When it comes to digital signage, Jessica Stevens, PMP, has been there and done that. This 15-year, AV/IT industry veteran is an expert in all aspects of the digital signage category: live streaming, video-on-demand, satellite networks, touchscreen interaction, and large file content distribution. She has been the deployment and capabilities manager within IT for a major consumer retailer since 2008, and is a Digital Signage Expo Advisory Board member for the End-User Council. She has also created the processes needed to maintain and support a large quantity of devices on a day-to-day basis. This Q&A shares some of her unique perspectives and insight.
Jessica Stevens, PMPAV Technology: What is the most challenging aspect of a DS rollout?
Jessica Stevens: Set-up and execution of processes to maintain and support the hardware and software that you are deploying. Regardless of the type of hardware or software being deployed, you must assure that you have a remote process to manage, update, validate content, troubleshoot and assure playback. Addressing these concerns during the planning process enables a smoother transition to business as usual and assures that the solution is scalable.
AVT: What is the most challenging aspect of an ongoing DS deployment?
JS: Coordination of onsite activities. In most instances, onsite technicians would be needed to deploy net new hardware. In addition, you need folks that can support and escalate issues that are occurring in the field. Engineering resources will be needed as escalation points when support is unable to resolve through their actions. Lastly, management resources to assure that all tasks are accomplished within a given window for a deployment.
AVT: How has the scope of your digital signage evolved?
JS: The quality of resolution desired for in-store [displays]. Also, the method for content distribution [from satellite to WAN].
AVT: Do you prefer a networked, cloud-based, stand-alone, or a combination system?
JS: The ideal system would include networked devices attached locally that could then access an external server used at a centralized location to manage the content at each local site.
AVT: AV and IT migration/integration issues?
JS: Always test new AV technology locally in a lab before making large purchases. In many instances, we assume that there will be no impact to the digital signage solution when replacing AV hardware, but testing before purchase will assure that no changes are needed and functionality is maintained.
AVT: Keys to the user experience?
JS: The key is in understanding the experience that you are trying to create for the customer. How long do you anticipate that they will be in front of the screen? Many times we overdo the complexity and amount of content, making the screen into more than it should be. Messages should be simple and engaging. If a customer is waiting in front of the screen, the message can be longer vs. if the customer is just passing by.
AVT: How do you measure user interactions?
JS: The best method that I’ve found thus far has been to actually hire someone to count eyeballs on screens over a period of time. There are many technologies out there that will collect dwell time “generally,” but many of them do not capture where the person is looking.
AVT: Tips on reporting metrics?
JS: Validate playback reporting. Spend time in the lab upfront having testers validate the timing on affidavit reports. Also, confirm with business counterparts the visual representation that they need for reporting. Understanding that up front will help to assure that delivery provides something business teams will be able to use.
AVT: What three things would have been the most helpful to have known going into a digital signage deployment?
JS: 1: Ramp slow and allow able time between pilot deployment and scale to resolve any bugs discovered in the field and minimize impact to environments.
2: Understand who are your key stakeholders.
3: What measures success? Understanding measurement factors will assure that you achieved needed goals.
AVT: Tips on distributing large video and image file sizes?
JS: Looking at methods to automate all available parts of the process. Also, validate that you are only sending net new for any set of content, instead an entire “playlist.” This can drastically cut down on the size and timing to deliver.
AVT: What new DS technologies or services are you most excited about?
JS: Distribution and playback of 4K players and content can’t come soon enough. I’m very curious about the size of the files that we’ll need to distribute and what impact that will have on content distribution and players.
AVT: Greatest impact that DS has made in the environments that you manage?
JS: The greatest impact, in my eyes, is when you can associate digital signage to an uplift or increase in the revenue or improvement in the experience for the customer as a result of the digital signage in the space.
AVT: What are the digital signage game changers?
JS: Game changers are any aspect of a system that allows you be more flexible and accomplish more without additional deployments. Also, visibility related to hardware/software function from a centralized location. This provides insight into potential issues and provides a better lens of the capability overall.