Digital Signage

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Digital signage is a sub segment of signage. Large installation digital signage systems are often designed by Environmental Graphic Designers who often design both the installation and the content to be viewed via the digital signage.

Digital Signs are used in wayfinding, placemaking, exhibitions, public installations, marketing and indoor/outdoor advertising. Digital signs use technologies such as LCD, LED and Projection to display content such as digital images, video, streaming media, and information and can be found in public spaces, transportation systems, museums, stadiums, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, government institutions, the banking sector and corporate buildings etc.

Digital signage displays use and are run/controlled by content management systems and digital media distribution systems which can either be run from personal computers and servers or regional/national media hosting providers or purpose built digital signage content players.

Since digital signage content may be frequently and easily updated, and also because of the interactive abilities available through the accompanying employment of real-world interfaces such as embedded touch screens, movement detection and image capture devices which enable these forms of signage to understand who and how users are interacting with them, they have fast started to replace, and become a full alternative to, static signage.

One specific use of digital signage is for out-of-home advertising in which video content, advertisements, and/or messages are displayed on digital signs with the goal of delivering targeted messages, to specific locations and/or consumers, at specific times. This is often called "digital out of home" or abbreviated as DOOH.

Content & Management
Content is varied and changing, and is anything designed to be displayed on the screens. Content includes text, images, animations, video, audio, interfaces and information dashboards. Digital signage is expensive to install relative to static signage and needs content that is deemed useful to a user to produce a return on investment. Over the long term, digital signage saves money thanks to the digital nature of content. Content design is typically done through a specialist firm or in-house with specifically tasked design teams.

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Content Management is the most important factor for Digital Signage. In many digital sign applications, content must be regularly updated to ensure that the correct messages are being displayed. This can either be done manually as and when needed, through a scheduling system, using a data feed from a content provider, or an in-house data source. Content is the draw card for digital signage and must engage and capture the attention of the potential audience.

Digital signs rely on a variety of hardware to deliver the content. The components of a typical digital sign installation include one or more display screens, one or more media players, and a content management server. Sometimes two or more of these components are present in a single device but typically there is a display screen, a media player, and a content management server that is connected to the media player over a network. One content management server may support multiple media players and one media player may support multiple screens. Stand-alone digital sign devices combine all three functions in one device and no network connection is needed. Digital signage media players run on a variety of operating systems including Windows, Linux, Android and IOS.

Modular display construction
LED matrix displays often use modular display components, to allow for varying sizes and shapes of displays, and to make assembly and construction easier. A modular display consists of two parts, namely display matrix modules and the display matrix controller.

2D and 3D displays
Digital sign displays may be LCD or plasma screens, LED boards, projection screens or other emerging display types like interactive surfaces or organic LED screens (OLEDs). New technologies for digital sign are currently being developed, such as three-dimensional (3D) screens, with or without 3D glasses, 'holographic displays', water screens and fog screens.

The first 3D flat screens that do not need glasses (autostereoscopy) were introduced in late 2010 and early 2011.

Rapidly dropping prices for large plasma and LCD screens have led to a growing increase in the number of digital sign installations. Another price-related benefit that is allowing a larger group of businesses to install digital signs is the increasing availability of newer LCD and plasma display brands in the market.

Content Management System (CMS)
Digital audio visual (av) content is reproduced on TVs and monitor displays of a digital sign network from at least one media player. Various hardware and software options exist, providing a range of different ways to schedule and playback content. These range from simple, non-networked portable media players that can output basic JPG slide shows or loops of MPEG-2 video to complex networks consisting of multiple players and servers that offer control over enterprise-wide or campus-wide displays at many venues from a single location. The former are ideal for small groups of displays that can be updated via USB flash drive or SD card. Another option is the use of D.A.N. (Digital Advertising Network) players that connect directly to the monitor and to the internet, to a WAN, or to a LAN. This allows the end user the ability to manage multiple D.A.N. players from any location. The end user can create new advertising or edit existing advertisements and then upload changes to the D.A.N. via the internet or other networking options.

Network infrastructure
To manage a network, a management server is usually required. This can be located anywhere, so long as it is connected to the digital sign network. New content will be managed and organized here, while the actual content itself is stored and played on the player servers. Digital sign networks can either be closed or open to the web, which will affect how the content on the screens is updated. For closed networks (without Internet access), updates need to be done locally through USB sticks, DVD drives or other 'onsite' updates. Open networks (with Internet access) can be updated remotely and stream data from other Internet sources (such as RSS feeds). The availability and type of Internet access (wireless, broadband, etc.) depends on the location and client.

Interactive Digital Signage
Digital sign can interact with mobile phones. Using SMS messaging and Bluetooth, some networks are increasing the interactivity of the audience. SMS systems can be used to post messages on the displays, while Bluetooth allows users to interact directly with what they see on screen. In addition to mobile interactivity, networks are also using technology that integrates social and location-based media interactivity. This technology enables end users to send Twitter and Flickr messages as well as text messages to the displays.

