Articles and Whitepapers

DSF Members are invited to submit articles and whitepapers to be posted in this section. Submit your article here.


Five Future Truths of Digital Signage in Retail

by Dina Townsend, Vice President, Retail Practice Leader of RMG Networks

A few months ago, Dallas, Texas saw the opening of high-end clothing store, Reformation. Along with its eco-friendly materials and celebrity-worthy styles, the retailer is introducing local fashionistas to a new way of shopping using touchscreens.

Around the store, there are touchscreen displays and iPads. Customers can use the devices to scan through available inventory or should they see something on the floor they want to try on, they simply digitally select the style and size preferred. The garment is immediately placed in a dressing room by a sales associate and voila — ecommerce meets instant gratification.

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Digital Signage is Finding its Voice

by Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, LLC

There’s a lot of buzz in the industry about how voice integration in digital signage may be the next big step forward in how signage is used to interface with customers. And while I don’t doubt that voice integration will become much more prominent in the years ahead, as an industry we have some interesting challenges to address.

First and foremost, we need to be realistic about how we intend to use voice recognition to engage viewers. At a technical level, voice recognition requires adequate processing power to recognize and respond to voice commands. To economize the amount of computing power required to interpret and appropriately respond to spoken interaction, it’s important to simplify the interaction. For example, instead of making a particular signage installation capable of responding to complex queries, try to hone in on a very specific vocabulary to trigger some of the most common interactions. Complex interaction will someday have its place in digital signage, but not before the foundational work is laid. A well-executed installation with rudimentary yet highly functional interaction is far better for the customer than a complicated interaction with a high rate of failure.

Secondly, the absence of pervasive internet connectivity for all signage devices is a challenge in itself. Especially in retail and other disparate environments, it’s simply not feasible to deliver a live internet connection to all devices in the field. Without an internet connection, it’s not possible to deliver an interactive experience based on live database queries in real time. The solution? Script a handful of very standard interactions that are triggered by common voice commands, yet don’t require a persistent internet connection to complete. This leaves the customer feeling as if they’ve communicated with the signage, when in fact they’ve simply triggered a basic if/then dialogue that’s been carefully scripted and confined to the display and the media player feeding content to the display.

Lastly, as we continue to explore what’s possible with voice-based digital signage, we need to carefully assess what depth of communication is acceptable to general consumers. Someone is likely to interact quite freely with their Amazon Echo or Google Home in the comfort and privacy of their living room; yet people are more prone to a guarded, less emotive form of communication in public settings. For this reason alone, the interactive norms of voice-based digital signage are likely to evolve much differently compared to the evolution of voice-activated smart home devices.

To be clear, voice-activated digital signage is in its infancy and there’s a great deal of room to grow. I don’t expect that conversing with digital signage will become the norm any time soon. But we’re taking small steps in that direction. If managed carefully, we’re going to see a much deeper level of voice-based interaction with digital signage in the years ahead.

 


About the Author

BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.


Fans in Digital Signage Players Are a Lose/Lose Proposition

by Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, LLC

Many people think of fans as essential components for cooling heat-generating electronics devices such as digital signage media players. Fans are loud and make devices bigger than they need to be, but they’re a necessary evil, right? Wrong! As far as media players are concerned, they are actually completely unnecessary and a telltale sign of inefficient design.

I am a firm believer that fans should be avoided at all costs. Why? Let me count the ways… First of all, a fan is a moving part, therefore a potential point of failure. When a fan does fail, you probably won’t know until the entire device overheats and fails. Second, the fan itself requires power, which generates additional heat. Lastly, fans are not an essential part of electronics if the device is designed properly. They add no operative value – they’re simply a cooling system. That’s why you’ll never find a fan inside a BrightSign media player – a policy that I am passionate about. Our Series 3 players are more powerful than ever before, yet still there are no fans.

