel of the display are touch sensitive buttons for in-store offers, local restaurants, hotels, businesses, and other attractions.

You will be able to Google from selected nationwide gas stations beginning in December.

So now, we can have our TV and Google at home, work, on the road, and when we are filling up our gas tanks.

For more information about Google maps at the gas pump, visit http://www.gilbarco.com.

To learn more about GSTV, visit their web site at http://www.gstv.com.