Markets and Applications
While the term "digital sign" has taken hold throughout most of the world, some companies and organizations prefer to use the terms "narrowcasting", "screen media", "place-based media", "digital merchandising", "digital media networks", "digital out-of-home" or "captive audience networks".

Digital signs are used for many different purposes and there is no definitive list. However, below are some of the most common applications of digital sign:

  • Public information: News, weather, traffic and local information, such as directories and maps, and traveller information.
  • Internal information: Corporate messages, health & safety items, news, etc.
  • Menu information: Pricing, photos, ingredients, and more about the food(s) being offered
  • Advertising: Usually either related to the location of the sign or using the audience reach of the screens for general advertising.
  • Brand building: In-store to promote the brand and build a brand identity.
  • Influencing customer behaviour: Directing customers to different areas, increasing the "dwell time" on the store premises, etc.
  • Enhancing customer experience: Applications include the reduction of perceived wait time in the waiting areas of restaurants and other retail operations, bank queues, and similar circumstances, as well as demonstrations, such as those of recipes in food stores, etc.
  • Enhancing the environment: With interactive screens (in the floor, for example, as with "informational footsteps" found in some tourist attractions, museums, and the like) or with other means of "dynamic wayfinding".

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img solution 11-4Digital Signage Solutions – Digital Menu Boards
With Digital Menu Boards you can increase sales and improve the customer experience with dynamic and engaging messaging.

Increase average order value at the point of sale (POS) by displaying dynamic content to the customer at just the right time.
Automate content based on day parts – i.e. “feature breakfast menus in the morning” – to lift average order value, up- and cross-sell.

Remotely control and instantly update in-restaurant messaging and promotions as well as automatically change your offering by location on an unlimited number of devices and screens in every store in the chain.

Instantly customize in-restaurant messaging with easy to use templates and content creation tools.

Increase customer frequency by using more effective, personalized messaging for promotions and specials.

Reduce personnel costs through the use of interactive kiosks and digital menu boards. Automate and accelerate the ordering process.

Interactive touchscreens can be used during off hours to streamline staff training and menu education.

Display promotional material combined with entertaining and dynamic content to enhance the impact and recall of your messaging while also delivering a more pleasurable guest experience.

img solution 11-5Digital Signage Solutions – Wayfinding
Getting people where they need to be is no easy task in a large facility or on a vast campus. Interactive digital signage offers powerful solutions to relegate that awkwardly folded, printed map to the pages of history.

  • A hospital wayfinding system linked to the patient database prints a map to patients’ rooms
  • A convention hotel connects with a scheduling system and has a large meeting schedule display in the lobby plus smaller panels by meeting room doors displaying the events inside
  • Mall shoppers key in a brand name product to learn which stores carry the product and get directions to the stores
  • Air travelers enter a flight or destination, find the gate number and learn where they can buy coffee on the way there
  • Facility managers easily and instantly update the system when a tenant moves in or out, and the change doesn’t cost a penny

From a simple, non-interactive way pointing solution through to a multilevel, dynamic path drawing solution, there is a solution that will match your budget and needs. Wayfinding options include:

  • Non-interactive wayfinding messaging
  • Integration with your meeting room event database and maps
  • Pathdrawing enables the user to see dynamic paths on how to get somewhere from where they currently are
  • A simple to use back-end GUI for dynamically changing your tenants/rooms etc. Unlike other solutions you do not have to outsource this service
  • Push to mobile – once you have your directions you can request to have them sent to your mobile device

img solution 11-6Digital Signage Solutions – Kiosk
A digital signage network is far more than signs on the wall. Kiosks on the network offer amazing interactive capabilities.

Integration of technology allows kiosks to perform a wide range of functions, evolving into self-service kiosks. For example, kiosks may enable users to enter a public utility bill account number in order to perform an online transaction, or collect cash in exchange for merchandise. Customised components such as coin hoppers, bill acceptors, card readers and thermal printers enable kiosks to meet the owner's specialised needs.

  • Wayfinding kiosks with a real or virtual keyboard provide tailor-made directions
  • A retail kiosk shows passers-by general sales information; touching the screen opens a vast store of specific, easily searchable product details
  • A healthcare kiosk serves up health tips, wayfinding help and even automated registration using a card swipe or biometric scan
  • A quick-service restaurant network ties attractive menu boards and self-service ordering kiosks directly into the point-of-sale system

img solution 11-7Digital Signage Solutions – Emergency Messaging
Educational and governmental institutions, transportation services and corporations alike should consider digital signage as an integral part of their disaster preparedness plans and safety notification / emergency messaging network.

One of the many benefits of the solutions provided is the software, which is CAP Compliant. According to the OASIS standard, “The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is a simple but general format for exchanging all-hazard emergency alerts and public warnings over all kinds of networks. CAP allows a consistent warning message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems, thus increasing warning effectiveness while simplifying the warning task… CAP provides a template for effective warning messages based on best practices identified in academic research and real-world experience.”

