Earlier this spring, fans attending the NBA playoffs at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Center to witness home team the Utah Jazz play bore witness to a first: the first stadium-wide deployment of Samsung’s SoC (System-on-Chip) Smart Signage displays, which drove the stadium’s media content with embedded System-on-Chip (SoC) media players and Samsung’s Tizen operating system to 600 screens. Integrated by solutions provider RevelTV, the system also includes a first-of-its-kind IPTV system in the premium club and suite areas.
Samsung’s SoC digital signage solution is one of many new innovations changing how newer LED and LCD displays are designed and integrated in the channel. Along with anticipated higher resolutions, bigger screen real estate, and interactivity, there is now talk of everything from the integration of artificial intelligence and the networking possibilities that 5G will open up for digital signage applications in the near future.
“One of the biggest challenges with digital signage has always been around infrastructure, trying to understand what is necessary to support the solution and how much additional cost does that mean,” noted Bryan Meszaros, CEO and founder of OpenEye Global. “With continued development and adoption of SoC a lot of these headaches are going away making it easier for a variety of organizations to deploy solutions.”
Meszaros identified QSR as one vertical that has experienced growth thanks to SoC, noting that the cost-conscious sector, once bogged down with the expense of a PC, software and content, has been able to reduce infrastructure costs by allowing its integrators to provide clients with solutions where more value could be placed on content rather than sacrificing the budget to accommodate a display.
Jonathan Shor, senior account manager at Verrex has also observed another trend: the increase in pixel density of screens used in digital signage applications — an evolution that has raised some challenges, notably the lag between delivering higher resolutions and frame rates and the actual display technology.
“Manufacturers are only now coming out with 4K 60fps with 4:4:4 color space, but displays are moving quickly past that to 8K and beyond,” Shor said. “This has also presented challenges in creating content. For higher resolution displays, content looks best using native resolution. Media players have to support that but what makes it even more difficult is the higher frame rate. This yields much larger files, however, they still need to play back in perfect motion.
“Most video content within an organizations is 1080p and 4K. So in order to take full advantage of native resolution, custom content needs to be created. This is a costly process and needs to be constantly updated in order to keep the message fresh and topical.”
Interactive digital signage displays have been around for a long time, but with the recent advent of a number of retail analytics platforms from major manufacturers, interactivity is gaining a new layer of importance — essentially driving renewed interest in the use of digital signage beyond wayfinding and advertising.
“Adoption [of interactive displays] has been fueled by consumer demand for more personalized experiences along with more affordable hardware options,” said Mason Page, executive vice president of strategic business planning for integration company, Reflect. “Brands use LCD displays along with LEDs with interactive glass overlays to empower people and enhance everyday moments. Touchscreens are excellent for allowing customers to explore brands, digest information, and browse and compare products.”
Page pointed to the increasing use of large interactive displays, 55in. and larger, as assisted selling tools, a practice that sees a sales associate use technology to create a personalized experience in tandem with a customer.
“As customer and associate stand shoulder to shoulder, it creates a highly collaborative environment for finding the right product or service to meet the customer’s needs,” Page explained. “Assisted selling is helpful in complex sales, like new cars, kitchen appliances, and engagement rings, where a salesperson adds significant value in the process.
“In verticals that suffer from high turnover, like retail, assisted selling applications are excellent training tools. As employees get comfortable with the application, they also gain confidence around the company’s goods and services, better enabling them to increase conversions.”
VR, AR, AI
The chatter around virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and projection technologies has seeped into the digital signage channel as a supplemental discussion of expanded interactivity. Can these technologies influence future display design?
“The use and role of these technologies depend on the environment they are being used in,” said Meszaros. “For example, I don’t see VR as a viable technology in retail given that is more of a “playful” experience than something I could see leading towards a call to action. With any of these technologies it comes down to the use case and the way it is being woven into the experience.”
Shor agrees with Meszaros to some extent, noting that “VR/AR technologies are use case specific; they are not meant for transient viewership”, but goes on to illustrate how the technology, already viably used in the smart home consumer sector as a visualization home décor and 3D modeling tool, can be used in digital signage applications.
“By combining AI and VR/AR, digital signage will be to personalize the message for the individual,” Shor noted. “This is already happening on the internet by tracking websites people visit. But this will be taken to a larger scale and made to be even more real time. We are finally catching up to Minority Report.”
There is one display technology that Meszaros is looking forward to seeing develop: haptic touch. Pointing to groups like Tanvas and Ultrahaptics, who are developing interactive technologies that evoke the sense of touch, Meszaros believes these kind of technologies are allowing us to redefine the way we help connect people to place through digital engagement.
Like Meszaros, Page sees developing interactive technologies as having an impact on display design even as they have kinks to work out before they can comfortably integrate with digital signage displays. Of all the readily available tech, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are proving to be the most viable in our channel, according to Page.
“Augmented reality, as with virtual reality, creates a richer, more realistic experience for users,” Page explained. “It’s a great tool for personalization, where — from a store or a prospective customer’s home — a user can view objects in space, at scale, and make a more informed determination if they want to purchase. It is becoming a more widely adopted tool for “edutainment” and is projected to continue rapid year-over-year growth.
“Artificial intelligence will quickly become a requisite for success in the coming years. As brands strive to use AI for more personalized experiences online, consumer expectations are shifting where they now expect a similar type of customized experience in stores. They anticipate seamlessness. Crunching big data to deliver tailored interactions will soon become a requirement. Failure to innovate here will produce category laggards and brand extinctions.”
Beyond technological enhancements, new digital signage display designs may come from the cataloging of in-field usage such as DOOH and large venues to create displays that are more integration friendly and, by extension, of benefit to display owners and their target audience. To achieve this next-generation displays will have to take onboard everything from software considerations to networking infrastructures.
“Innovation in digital signage software has unlocked many benefits to signage owners,” said Page. “In addition to providing a scalable means of content delivery, signage software is now being used to deliver hyper-targeted content to audiences. By combining software with other technology like video analytics, brands are raising audience engagement rates and creating more profitable businesses.”
Page further outlined the benefits of networked experiences by underscoring the possible monetization of a network with advertising and sponsorship by using screens to generate new revenue streams.
“Digital signage integrators and clients now have the equipment they need to manage complex ad campaigns,” Page explained. With the right partner, they can set advertising and sponsor parameters and sit back as their campaigns are delivered across the network. Network operators reap the ad revenue while audiences view contextually relevant content that enhances their brand interaction.”