Specifically in digital signage, there are simple ways to avoid the need for a fan. Start by designing products that produce less heat in the first place. Product designers should be sure not to use bigger processors than necessary. Although it’s counter-intuitive, using a lightning-fast general-purpose processor may slow the system, rather than speed it up. Using appropriately specified processors with efficient, dedicated software can enable all the functionality required. A purpose-built, commercial-grade OS (rather than a consumer-grade OS, like Android or Windows, which is multipurpose and clumsy) can drive low-powered efficiency. Use fast, solid-state storage that can be returned to a low-power idle mode quickly. There are many strategic ways to produce less heat and creative methods to dissipate heat that do not require a flimsy, breakable fan.

If you are considering a player or SoC that needs a fan to cool it, be sure to also consider the potentially much higher TCO as a result of the fan breaking and the system overheating. That’s simply not a risk we’re comfortable passing on to our customers.


About the Author

BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.


SignStix® Takes Major Step Towards Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) with Advanced Integration Features for Truly Intelligent Digital Campaigns

As part of SignStix’s® upcoming 2.10 software release, the team behind the award-winning digital engagement platform have developed a set of brand new integration features that enable organisations to build their own intelligent digital experiences without technical restriction.

This presents new, exciting opportunities for brands looking to craft dynamic digital campaigns that go far beyond the realms of what standard digital signage platforms can offer.

“We really have reached a significant milestone in the development of the platform and we’re extremely excited to launch this feature set, because we realise the immediate benefits this will bring to organisations, regardless of size or sector,” said Aneysha Wakelin, Head of Marketing at SignStix®.

“Whilst the SignStix platform is still a perfect fit for typical digital signage use cases, brands are now able to address specific communications challenges that were previously difficult to overcome, whilst uncovering new opportunities for digital engagement across the business.

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Transport digital signage solutions provided by Signagelive

Article originally posted on Signagelive.com

In the transport world keeping your customers up to speed with the latest information relevant to them to make their journey and travel experience a good one – ideally so that they return – is crucial. Traveling is a matter of getting people to places as fast and efficiently as possible, but the whole experience should include so much more, whether it is for business or pleasure.

Digital signage is emerging as a way of enhancing that travel experience from a customer point of view, while also making the process easier for transport employees. It is even possible to shrink perceived waiting times down with the use of digital signage.

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Soaring to Success with ADA-Compliant Airport Technology Solutions

By: Earl Naegele, Managing Director of Commercial Sales, Peerless-AV

As we near the holiday season, airport travel is going to spike, typically causing added anxiety for passengers. However, as technology continually advances, airports can utilize various solutions to help alleviate some of the major pain points of traveling – such as navigating a crowded and confusing airport, printing boarding passes, and more.

Interactive Solutions to Enhance the Customer Experience

Implementing digital signage is one surefire way to simplify the passenger experience. Through the use of digital solutions, airports can share updated and accurate flight information, provide interactive mapping for wayfinding, and reduce perceived wait times for customers with shared entertainment. Interactive, self-serve kiosks can also allow users to check themselves in, print tickets, and locate facilities. By empowering the passenger, these interactive solutions can also reduce staffing and operational costs.

Airports often experience heavy levels of foot traffic, specifically in entryways, security lines, and boarding areas. It can be difficult to grasp the passenger’s attention with so many activities occurring at the same time, but these are also great places to share pertinent information. Digital signage displays offer the opportunity to constantly change content, and provide an eye-catching element that static signage simply cannot do.

Marketing Benefits

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What Makes an Industrial Digital Media Player Different

By Robert Suffoletta, Logic Supply

The digital signage industry is booming. Analysts predict an 8.94 percent compound annual growth rate between now and 2020, and that by 2023 the market will be worth $32.84 Billion. The expansion of signage implementation throughout industry has been a major contributor to this exponential growth, with displays being used by businesses of every shape and size for a huge range of content delivery needs. Of course, Digital Out of Home (DOOH) advertising is still a significant part of the overall signage equation, but increasingly digital displays are being utilized for applications far beyond customer acquisition, and in locations that would challenge, or even destroy, a typical media player.

