It's a lot more than just a TV on the wallEarlier this week I posted my interview with Deena Simon about video conferencing and collaboration, today I'm posting the second half of the spotlight—Digital Signage. I sat down with Mark Landshoff, our leading expert in digital signage at Microserve, to understand what digital signage is all about. Mark has been a part of some amazing projects at Microserve including an eight screen video wall that can display live-streamed hockey games in full HD!
What does digital signage mean to you as a service we offer?The biggest thing is recognizing that digital signage is everywhere. You see it in restaurants, elevators, offices—almost everywhere. In terms of mechanics digital signage is more than a static video billboard; digital signage is really server-based technology that powers communication and collaboration. For every display that you see in a doctor's office, there are servers behind it pulling information in from the Internet and pushing it to screens. For each display that you see that the mall giving you updates and offers for stores, there are hundreds of connections to marketing, sales, and IT systems putting that information in front of you. Digital signage might just look like a TV on a wall to you, but it's so much more than that.
How does digital signage fit in with collaboration and communication?Think about it this way, imagine going to an airport and not seeing flight information boards. Imagine having to wait in line after line to find out when your plane was departing. Of course it's never been like that, but that's probably one of the best examples of digital signage enhancing communications. Digital signage can broadcast internal updates, presentations, live-stream company town hall meetings; anything that can be put on a computer or TV can be pushed to common screen. For collaboration, digital signage helps enliven information than anything else. Maybe showing when a meeting room is booked on an interactive calendar or showing the status of help desk queues. Collaboration isn't just about working together it's about quickly sharing information. Any time you can put a large screen on the wall to share information with people, that's a big step forward towards collaboration.
What are the newest innovations in digital signage?There are two things that are really exciting. One is the ability to manage and control hundreds or thousands of displays across several locations from a single, remote location. Imagine a a large university or company with campuses all over the place. Only a few years ago to have all the digital signs sync up together with the same information meant having someone make changes at each location, maybe even several times at each location. Now you can securely connect to the displays remotely and push information to them all at once. Imagine if there is a campus-wide emergency how that could save lives and communicate critical information.
The next innovation is available, just not widely used, is having displays that react to the individual person standing in front of it. Again imagine being at the mall and stepping in front of the billboard and getting a different ad than the person before or after you. Men vs women, adults vs children. As somewhat creepy as that sounds, you extend this to ID badges and at offices and you could have a display that you step up to and have it point to where your meeting is scheduled or an important message from your inbox.
Right now digital displays and digital signage is the fastest technology segment for small to midsized businesses. Think about all the times you're waiting in an office and how often you see a display with headlines...plus information about the business in the waiting room. Businesses are moving beyond canned videos that just loop forever to interactive displays with news, updates from social media, and other real-time updates for visitors. It's pretty exciting right now.
What is the most interesting digital signage project you’ve worked on?We've been working on an eight display video wall for a large university. It's pretty amazing, there are four controllers on the wall so we can have four different sets of images on the screen or use the entire screen for things like live hockey in full HD. The software that powers these video walls it pretty amazing, we can have images overlapping on screens but only using parts of the screen, so something completely different can be on the remaining part of a screen. Transmitting live video is pretty amazing. Because we we're on a local network we have a lot more flexibility with the quality of the video we show, and because the video passes through a server first the video can be compressed and then decompressed to use much less of the network than it would have before.
This video wall is a showcase for what the future of digital signage is going to be. Giant video walls are going to be commonplace in a few years. The costs of displays and the cost of the hardware is coming down in price where what were high-end systems a few years ago are affordable solutions for small businesses.
Where do you think we’ll be in five years with digital signage and related technologiesIn five years, most of the information we see is going to be on some kind of digital signage. From billboards on the highway to interactive signs in the mall to information centres in offices, all the technology pieces are here and ready...we just need to put them in place. Even touchscreens, those are going to be so pervasive that not touching a screen to interact with the information is going to seem strange.
What does Microserve bring to the table with AV and digital signage?This is the most critical part. A lot of AV companies say they do digital signage, but all they really do is hang a TV on the wall and then tell people to ask IT to set up the servers. That's just not good enough. Digital signage is more than just the display. Anyone can hang a TV on a wall and plug it in, the essential part, the part that Microserve does, is integrating all the systems that digital signage relies on. When we set up digital signage, we set up the servers, we make sure the network can handle the bandwidth signage requires, we connect and secure systems to the servers for things like meeting room updates or even connecting with video conference systems.
This is the part that AV companies just fail to realize—digital signage isn't about the display at all, it's all about the servers and connectivity that powers the whole system. Any kid can hang a TV on a wall, but it takes an IT company to pull all the parts together so you have a complete communications system.
If you'd like to learn more about digital signage and interactive displays, email us to learn more.
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