Thinking differently about digital signage

Screens, it seems, are everywhere these days. Printers and watches, tablets and smartphones all have high-resolution digital displays; front rooms and shared spaces across the globe are being furnished with increasingly large monitors. It’s a consequence of the relationship between increasing fabrication quality and falling prices, reducing what might be called the ‘threshold of suitability’ – simply put, the point at which deploying a screen becomes cost effective.

Unsurprisingly, this model is not only affecting broadcast media but also retailers, sports and entertainment venues, hospitals and university campuses. Sometimes the need can be quite simple: for example, consider the use of digital screens to show up to date bus times at transit points. Doing so saves a not-insignificant amount of rigmarole, from printing and distributing timetables, to maintaining a list of what has been updated where.

Once such a facility is in place it can serve as a basis for additional features – in this case, pushing out service changes or problems, serving adverts, updating the bus location in real time or even reporting emergencies. A screen is also just one step away from being an interactive terminal, accessible via a smartphone, watch or other device.

Screens can scale up, and scale out. In terms of size the sky is the limit, as images can be projected onto entire buildings. With the right back-end infrastructure in place (i.e. systems that co-ordinate what is being displayed), screens can also be spread across a campus environment and updated, to all intents and purposes, simultaneously. In practice, this means that any surface, pillar or wall can be a location from which information can be shared.

It also means that organisations could benefit from thinking differently about digital signage. In general screens and display acquisitions are considered on a capital or project basis – back with the bus stop example, the shopping list probably said “screens to display timetables etc.” Given the broadening opportunity both in terms of where to display, what to display and indeed, how to interact, an advisable alternative is to broaden horizons in terms of what this makes possible.

In practice this starts with a quite simple thought experiment. Look at the environment around you and think, “What if every surface was able to deliver information, in any form? How would this change how I consumed information, if I was a student, a patient, a customer? What kind of relationship would I be able to have?” While this may seem to be a step too far (“All we wanted was a display”), it is not that different from design of a space – architects do not consider the lowly footpath in terms of linking two points, for example, but as an opportunity to create new, unthought-of routes.

There remain numerous practicalities to keep in mind – connectivity, software integration and aspects such as screen brightness in certain locations, as well as cost-benefit analysis of the specific business case. But even if the outcome of a given deployment of digital signage is going to be relatively limited, it would be wise to include an element of up-front brainstorming in any discussion such that the full potential of any investment can be realised.

If you’re interested in learning more about the evolving digital signage industry, watch our first webinar sponsored by Samsung titled “Business on Display: Making a Statement with Digital Signage.”