NEW digital adverts on bus shelters will screen urgent public information messages such as severe weather warnings in one of the first moves of its kind.
The devices on Princes Street will screen live public service updates along with promoting events such as the Winter Festival.
The Edinburgh system is the first of its kind in the UK, according to the ad agency behind the move, and follows similar operations in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington DC.
Owner Clear Channel has signed a deal with the city council to allow public messages to be broadcast throughout the day between adverts.
Two of the digital screens – outside Jenners and Debenhams – have gone live as part of the pilot project launched this week.
But the network could be expanded if it proves popular.
In the United States, the systems have been used to remind shoppers to register to vote and avoid unregistered private hire vehicles, along with warn of severe winter weather.
This week, festival bosses will use the ads to promote the Hogmanay celebrations.
City leader Andrew Burns said the signs had the potential to transform public communications. He said: “This new development has the potential to help us get important information like weather warnings out to the public really quickly.
“Over the next few years, this technology could transform on-street advertising and communication, providing obvious business benefits as well as updated information to residents, visitors and transport users.”
The launch of the trial yesterday coincided with the release of a new report outlining improvements to wider “street furniture” across Edinburgh. This includes making better use of all 1452 bus shelters – only 38 per cent are currently used for advertising – and ensuring they are kept in good condition by 2014.
It also detailed the introduction of adverts on the 16 new tram stops.
Council chiefs are also considering the introduction of more automated toilets, like those on St Andrew Square and Grassmarket, which charge users 30p.
As the Evening News revealed last week, the council is considering a wide range of measures to bring in more cash to meet shortfalls in the years to come, ranging from £10.8 million before April 2013 and running up to £95m by 2017-18.
This includes making event organisers – including Hibs, Hearts and the SRU – meet the cost of erecting barriers and traffic diversions during fixtures and concerns.
Officials are already considering allowing advertising on bridges, council buildings and even staff uniforms to bring in extra funds.
Matthew Dearden, chief executive of Clear Channel UK, said the sound-bite billboards will allow Capital commuters to remain fully up to speed at all times.
He said: “These screens are a fantastic addition to such a prestigious location. We are delighted to be enabling both the council and advertisers to find new ways to creatively engage with their audiences.”