The technology of digital signage continues to develop, offering end-users and their advisors a growing range of sophisticated tools that increase the range of applications and markets. Here, AV News explores the opportunities created through integration with mobile, location specific and outdoor display technologies.
From a dynamic replacement for printed signs, the next generation of digital signage will evolve through its integration with mobile, location specific and outdoor display technologies. This will both expand the footprint of the technology and its range of applications. Thomas Walter, Product Manager for Public Display Solutions at NEC Display Solutions Europe believes that this trend will support an almost limitless growth in the adoption of digital signage technology;
“The latest developments in display technology make digital signage even more attractive. This is true of existing industry applications (including retail signage, passenger information and restaurant menu boards) and new applications in a number of emerging markets.”
In the early days, significant digital signage products were almost always funded by potential advertising revenues. With reduced costs of acquiring and installing digital signage networks, end-user customers are willing to take a more holistic view of what constitutes a Return on Investment.
Hugh Coghill-Smith, Sales and Marketing Director at ONELAN, has found that, new adopters are willing to consider benefits expressed as in terms of streamlining business processes. He cites the example of DHL’s depot at Bahrain’s airport; “Staff were using a manual system to direct them to flights to be unloaded and loaded as they arrived. A ONELAN digital signage solution has been installed and the system has now been automated.”
“Flight schedules are uploaded directly onto the system and staff can now see, instantaneously, when flights are arriving. A countdown ticker enables them to determine the time remaining before a flight departs so that cargo can be loaded or unloaded in time. It is a cutting edge solution that has increased staff productivity by 30% and ensured faster flight turnaround.”
Rachel Hunt, sales and marketing director of Unicol says that there is more to a successful digital signage deployment than the financial return:
“I am still of the opinion that digital signage is defined as digital information controlled across a network outputted to displays or projectors. This can mean something different to whoever you sell it to. Therefore, ROI, other than advertising revenue, can be addressed in terms of footfall increase, branding, efficient wayfinding or just wow factor. The result can simply be expressed as good or bad!”
Fellow manufacturer Gordon Dutch, MD of Peerless-AV, concurs, arguing that digital signage is increasingly about making an impression:
“New adopters of digital signage generally seek AV solutions that promote their business and the products or services they sell in a visually appealing, high-tech format. Digital signage is becoming increasingly important in architectural design and facility modernisation, where it can dramatically enhance spaces such as reception areas or lobbies. Its many benefits include promoting guest interactivity and engagement, enhancing the viewing experience and perceived wait times. By adding custom features with the use of logos and vinyl wraps it can also help to promote brand strategy.”
Markets and applications
This rather more enlightened approach to defining ROI has seen markets and applications fro digital signage explode. ONELAN, for example, is seeing strong growth in manufacturing and internal employee communications. Manufacturing, mining and oil are all focussing on Health and Safety compliance matters, using digital signage to convey key messages to staff.
“Large corporates are increasingly implementing digital signage as part of their global strategies for employee communications,” says Coghill-Smith. “Digital signage is being used for employee communications, and to display key performance indicators. Real time statistics, driven from a call handling system, enable call centre teams to adapt their service levels – and the way they handle calls – based on how the centre is performing at that exact moment in time.”
ONELAN is seeing a great deal of interest in displaying dynamic data, e.g. key process and performance data. For example, the magazine / web site Autotrader wanted to: communicate brand awareness and company values to all employees; provide real time monitoring; and improve access to KPI and business data to different departments. The publishers’ overall objectives were to enhance productivity, streamline process workflow and increase employee engagement (as well as communicate promotional messaging to visitors).
The last two years have seen the migration of increasingly sophisticate digital signage tools from concept to usable product. Retail is leading the way here, but is still in its infancy relatively speaking. Context-aware signage has been shown to increase buying rates and turnover but many shop owners are just starting to digitise their signage systems in order to improve the customer experience.
There is an argument that says everything done to date is defensive – improving the shopping experience to encourage shoppers back onto the High Street. But much more is possible: “We recognise that it is getting more and more important to provide customised content for the individual viewers/visitors,” explains Walter. “Data such as age, gender and dwell time enables retailers to provide better services, consultancy and product choice in line with an individual’s preferences. NEC’s leafengine and Field Analyst software solutions facilitate the gathering of data for audience analytics supporting more intelligent and personalised digital signage.”
Leaf Engine allows the integration of a large variety of sensors into a signage system by using just one interface, making context-aware signage easier than ever before. Field Analyst can track numbers, age and gender of visitors in order to adapt the advertisements and to make signage campaigns more valuable. An example of a Leaf Engine deployment might be the use of a proximity sensor. Whenever a customer is touching or lifting a particular product, the dedicated signage screen provides detailed information about this product and also shows cross selling opportunities for related product categories.
ONELAN has deployed players with integrated Quividi Audience measurement into DOOH. An example of how customers are mining and displaying Big Data is the aforementioned Autotrader example. This is driven by ONELAN Data Collection Engine (DCS) which provides integration with complex business system such as databases, Excel and XML.
Location is key to adding value to the user experience. eBeacon technology and comparable solutions will play a key role in the near future, as they allow more direct communication with customers and helps to generate transactions and revenue through the display. Making something available where the user wants it is a step forward, but ‘when the user wants it’ can be even more important.
Here, ‘out of hours’ provision is key, and you can’t have ‘out of hours’ if you don’t have outdoor. The deployment of outdoor signage will be instrumental in the adoption of location specific or ‘context aware’ signage. Fortunately, the operating environment for digital signage is no longer limited to indoor locations with ideal lighting conditions:
“Outdoor screens are designed to deliver high brightness and a high level of robustness as well as protection from dust and water in order to meet the demands of operation in outdoor areas and public spaces. The range of applications is vast; from drive-through menu boards in Quick Service Restaurants, to information systems in transportation and DOOH installations. NEC’s new high brightness portfolio with brightness levels up to 2,500 cd/m² enables sunlight readable signage applications under tough environmental conditions,” says Walter.
