Although many are puzzled by it, digital signage has become а phenomenon that we deal with daily. Now, in the time of the ‘new normal,’ the nature of our interactions has crucially changed, opening up a huge potential for this type of system. According to ReportLinker, the digital signage market will reach $29.6 billion by 2024, compared to $20.8 billion in 2019. What is digital signage and where can we apply it? Read on to learn more.
The Ins and Outs of Digital Signage
As you might have guessed, this technology is closely related to LCD screens, information kiosks and other devices that companies use to interact with their audiences. Before we jump into it, let’s first look at the definition.
Digital signage is a centrally controlled type of electronic signage that conveys specific content to the audience via information displays in the form of advertising, menus, building plans, entertainment videos, etc.
As follows from the definition, the concept includes the following characteristics:
- The content it delivers: a video, an image, a map, etc.
- The intent of the message: to inform, to educate, to instruct, etc.
- The audience it addresses: in-store customers, museum visitors, passengers, etc.
- The displaying device: projection screens, LEDs, LCDs, information kiosks, etc.
- The place where it is demonstrated: fast-food restaurants, airports, cinemas, museums, public transport stops, etc.
Solutions that rely on digital signage are broad-ranging, but all of them provide valuable benefits to businesses:
- Advanced communication with the audience. Whether for clients or employees, a company proactively provides required data in a convenient format, via a device that is within the reach of its audience.
- Higher revenue. Promotions, advertisements and product data that are placed with its help increase chances of commercial success.
- Time efficiency. A company provides data in a time-efficient manner, minimizing lines and wait time.
- Rational staff loading. In many cases, it can substitute consultants, cashiers and other professions, allowing companies to provide a balanced load and engage their human employees with more demanding tasks.
- Flexibility. It allows businesses to quickly adjust their messages to changing customer behavior, market conditions and product launch.
Industries and Domains
These advantages attract numerous companies to this way of data presentation, and the following industries efficiently use digital signage networks:
- Retail: stores, shopping malls, etc.
- Food and lodging: restaurants, hotels, bars, etc.
- Healthcare: hospitals, private practices, dental clinics,
- Well-being: beauty salons, fitness centers,
- Sport: stadiums, sport arenas,
- Entertainment: zoos, museums, cinemas, trade shows, etc.
- Transportation: public transport, airports, bus stops, etc.
Although the above-mentioned industries are the key consumers of this technology, many other business domains have also come on board and started using it extensively at establishments such as conference venues, teaching facilities, banks, municipal institutions and others.
The most frequent use cases of this technology across industries are customer-service desks, product displays, checkouts, wayfinding, menu boards, city information, order placement, lobby area, signboards, waiting areas, take-a-number systems, smart mirrors, digital tours, whiteboards, etc.
We recommend that a generic digital signage solution should have the following features that enable its efficiency and user-friendliness:
- Cloud-based and on-premises storage
- Seamless integration with third-party data feeds
- IPTV support
- Calendar and scheduling functionality
- High resolution (Full HD or 4K)
- Intuitive, drag-and-drop UI
- Interactive content
- Screen grouping
- Playlist creation and management
Regardless of any of the above characteristics and features, digital signage consists of the three core components:
- Content. Inventory of any type (graphical, video, audible, textual, etc.) whose purpose is to deliver a specific message and intent.
- Hardware. Devices that enable content demonstration and related operations (information kiosks, screens, mounting and wiring devices, players, network components, etc.).
- Software. Applications that enable content management (creation, demonstration, deployment, analysis, etc.) and hardware management.
Only a well-balanced combination of these three elements ensures reliable and efficient operation of digital signage systems. Below, we explore these components in more detail.
Let’s now discover a variety of systems using the example of a solution that we are familiar with — NEXT Digital Signage Software by friendlyway. Our team has been taking part in the development and support of the solution
This modern cloud-based system is based on digital signage and supports a wide range of hardware devices — kiosks, tablets, walls, etc. NEXT is a complex, modular solution that helps companies facilitate interactions with clients by:
- managing marketing campaigns
- managing users
- creating content
- creating playlists and providing their timing
- managing media content.
The number of modules is not limited, and each one represents a stand-alone, small-sized microservice that is independent of other modules, which allows them to perform their well-defined functionality.
On-premises or Cloud: Which to Choose?
Which solution architecture would better suit a digital signage solution — on-premises or cloud-based? Complete control or scalability and flexibility? The choice depends on the requirements of a particular project, which is why we recommend having a read of the following aspects to work out which option is best for you.
Location, Maintenance and Control
On-premises deployment means that the solution resides in your company’s in-house IT environment, behind the firewall. Your company has complete control of the resources and infrastructure, while handling everything infrastructure-related and being responsible for any risks.
As with any cloud location, resources that are related to the solution are hosted on a public cloud-based infrastructure, and a cloud service provider is responsible for infrastructure maintenance and potential risks. The client has complete ownership of its data, which is kept on third-party cloud servers (but becomes unavailable during downtime).
The on-premises deployment entails many expenses, such as software licenses, the purchase and maintenance of the server hardware, electricity bills, server space rent, the maintenance of an in-house IT department, etc., to say nothing of picking up the pieces when problems and issues arise.
With cloud-based digital signage solutions, costs are significantly lower, as companies can use resources on a pay-per-use basis. They don’t have the headache of upkeep and costs, and they can easily and quickly scale required capacities as needed.
