An Introduction to Digital Signage

An Introduction to Digital Signage

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Purpose
WireSpring Technologies (www.wirespring.com) develops a powerful suite of software applications for building
and managing digital signage systems. However, digital signage is a fairly new concept, and requires an
understanding of severalconcepts to help ensure success. The purpose of this white paper is to introduce
the concept of digital signage solutions, explain who can benefit from a signage installation, and outline the steps needed
to get started with a digital signage project.
What is Digital Signage?
Digital signage is a name given to any number of methods used to display multimedia content in public venues. Alternatively known as dynamic signage, electronic signage or narrowcasting, networks of digital signs have been deployed across numerous retail chains, banks, travel hubs and corporate headquarters to deliver informative and entertaining content to captive audiences and passers by.
In its most basic implementation, a digital sign consists of a playback device (such as a computer, VCR or DVD player) connected to a display.

Depending on the application, the display might be a small LCD screen, a
plasma display panel, or even a video wall composed of a number of
connected screens. With a number of affordable options available, anybody
with a message to send to their out-of-home audience can benefit from a
digital signage installation.
Making Digital Signage Work
The concept of out-of-home messages is not new. Billboards, window
treatments and point-of-purchase displays are widely used for out-of-home
advertising, while bulletin boards (both traditional and electronic), flyers,
faxes, memos, and email have been used to send corporate communications
and educate employees for decades. However, true dynamic signs first came into popular use with the advent of
in-store closed circuit television networks in the 1970s. With the widespread availability of affordable VCRs,
retail stores and corporate headquarters were able to play back pre-recorded content to their patrons and
employees, providing timely information and entertaining content. Soon, closed circuit networks would be
augmented (and in some cases, supplanted) with affordable TV/VCR combination units for smaller displays, and
projection screens and video walls for eye catching, large format presentations. With satellite distribution, it even
became (relatively) affordable to syndicate the same content to thousands of sites at once.
In recent years, several factors have combined to make digital signage a more powerful, eye-catching, and
affordable display medium than ever beforeñcontributing to its widespread adoption. Key factors include the
nearly ubiquitous availability of high-speed Internet access, new large format displays like plasma screens and
LCD panels, and new compression formats that can compress large amounts of content into small file sizes.
A modern digital sign adds several additional components to the traditional setup described above. The
controller, typically a powerful computer or media playback appliance, uses a digital connection to deliver a crisp
output signal to a digital display, like a plasma screen or LCD panel. The playback device uses a digital storage
medium (such as a hard drive or solid-state flash disk) to store digital content locally, ensuring smooth playback.
In many cases, the device can be remotely managed over the Internet to allow for content updates, schedule
changes, and compliance reporting.

Even the smallest digital signage networks can
benefit from remote management. Aside from
offsetting the costs of producing, replicating and
distributing VHS tapes or DVDs, Internet connected
signage devices provide network administrators with
the ability to closely monitor playback, ensuring that
the desired content is being displayed. Delivering
content over the Internet ensures that the content
arrives and is displayed according to the proper
schedule, eliminates errors in shipping and handling,
and removes reliance upon on-site personnel to
change tapes or DVDs (since these individuals are
typically not very motivated to perform such tasks).
Additionally, compliance reporting gives network
owners a complete record of what every screen has
displayed. Finally, user-friendly management tools
mean that people throughout the organization – from
advertising signage and creative services to operations and
general management – are empowered to change
content and generate reporting metrics.
More sophisticated remote management suites also give network operators the ability to perform near real-time
adjustments to every display’s playback schedule, enabling real-time marketing experiments, emergency
announcements, and even live content feeds.
What Kind of Digital Signage Should You Use?
Choosing the right digital signage technology depends on the intended application. For example, a digital
signage application for internal corporate communications would probably benefit from large, eye catching
plasma displays placed in common areas such as cafeterias and break rooms. Depending on the size of the
deployment, the network owner might opt for either local or remote management. On the other end of the
spectrum, a manufacturer looking to improve their point-of-purchase advertising displays might choose to employ
small, lightweight LCD panels in conjunction with traditional product displays in an aisle or endcap fixture,
managing the content centrally via a web-based interface.
Of course, budget constraints must also be taken into consideration. Digital signage applications that require
large displays have a number of options to choose from, including rear projection TVs, LCDs, plasmas, DLPs,
wall projectors, and traditional CRTs. Smaller signs are typically either small LCD or CRT displays.
Touchscreens are available for virtually any sized display, and can add an interactive component to an otherwise
non-interactive display medium.
Finally, though many digital sign networks start modestly, it is important to plan for the future. A network of a few
screens may be easy to manage by shipping and swapping DVDs. However, if that network grows to 25, 50 or
100 screens, this type of content management becomes much more cumbersome. Additionally, features that
may not seem relevant during the early stages of a deployment might prove to be essential later on. For
example, the ability to add or delete a piece of content on short notice might not seem important to a small sign
network owner until the necessity arises, often at the insistence of a large advertiser. Similarly, other business
opportunities may rely on advanced features like real-time scheduling or live content insertions. What’s more,
the availability of turnkey, hosted digital signage software can actually make it cheaper to deploy the initial
systems with full remote management capability – providing a solution that is affordable for today and scalable for
tomorrow.

Achieving Success with the Right Partnerships
When embarking on a digital signage project, you may wish to consult with firms that provide key services in
various areas. For instance, financing companies can help spread the up-front expense of the display hardware
and infrastructure over a multi-year period, so your company only pays an affordable monthly fee. Similarly,
skilled partners are available to assist in ad sales, system deployment, content authoring, and end-user support.
Who Can Use Digital Signage?
Anybody who needs to display dynamic content in a public environment can benefit from digital signs. While
retailers are arguably adopting signage networks in the largest numbers, the technology is also being used to
deliver dynamic messages to customers and employees alike in financial institutions, travel hubs, auto
dealerships, corporate offices, and other venues. Consider the following examples:
Example #1
A retail store chain looking to provide product manufacturers with an additional form of in-store advertising works
with an outside ad agency to place targeted promotions across a network of screens. By outsourcing the ad
sales to a professional organization, the store chain can continue to focus on its core competencies while helping
to ensure that the ads will be sold, displayed and tracked for compliance (proof-of-playback). In this scenario,
the retailer can utilize various metrics to determine the effect of the dynamic media on product sales – especially
when the digital signage software makes it possible to run different campaigns at each store. Integrating the
digital signage network into an existing co-op program can also prove lucrative for the store and vendors alike.
Example #2
A chain of regional banks wants to educate its employees on new products and services on a weekly basis, and
also provide advertising content and a live television feed to patrons during business hours. The bank works
with a digital signage consultant to assemble the network and supply it with content. The consultant works with
the bank to create the product information spots, which appear onscreen before business hours for employee
education. At the start of the business day, the network is configured to divide the screen into two areas, supply
one of them with custom advertising content supplied by the bank, and tune a local news station to the other.
Example #3
A corporation with a national headquarters and several remote manufacturing facilities wants to provide
employees with up-to-the-minute industry news, information on upcoming holidays and company-sponsored
events, as well as a weekly address from the CEO. Using a centrally managed digital signage architecture, a
network administrator at the home office can schedule each of these items ahead of time, and provide
customized schedules for each facility.
Getting Started with a Digital Signage Project
With satisfied customers around the globe, WireSpring is the premiere provider of digital signage software and
consulting services. For more information, or to start planning your next signage rollout, please contact
WireSpring for a free consultation.

Tag: digital signage content manager

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