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New Ideas in Digital Signage

SCN interviewed some top digital signage product manufacturers about the changes AV integrators might expect to see in the digital signage industry over the next 5 years. A brief version appeared in the Fall issue of SCN. Here is the full commentary.

Eric Farkas, Senior Research & Development Engineer, Black Box:

The consumer electronics market has opened up so much in this area, with iPad and smartphone technology, so the same will undoubtedly happen with digital signage. As a result, the industry will be challenged with developing playlists and other media to support this. This will also impact where displays are placed. Instead of mounted out of reach but in clear view, newer touch-enabled screens will have to be where customers can interact with them. In response, the industry will offer more flexible options for mounting and housing screens, and there will be more options for how to distribute content to these screens. In addition, we'll see more precise ways to measure audience demographics for determining signage ROI. And because more businesses will be using interactive technology, this will be easier (and will likely lessen the need for facial-recognition technology).

Similarly, we’re going to be challenged with how to better deliver supporting content to clients on the creative side. Customers will clamor for better content, so we’ll see greater movement toward the use of widgets. These will enable customers to add dynamic graphics to screens without any advanced creative skills while allowing them to easily customize content for their specific applications.

We're also going to see less expensive and more power-efficient display technology. We’re already moving toward thinner, more flexible OLED screens, and the industry will better address heat generation with less power consumption and better ventilation. Something to watch for in the near term: For those who have chosen to use low-cost consumer-grade screens over commercial-grade panels, more screens failing and higher costs associated with disposing of the dead screens.

Bob Caniglia, Senior Regional Manager, Blackmagic Design:

From anywhere and from anything, AV integrators will need to be able to work with an increasing number of file formats and file sizes, some much greater than HD (4K). There are many lower cost HDMI and HD/SDI camera options available, and media coming into many digital signage set ups while arrive in a variety of different methods. So AV integrators that can’t adjust to any type of media thrown at them by a client will be in trouble.

For sporting, entertainment and retail venues, live or near to live feeds are essential. Static digital signage is so 2011. AV integrators need to have the switching and routing infrastructure in place to bring in live feeds and be creative with them.

Hardware costs will not be a factor in being creative. The falling costs of SSD storage, SSD recorders and playback and converters/capture, and playback cards that will allow you to connect to any input and output you need will have a huge impact. Retailers, venues, schools, museums, etc., will not be hamstrung by hardware costs and will be able to be much more creative with what they show. This means that AV integrators will also have a chance to be much more creative, and those AV integrators that think beyond just installing hardware will be in a great position.

Chuck Westfall, Technical Advisor, Professional Engineering and Solutions, Canon USA:

The digital signage industry is undergoing a period of rapid growth as more companies recognize the necessity of harnessing customized, live and interactive content to remain competitive while engaging potential customers and maximizing the impact of on-site advertising. In this dynamic environment, high-quality displays are essential, and commercial AV integrators are increasing their use of projectors to meet the needs of their customers in a variety of applications.

Some of the key opportunities for use of projectors in digital signage over the next 5 years include: eye-catching video promotions in retail locations; information displays in museum exhibits and art galleries; information and advertising displays in hotels and other hospitality environments; and appealing menu presentations in restaurants.

Stefan Menger, VP of Advanced Analytics, Scala:

Advanced Analytics [Scala’s cloud computing-based predictive analytics application for retailers] gives insight into historic market data and live third party data streams, so the best marketing messages that will positively impact buying behaviors can be produced and displayed to get a response and to make a sale. And for retail operations this is crucial. Knowing exactly what customers want to buy before they actually do and then encouraging them to make that specific purchase is what every retail operator wishes for.

Scala is enabling a web like predictive experience for consumers by displaying ‘products or services you might be interested in’ messaging at the point of decision. Through the process of analyzing various data sources such as customer loyalty card data, weather or gas prices to predict purchase patterns the system then displays the best message to promote the sale.

Tom Nix, CEO, Scala:

Efficiently and quickly extracting information from data, or ‘big data,’ and tomorrow’s exponentially growing mountains of data, will be a key component to effectively targeting and reaching prospects to build awareness, interest, purchase consideration and ultimately, a purchase via a signage network. There is a tremendous opportunity to help retailers and fast food restaurants leverage their existing ‘big data’ to improve sales via digital signage.

In the future, three-dimensional advertising creative will make great strides and will not require glasses to be effective. Audio alerts via smartphone and/or earpieces will compliment today’s visual advertising, based on predefined user preferences based on proximity will be the norm, and automated price comparisons to nearby brick and mortar store with on-line alternatives will be standard. This new world of highly automated predicatively generated advertising will rely on massive processing power to search, analyze, and predict behavior and preferences across many cloud-based databases to generate highly individualized, interactive HD quality visual and audio messaging and advertising.

Sean Matthews, President, Visix:

Data integration. The more sophisticated content management systems will support complete LDAP [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] software integration to exert access and authority in enterprise deployments. Beyond simple data integration with weather, RSS, and news feeds, clients will expect data integration capable of delivering auto-generated content based on conditions to reduce their content creation workload.

Interactivity is already quite popular; Wayfinding is a good example. The visceral adoption of tap, swipe, and zoom interactivity has set the stage for how people will interact with digital signs. Beyond simple touch interaction, scan, RFID, and NFC will deliver personalized information to displays and even grant or deny entry access to users interacting with electronic room signs.

From display to device, people will want to take what they see in the lobby with them as they walk out the door. HTML 5 will enable clients to create rich content for signs that is easily replicated on mobile devices without downloading and installing apps.

Maria Porco, vice president of business development, X2O Media:

Mobile interactivity with displays. Interactivity with a digital display is almost expected by viewers given their experiences with tablets and smartphones. Mobile device interactivity via QR codes, SMS, and other technologies like NFC will continue to grow.

Control across diverse networks of screens/devices. As users expand their digital signage networks to include interactive displays, video walls, 3D displays, and tablets, a stronger need for a centralized approach to content management and network administration will emerge. Having six to seven different content management systems will make life challenging for administrators and content creators alike.

More user-generated content (UGC). As viewers continue to share their lives via social media sites, that content will find itself more and more onto digital displays; integration with popular tools like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their business world counterparts will continue to increase.

The staff of Systems Contractor News serves the AV integration industry with thorough news analysis, trend reports, and the latest product and technology information—delivered to an audience of decision-makers.