Figure 1: Unlike traditional media players, fanless industrial media players, like this ML400 system from Logic Supply, employ custom machined heatsinks and fanless enclosures.

Static and interactive digital displays are popping up everywhere from medical facilities and manufacturing floors, to transportation hubs and outdoor events (Figure 2). These varied applications for digital content delivery bring with them a host of logistical and environmental complications that have required signage professionals to reevaluate the hardware they utilize to convey their message.

But what makes an industrial digital media player different, and what factors play into an educated hardware choice for signage integrators and ISVs?

A Different Look and Feel

In the past, there’s been an attitude toward disposability in much of the digital media player space, with entry level device builders suggesting that when a media player fails, the user simply throw it away and replace it. But that assumes a certain level of nonchalance toward the information being displayed. Industrial digital signage players aren’t throw away devices because the content they’re displaying isn’t disposable. In fact, it’s often mission-critical.

Perhaps the most striking difference between consumer-grade digital media solutions and industrial media players is the way they’re constructed (Figure 1). The vast majority of commercially available media players are built using some combination of plastics and polycarbonate. While these materials are relatively inexpensive, they don’t offer much in the way of durability, particularly in challenging environments. Industrial media players, which may be subject to extreme temperatures, moisture, vibration or even impact forces, most commonly utilize all metal enclosures and internal components designed specifically for industrial use.

Figure 2: An industrial digital signage installation located above the JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in Queens, NY. Industrial digital media players inside power two displays each.

Industrial media players may also look very different than their commercial counterparts. With enclosure extrusions designed to dissipate heat, and form factors tailored to installation behind low profile displays or within electrical cabinets, industrial signage devices don’t always conform to the nondescript black box archetype. The connectivity options available on industrial media players also tend to take into account the variety of output devices they may need to interface with. In addition to HDMI, USB, and DisplayPort (of various flavors), it’s not uncommon to find VGA or even DVI connections to accommodate legacy displays that may be part of the existing infrastructure at a given installation location.

Purpose-built Reliability

A hardware crash at a retail facility utilizing a digital signage solution might be inconvenient or embarrassing for the proprietor, but imagine the potential ramifications to loss of signal at a high-paced manufacturing plant or, worse still, a busy medical facility. Reliability is paramount in any industrial signage application, making attention to detail and careful engineering of industrial media players vital to their longevity. For signage integrators installing hardware at client sites, a single failure that results in the need to roll a support truck can cost the company hundreds of dollars, not to mention the potential lost revenue for its customer.

With outdoor signage deployments becoming more commonplace, systems designed for industrial use are employing components rated for extreme operating temperatures, from -25 ºC (-13 ºF), all the way up to +70 ºC (+155 ºF) or more. In addition to outdoor use, these wide operating temperature ranges provide integrators the flexibility to install systems in cars, busses, trains, and ships—where they’re commonly used for everything from passenger information delivery to infotainment and wayfinding.

In addition to environmental resistances, many industrial signage players limit, or even completely forgo, moving parts. Solid state storage offers faster read and write speeds to allow for smooth content delivery while also eliminating the noise and data corruption that can result from spinning hard drives. The most reliable breed of industrial media players also leverage fanless, solid state cooling solutions. Removing a cooling fan from the equation can result in a digital media player with zero moving parts, greatly improving overall system reliability, especially for installations where the hardware is subject to vibration.

Above and beyond fanless cooling, some industrial media player hardware manufacturers take the extra step to create systems that are also fully sealed against contaminant ingress, with no vents or extraneous openings in the enclosure. Quick serve restaurants who employ digital signage displays for their interior menu boards are increasingly turning to fanless solutions to prevent dust, grease, and moisture from reaching sensitive hardware components and causing failures.