An on-premises solution is safer than a cloud-based one, as it involves keeping all data and software on local servers, and licensing all software, which provides higher protection. At the same time, security is always an issue when it comes to cloud infrastructures.
Digital Signage: Content
In digital signage, content is both the message and the way in which a company wants to communicate it to its audience. Most frequently, it takes the following forms:
Used separately or in combination, these forms of content are intended to deliver a certain message — inform, persuade or entertain the company’s audience. These messages may take the following forms:
- Promotions and advertisements. This is the most common use case, as digital signage allows companies to make promotions in the most engaging way.
- Product data and service offerings. Displays draw attention to products or services in restaurants, salons and shops, and demonstrate them.
- Self-service boards. An increasingly common phenomenon in catering, these boards enable quick and efficient service.
- Object information. Most frequently used in tourism, these signs contain data about specific places and objects.
- Interactive games and tours. This method increases brand recognition, product popularity, or can be used as part of a social initiative. Digital tours replace real tours in museums and galleries.
- Streams and news demonstration. A way to limelight an event, or just to inform and entertain; special screens are used to display sports events, important news, concerts and weather forecasts.
- Corporate knowledge. In corporate environments, digital signage can replace dull documents when informing and educating employees. Also, it can be used to deliver motivational and engaging messages to improve staff efficiency.
- Interactive schedules, calendars and catalogs. In institutions that have a busy events program, this way of delivering information may help clients stay informed about future events.
- Wayfinding and directories. Maps that help navigate cities and huge buildings are now widely used to enhance user experience. Also, wayfinding kiosks allow companies to cut corners on hiring consultants.
Content is not limited to the types mentioned above. We have just listed the most common forms.
Digital Signage: Hardware
Digital signage hardware includes all physical assets that enable the management and demonstration of digital signage systems. These devices perform well-defined operations and functions, and there is a wide range of them and their components — scanners, cameras, keyboards, wiring and mounting equipment, CPUs, etc. Below, we will examine those that are specific to digital signage solutions.
Displays and Screens
Screens and displays play an essential role in digital signage systems, providing high-quality distribution for a company message. The following types may be used:
- LEDs and LCDs that provide the rendition of a company’s content but don’t allow users to interact with it.
- Multitouch screens that enable user interaction with the content; typically, they are embedded in information kiosks and other purpose-built equipment. The most popular technologies are infrared and capacitive touch technology.
- SoC displays that include media-playing functionality and eliminate the need for external players.
Interactive and Information Kiosks
Appliances that are now frequently used in malls, theatres, museums and other public places, information and interactive kiosks streamline some routine operations and improve user experiences.
These kiosks bring together advanced embedded and IoT systems, specialized hardware, connectivity options and the intuitive user interface. They provide required data to users or help them perform certain operations (data acquisition, wayfinding, payments, order placement, check-ins, etc.) in self-service mode.
Beacons are microcomputers that communicate IDs, bar codes and URLs to the system and thus build connections between screens and object information or user devices.
Beacon devices are at the heart of the beacon technology that establishes relations between objects. In practice, by relying on proximity technology and IoT, a beacon device recognizes humans, products, or special identifying codes to perform actions stipulated by the system.
Digital Signage: Software
Digital signage solutions rely on software that enables a wide variety of operations and serves different purposes. It’s a kind of backend where content is uploaded, managed, and configured, devices are managed and performance is monitored, and it easily integrates with third-party services and chosen hardware.
There are three key types of digital signage software depending on the purpose it serves, and each of them accompanies a certain stage of digital signage rendition.
Content Management Software
In the digital signage world, software that deals with every aspect of content management and distribution is called a content management system (CMS). A CMS for digital signage:
- groups into ‘playlists’
- distributes content.
A key requirement of a CMS is its user-friendliness, so that a publisher can easily perform all of these operations. And as with various other software, CMSs can be located on the premises or in the cloud — a factor that affects security and functionality.
With this software, a company can schedule a content demonstration, arrange it in groups for playback, monitor real-time behavior and statuses and take many other actions.
Media Player Management Software
Media player management software relies on the computer’s CPU and GPU and enables the playback of media content. The majority of applications for media playback have the following features:
- Content synchronization across a number of media players
- Playback interruption in favor of activities with a higher priority level, such as emergency messages, user interaction, etc.
- Health check reporting
Player management software falls into two types: applications that have internal storage and tolerate loss of Internet access, and streaming applications that require nonstop Internet access.
Device Management Software
As a rule, digital signage systems include networks of data rendition devices, all of which require proper single-platform remote management. These platforms gather device-specific data, report it and enable devices to operate in a certain way.
Below are some of the main functionalities of device management applications:
- Downloading and playback of digital content
- Collecting data from media players
- Health check of media players and displays
- System updating
- Taking simple actions with network devices, such as rebooting, turning them on and off, etc.
Getting Started with Digital Signage
As with any project, before getting off with solutions of the type, we recommend our clients determine the following requirements:
- Number of displaying devices
- The existing content strategy
- Hardware — for demonstration, mounting, wiring, etc.
- Software — a CMS, apps for device management and media playback
- Networking options
- The installation partner
The budget for the development of such a system should envisage its management and content creation costs.
Digital Signage Is a New Opportunity
When conventional models, approaches and technologies of user interaction aren’t available or don’t work anymore, pay heed to digital signage. They allow businesses to increase brand recognition, successfully advertise and efficiently meet user expectations while reducing costs and labor load.
If you would like to learn more about digital signage, understand how it can help your business or need to create an effective solution, contact our team.