As the evolution of digital signage technology continues to accelerate, one group has a particularly strong pulse on the trends coming down the pike to the benefit of end users. Integrators will remain ahead of the curve in 2018, and it is all part of the job. 

There are an estimated 400 to 500 integrators in North America who facilitate the A/V technologies needs for their clients, be it retail companies, stadiums, campuses, etc. They provide the equipment – from media players to cabling – and some even offer warranty services, tech support, training and more. 

“Basically, we come in, build for the design and the plans and put in the technology. Our company specifically facilitates large networks and helps to maintain them,” said Will Amos, director of the Digital Media Group at Diversified. 

Amos used to work on the manufacturer side of the industry, but jumped over to the integrator side and calls it “low complacency.” 

“We have to know everything about what the manufacturers offer because we are the ones who bring the solution together,” he said. “That’s why we sign up. I have to know what’s new so I can be knowledgeable for my clients in helping them put their ideas together.” 

As opportunities involving digital signage continue to change, integrators will become even more critical in helping the end users. That includes having a 360-degree view of a project.

During a recent webinar, industry consultant Lyle Bunn underscored the critical need for integrators, especially as technology capabilities continue to grow.

 “Digital signage is not just a flat panel on a wall. It’s an ecosystem of engagement that uses powerful digital media to speak to patrons and influence their perception of a brand and the actions they’re about to take. It’s video walls, networks of displays put in place throughout the enterprise … increasingly it’s incorporating small form factor display on shelf level or service counters, on tablets and even at times integrating into staff-held and consumer-held devices that are coming into the location,” Bunn said. “So the job of integration, the capability you bring is of significant value to these end users.” 

A global brand like Chanel requires managed services from integrators to ensure consistency and reliability.

Particularly in the retail space, which makes up nearly 40 percent of the digital signage market, companies are stepping up their digital presence to ensure the consumer has an engaging and differentiated experience. That requires creating a robust back-end infrastructure.

“Our clients have the sexy job of putting an awesome vision together that will blow people’s minds and everyone will want to experience it,” he said. “We get the unsexy side of putting in the technology and coming up with the back-end systems to make sure it works and then managing it.”

Diversified starts with the building’s architectural plans and then plans and implements the displays and wiring to fit. Its Digital Media Group Division also deploys a content management team in the building that is well versed on 15 to 20 different software systems.

A client operation center – basically a large room with TVs that monitors the health of the network itself, and the hardware being used – is also a central part of Diversified’s role. 

“We do a lot of large scale deployments, often global, and monitor the health of the entire system. If connectivity goes down, if screens are powered off and shouldn’t be, the system pings our network operations system employees and they troubleshoot to see if it can self correct. If not, we can deploy a tech to the site to fix the issue,” Amos said. “A big offering and value add is the managed services side.”

Diversified works with Chanel, which is focused on the in-store customer experience and ambiance. It also works with a company called ESI Design out of New York. 

“They do really cool stuff for lobbies of large buildings and consumers who come in have this tech-based, artistic experience with this beautiful content. It’s amazing and these types of projects show that the industry is getting more sophisticated,” Amos said. “That’s why we’re always trying to find the next technology before anyone else does and use it in a way that nobody else would. We’re constantly trying to think creatively with the client so they can deploy their vision.”

 Being on the forefront of the technology curve can present its challenges. Amos said, for example, there is a degree of impatience to work through. 

“We have clients that have networks that are poorly run and they don’t understand the value add of managed services and they don’t really care because they just want stuff fixed now,” he said. “They’re spending a lot of money and they just want it to work, which I get. But there is an unwillingness to dive in and understand what the technologies are and how it could make their system be amazing.”

 Still, Amos adds it is the role of the integrator to work around that impatience and make it all come together.

“If we do our job correctly, we will take every tool offered and put it together in one actual solution,” he said. “If we do our job, we’ll make everybody happy.”