“We see a lot of potential growth in the transportation, construction, wayfinding, corporate and QSR markets. In transportation, for example digital signage is popping up everywhere – from flight information displays at the airport to digital advertising at the bus stop to directional information at the tube station – dramatically impacting the process of travel and improving the customer experience,” says Gordon Dutch, MD of Peerless-AV (which recently introduced its own range of IP68-rated displays.
Coghill-Smith said that, n the last 12 months: “ONELAN has secured some key contracts in large shopping malls and outdoor locations.” Dutch concurs: “Many are starting to plan for outdoor in their budgets. Designed for safe operation in permanent outdoor environments, fully-sealed outdoor displays eliminate the need for the constant maintenance and replacement needed by indoor display.”
Dutch argues that the move outdoors has obvious potential for ecommerce links between mobile devices and signage installations: “As all signs point to QSR, we think you’re likely to see QSR drive-throughs using Bluetooth at some point in the future for even faster turnaround. For example, Burger King in the US announced earlier in the year that they are launching a mobile app that allows customers to place an order when they are waiting in the drive-through line. By the time they reach the service window, their order will be ready.£ Shortly after BK’s announcement, Wendy’s introduced mobile payments to their current iOS app.”
Digital Menu Boards (DMBs) for outdoor QSRs, car wash businesses, retail drive-throughs and construction sites, are all predicated to boom in the next year and a half based on their ability to take services to a whole new level. In QSRs, DMBs offer companies the flexibility needed to update content quickly to reflect new promo items and menu content (new items, prices, sold-out items, etc.). .
In most cases the pure cost for a digital signage solution is lower than alternative applications when the content is changed regularly and all costs related to information updates and operation are taken into consideration. The costs for running and updating a digital signage system will become very reasonable when considering a longer operation time of 3-5 years and when professional and low-maintenance display solutions are in use.
The speed of information flow dramatically improves when using digital signage and carries significant value. Content can be updated at the click of a mouse or scheduled automatically at a centralised location. Being able to display moving images helps to attract attention and increase dwell time. New interactive technologies have greatly widened the range of communication, offering greater applications for digital signage. Through interaction with audiences there is greater potential for customer analytics and thus a more tangible measurement of ROI for those for whom this is important.
For other users (for example, Health and Safety example cited about) effectiveness is the more important measure of success. In this respect, the opportunities for digital signage are almost unlimited.
Thomas Walter, Product Manager for Public Display Solutions at NEC Display Solutions Europe: ”The range of applications is vast; from drive-through menu boards in Quick Service Restaurants, to information systems in transportation and DOOH installations.”
Gordon Dutch, Managing Director of Peerless-AV Europe: “We think you’re likely to see QSR drive-throughs using Bluetooth at some point in the future for even faster turnaround.”
Digital Menu Boards (DMBs) for outdoor QSRs, car wash businesses, retail drive-throughs and construction sites, are all predicated to boom in the next year and a half based on their ability to take services to a whole new level.
Digital signage projects are notorious for their variability, but meeting the anticipated volume of demand will presents its own challenges. A solution has emerged to meet this challenge – preconfigured solutions designed for quick installation. A typical example of a digital solutions from TD Maverick’s Simply Done range, includes:
- A slim, energy saving HD LED Sony Bravia 40” large format display
- A full swing, tilt and swivel NewStar LED-W560 wall mount
- A 3-year Signagelive cloud based software licence
- A Vision Intel Celeron media play to drive content
- C2G HDMI and Cat5E cabling
TD Maverick can also bundle training and support into some of its packages.
NEC is offering a complete preconfigured solution for smaller companies running a local signage solution. The new Signage Manager App, pre-installed on NEC’s android-based OPS Digital Signage Player, is designed to meet the demand for budget-driven signage solutions together with NEC Large Format Displays, like the value-optimised V-Series. It’s described as quick-and-easy to install and very convenient to define playlists and time schedules for content.
The OPS Digital Signage Player can be slotted into the display and delivers the perfect upgrade path. With the OPS Digital Signage Player and its preinstalled App there for setting up signage solutions, even on a small scale, is straightforward.
Gordon Dutch of Peerless-AV believes that bundles can be extended to create complete turnkey solutions: “Today’s digital signage installations can be challenging but bundles help provide end customers with all the necessary components, including display, mounting solution, media player, cabling and other accessories, to deliver a successful deployment.”
“When it comes to the mounting solution, we offer ‘Best / Better / Good’ tiered product ranges to provide the installer with a choice of options to cater for different market sectors and end user requirements. Peerless-AV works closely with its display vendor partners and distributors to offer installers and their end customers a bundled solution that addresses requirements in terms of compatibility, functionality and ease of installation.”
“Where we find we add the most value is by helping our installer and integrator partners to choose the correct mounting solution. This important decision will not only increase the clients ROI, owing to significantly reduced installation time and costs, but it may drive additional engagement, enables the use of larger displays and allows bigger arrays to be created in locations that were previously not considered possible.”
ONELAN’s Hugh Coghill-Smith commented: “We see a need for a pre-configured, bundled solution including hardware, software and content for smaller users, such as small offices and schools. Such users typically require an easy to use, standalone solution that is intuitive and needs no user training or expertise in content design.”
“ONELAN’s Education Net-Top-Box (NTB) has sixteen pre designed layouts, and is set up for a user to simply pick a layout and simply add their message, video, image or PDF. It is now available through select education partners who will bundle this with a screen and bracket. A corporate version is also planned.”