Signing Up

When Denver-based Bellco Credit Union made the move into digital signage displays, it was far from banking as usual. With 12 branches, some 147,000 members and assets exceeding $1.5 billion, Bellco wanted an effective and innovative tool to increase customer demand for its products and services such as loans, investments, insurance and online banking. They found it in system-wide digital signage displays from Clarity Visual Systems, designed and installed by the Denver office of Audio Visual Innovations (AVI).

Based in Tampa, FL, AVI is the largest AV company in the U.S., specializing in network operating centers, corporate and higher education facilities, healthcare clients and in war rooms for the military, said Sonny Lastrella, AVI's Colorado business development manager. Current AVI digital signage clients include the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Colorado Convention Center and corporate meeting rooms at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. The projects are in conjunction with Instant Access Media, Denver.

"About 2 percent of our business is in digital signage, but we expect that to grow, particularly in the public spaces," Lastrella informed. "Digital signage is now considered real estate; it's coming of age as people realize that it's a new media solution to getting the message across. Content is very important. You can tell a story or engage consumers very quickly. The most successful applications have video only, and about 90 percent of U.S. applications fall into that category."

The $250,000 Bellco installation, completed in 2005, was one of AVI's largest digital signage applications, featuring 18 40-inch Bobcat LCDs, two 50-inch Margays and 13 Mercury Online-FRED Systems of software, owned by 3M. The RS-232-enabled system is distributed throughout all 12 Bellco branches throughout the Denver metro area.

"We designed the system with Clarity, planning display placement as well as hardware and software choices," Lastrella pointed out. "The systems differ from branch to branch. Some displays are next to the tellers, others are in kiosks for which we incorporated a design that also would hold racks for brochures, at Bellco's request."

AVI installed the self-contained Margay 50-inch rear-projection cubes where there was adequate room, which was in one branch only. "Because the requirement was for a 16 x 9 aspect ratio rather than a 4 x 3, we installed the cubes side by side," he said, "and added one Bobcat to the system. For each of the other branches, we installed two Bobcats, one by the tellers, one in a kiosk."

The Clarity Margay uses DLP technology to deliver high color performance and brightness in a zero-mullion, high-definition format that is ideal for creating large signage and video walls. The displays receive feeds from designated servers. Each branch has a server that is networked with the main content delivery server at the corporate office. Updates are made over the network and delivered to the branch servers instantaneously.

The architectural differences in Bellco branches presented a slight challenge, Lastrella noted. "We were looking at a different space each time we did an installation, and we did extensive site surveys. Several branches didn't have the necessary infrastructure so we had to install cabling and ensure that there was dedicated power available. Because the system is IP-based, and couple of branch locations had only dial-up, they had to install a higher broadband capacity."

There's a psychological side to digital signage, he said, and in determining where and for how long customers remain in a particular locale. Eighty percent of Bellco's customers come in to make deposits, generally heading straight to a teller or a customer station.

Bellco has proven to be a progressive client, Lastrella added. "We enjoy working with credit unions that are trying to differentiate themselves from banks, and with those who want to lure customers with new technology. The Bellco project has resulted in calls from other prospective corporate clients.

Clear Signs For Profits
In the world of digital signage, bigger doesn't signify more advanced in the financial services sector. Credit unions and community banks with 10 to 50 branches are in the forefront of digital signage usage, said Lisa Duckett, senior director of worldwide marketing and communications, Clarity Visual Systems (Wilsonville, OR). The 10-year-old company has 180 employees worldwide.

"We've been focused on building digital signage for the financial services market for about three years, and currently it represents about 10 to 12 percent of our business," Duckett reported. "It's easy to be all over the client map with this technology, but we're marketing it in a vertically focused way, targeting credit unions and smaller financials such as Bellco in Colorado. They talk to each other, and they're among the earliest adopters of this technology. They're also more likely to be able to implement digital signage than are the larger institutions because they are more agile and don't suffer as much bureaucratic red tape in the implementation of new technologies as do larger institutions."

By partnering with a variety of other companies that develop and market digital signage software and networking solutions such as Mercury Online, Omnivex and Scala, Clarity is able to offer its customers á la carte solutions, Duckett said, while remaining the constant in many of these financial installations.

"Clients can use the displays with or without software, such as our own CoolSign Digital Media product," Duckett pointed out, "but very few companies can provide all of the separate disciplines needed for the technology-displays, software, content, networking and integration support, under one roof."

In Asia, where large, outdoor, electronic signage has been a part of the landscape for 25 years, the market is more readily adopting interior digital signage. "The big beautiful high-resolution plasma and rear-projection LCD or DLP digital display systems have come down in price. There are large fabrication plants in Asia enabling more effective manufacturing of larger and more cost-effective sheets of glass."