Some of the many benefits of digital displays in an emergency situation include:

  • Ability to reach the hearing impaired
  • Good return on investment if used regularly for other uses like way-finding or day to day messaging
  • Can be portable or mobile
  • Placement can be inside buildings (class rooms, hallways) and public areas (cafeterias, student unions, break rooms) as well as outside
  • Can receive alert messages from local or national sources directly (IPAWS, CMAS, SMS from multiple institutions)
  • Intrusive with proper placement, attention grabbing
  • Messages can be bright and bold to capture viewers (bright yellow or red) or have movement (flashing icon) or sound to draw more attention
  • Easy integration with other solutions so one message can be sent across multiple mediums for greater impact (loudspeakers, phone, text-message, etc)
  • Messages reach recipients quickly
  • Good for traffic control, crowd control and alerts during major events
  • They can be used for routine communications so that the public is trained to expect they will get useful information from them

img solution 11-8Digital Signage Solutions – Vending
Even the front of a vending machine can become an engaging, interactive marketing landscape that’s certain to command attention and boost sales.

Vending machines are everywhere and the ability to digitally engage users with eye-catching imagery, videos and other content while they are using a self-service vending machine is an opportunity to increase revenues of whatever brand(s) the vending machine dispenses.

  • A soda or snack machine can literally draw a crowd by displaying lively animation
  • The entire front surface of the machine can be a touchscreen, unlocking a product’s nutritional details and other information from any data source
  • View products loaded in the machine behind the see-through touchscreen interface
  • Reward paying customers using fun animation that encourages additional purchases and return visits.

img solution 11-9Digital Signage Solutions – Point of Sale
One of the biggest keys to the power of digital signage is the network’s ability to interface with virtually any data source, including your point-of-sale systems. The result is a POS signage solution that’s incredibly intelligent and adaptive to up-to-the minute needs.

The POS signage solutions has myriad usage options in any location that makes use of any kind of POS system and can dynamically change its displayed content in conjunction with the POS system.

  • Remotely control and instantly update in-store promotions and messaging, customized with easy templates and content creation tools
  • Automatically change signage by location on an unlimited number of devices and screens in every store in the chain
  • Pull menu board pricing directly from the POS system, so price changes happen instantly and automatically
  • Add kiosks so customers can directly place orders or check the available stock in your store or at another location
  • Place signage in a retail dressing room to show buyers alternative colour choices and encourage the purchase of accessories
  • Automatically update displays as the inventory changes, removing promotions as the stock runs out
  • Swap messages automatically based on the time of day or even the gender and age of the person viewing right now
  • Make your message ACTIONABLE, able to both change customer behaviour and change itself based on predictive analytics and your own predefined goals. Learn more about Advanced Analytics
  • Can work in conjunction with other ideas (NFC, QR Codes, Interactive/Touch, etc.) to engage customers at the point-of-sale.

img solution 11-10Digital Signage Solutions – Point of Sale
Any kind of screen provides an opportunity to deliver a digital message.

Yet financial institutions maintain networks of thousands and thousands of screens that are often overlooked from a marketing and messaging perspective: the displays on automated teller machines.

  • Use an ATM screen to cross-sell and up-sell financial services products, or even display advertising messages
  • Messages display fresh, relevant information about products and programs on the ATM screen between customers, as well as during wait time in the middle of the transaction
  • Automatically tailor the messages to reflect demographic details linked to the customer account or card, including gender and age
  • Count on customers watching the screen intently and seeing the message (after all, who turns away while waiting for the machine to dispense cash?)
  • Non-ATM kiosks can deliver high-impact messages as customers search for product or service information and even fill out application forms

Digital Signage Solutions – Point of Sale
Your customers carry their mobile devices with them wherever they go and many use them to tap into social media all day long. Let them tap right into your digital signage program, too.

Signage options can use QR codes on your displays so customers can zap directly to product information, instant coupons and other promotions or social sites. Customers can promote their Facebook page and have customers tell the world they “like” you.

  • Display up-to-the-second Twitter feeds and other social media buzz on your displays, encouraging customers to spread the word
  • Integrate your Instagram feed to keep in touch with the viral visual world, sharing creative snapshots about your brand from users all over the world
  • Share who has been to your location via Foursquare and gain a new audience from the broad reach of this social network. Engage users in contests based on number of visits or promote coupons

According to a recent report an estimated 1 in 5 smart phones will have Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality by 2015. With NFC retailers can read user preferences from their device and customize messages to deliver a personalized experience for shoppers.

NFC technology enables devices to act as loyalty cards, location ‘check in’ devices, payment methods, coupons, tickets, and secure keys to access cars, hotel rooms, buildings, computers and more. NFC also allows customers to purchase via in-store display, participate in promotions and acquire additional information on products and services.

  • Use these social media and mobile device connections to mine valuable customer information
  • Make your message ACTIONABLE, able to both change customer behaviour and change itself based on predictive analytics and your own predefined goals.