The Many Sides of Digital Signage
Although the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has strained nearly every industry, including commercial AV, the commercial AV industry has risen to the challenge, providing solutions during a time when we’ve had to rethink the way we communicate. Digital signage is one of those communication solutions, and it’s one of the largest revenue generators in commercial AV. It’s expected to reach $42.7 billion in 2025, according to AVIXA’s 2020 Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA) report.
This past December, AVIXA and the Digital Signage Federation (DSF) hosted the two-day virtual conference, called D=SIGN, to explore the world of digital signage. In their two keynote presentations, Laura Davis-Taylor, Chief Strategy Officer for InReality, and Beth Warren, Senior VP of Strategy for Creative Realities, discussed the role that digital signage has played during the pandemic, as well as the vast opportunities ahead for this solution.
Wilderverse at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, credit: Dimensional Innovations
Powering Through A Pandemic
This year, AV professionals stepped up to help businesses stay afloat, to help schools continue to educate students, and to help people navigate spaces safely, Davis-Taylor shared.
Last April, Creative Realities collaborated with InReality to launch a non-contact, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled temperature-detection solution called Thermal Mirror. It utilizes thermal technology that captures infrared radiation from objects and then creates an electronic image and results based on temperature differences. The integration of the AI-enabled software platform provides further functionality—from response customization and anomaly alerts to compliance logs for legal audit trails. Large companies have begun to use solutions like this as faster, often more accurate means of taking employees’ temperatures.
To help businesses return to the workplace safely, 22Miles introduced Protection-as-a-Service. The solutions include 3D wayfinding with a smart-pathway algorithm for re-routing foot traffic, touch-free digital signage that’s voice-activated and that has gesture control and mobile room booking that provides information about desk availability and sanitization of the space.
“We can say that we have this role in not only helping businesses stay afloat but [also] helping people, in some cases, not get sick,” Davis-Taylor stated.
Our digital behavior isn’t merely a trend. The pandemic has brought digital forward even more so, but Warren doesn’t see that going away anytime soon. “If we don’t address digital realities in the work that we’re doing, we’re not going to keep pace and we’re not going to stay on top of what’s important,” she said.
Online & Offline Channels Are Merging
The physical and virtual worlds are merging more and more each day. You experience this when you’re using Facebook Marketplace, Instagram shopping, Amazon Go, Uber Eats, and Instacart, Warren said. This has led to a shift away from making choices by channel to, instead, making it totally fluid. People can engage wherever their device takes them.“Back in the day, when I first started in brand management, Procter & Gamble coined this phrase ‘the first moment of truth,’” Warren said. “And that first moment of truth is always about what place…what venue…what retailer [you’re] going to pick before you go out and get your shopping done. It’s not like that anymore. There are a plethora of channels, and it particularly starts right in your very hands.”
Digital-first brands dominate and set expectations for how technology has to perform in environments. This influences the worlds of retail, quick-service restaurants (QSRs), stadiums and airports, Warren said. Digital-first brands have the advantage of
making the customer experience frictionless, and, because they’re in the cloud, their agility allows them to shift strategies quickly.
“We don’t have that advantage from a physical point of view,” Warren observed, asking, “So what can we learn from digital-first brands that will help us connect with consumers in new ways, and do that in a way that’s effective?”
The Digital Approach Is Human
Before starting a digital-signage journey, start with the human—not a screen, Warren said. How can we make it work for humans to connect with things they want and need in the places that they love?
When Toronto Union Station, Canada’s busiest transit hub, recently renovated its food court, ICON Media outfitted the vendors’ storefronts with LED videowalls to provide them with prominent exposure to the public. Visitors can view arrival and departure times, tourist information and foodservice offerings. An LED elevator wrap is at the center of the food court, and visitors can enjoy their meals while watching the Raptors and Maple Leafs on game days.
Meanwhile, at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the hospital wanted to create a welcoming and engaging environment for patients during their time in the infusion room. Experience-design firm Dimensional Innovations created Wilderverse, an interactive game that allows patients to use a mobile device to create a custom avatar that explores a virtual outdoor world that’s visible on multiple curved, digital organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays in the center of the treatment area. “The kids can come in and become an avatar, and, literally, while they’re getting their infusion, go into an alternate universe,” Davis-Taylor said.
Although 2020 was a year most people would like to forget, it was a year of revelations, too. For the tech industry, it accelerated many of the solutions already trending upward. So, hold onto those lessons learned, and cheers to 2021.