Constructed for the Long Term

One important aspect of industrial signage that frequently goes overlooked is the concept of life cycle. While the reliability of the hardware contributes to its life span (how long it’s expected to operate without a failure), life cycle refers to the manufacturer’s commitment to produce and support a given device.

In the world of consumer technology, frequent hardware turnover due to obsolescence makes life cycle less of a concern, but for industrial applications that may depend on a system to operate for three to five years or more once installed, the ability to order additional devices or get support for any necessary updates is paramount. When dealing with international or safety certifications, even slight changes to a device configuration can cause huge logistical headaches, not to mention the significant costs of re-certification. The ability to order a locked-down configuration for the foreseeable future of a project is a huge advantage industrial media players offer over their consumer-grade counterparts. In addition to life cycle management, industrial media player manufacturers frequently offer more inclusive and longer warranty support, providing additional peace of mind to signage integrators.

The Bottom Line

The continued evolution of digital content delivery is changing the way signage professionals evaluate the hardware platforms they utilize. Even the most user-friendly, fully featured software suite is still only as viable as the hardware it’s running on. The widespread use of digital media players in increasingly challenging environments puts pressure on integrators to ensure the hardware they select will survive the rigors of installation, no matter where that might be. Ultimately, the quality of your industrial digital signage hardware should always match the gravity of your message.

Article originally posted on the Embedded Systems Engineering website.


About the Author

Robert Suffoletta is a Visual Communications Specialist at Logic Supply, an Intel IoT Solutions Alliance member. A 20-year veteran of the computer industry with more than 10 years’ experience in providing hardware solutions to the digital signage market, he is dedicated to matching clients building innovative signage solutions with the most capable and reliable hardware for their unique installation.


Stadiums Put Digital Signage on the Big Stage

by Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, LLC

Digital signage in stadiums and other event facilities is not new. For the better part of the past decade, venues have been swapping out aging, legacy static signage and CRTs in favor of sleek new digital signage to enhance the fan experience. But even more interesting to me is to see how digital signage is being used in new venues. We’re talking about much more than digital menu boards here – we’re seeing digital signage as an integral component of the stadium’s conceptual design, long before construction begins.

Our players are working hard behind the scenes at many new major sports complexes – powering menus, scoreboards, luxury suite signage, parking lots and even displays located in the restrooms. Digital signage is EVERYWHERE in these new venues. Late-model LED displays are an increasingly popular option utilized in stadiums, from individual displays to massive installations like the stunning 9,000-square-foot LED video mesh on the exterior facade of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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Game-changing Technology for Retail Environments

BrightSign logo

Black Diamond Solutions was chosen to develop an improved customer queue-management system for Int-AR-act so that they could effectively compete in that marketplace. A customer ‘call forward’ system helps shoppers move efficiently through a bank-style checkout lane. It has three elements – a button for the cashier to push, a register number indicator and a processor that ties it all together.

With the bar set, BDS set off to create a better system. They rapidly designed a prototype, tested it in store, and built the final solution run by BrightSign XD1033 players. Over 10,000 final products were delivered and installed on time.

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White paper: Digital Signage in Industry | Advantech / Telelogos

New DSF Member, Advantech Corp recently published a white paper discussing the context, solutions, consequences and benefits of the digital signage industry. An excerpt of the whitepaper is included below.

“Digital Signage is a powerful lever for communication which uses information technology, the Internet of Things and smart devices (screens, networks, content servers). It can assemble and broadcast continuously all types of information (image, video, text feeds, etc.) on networked screens which can be installed in both public spaces and private settings. Screens viewed by specific groups (employees, customers, associates, suppliers, etc.) can broadcast information relating to, for example, the internal workings of a company or organization. Such information can be enriched with more general information, such as the time, weather forecasts, traffic reports and news.

The numerous benefits of Digital Signage are continuous and dynamic updating of information, customization in real time, instant broadcasting of messages to manage crises, reduced environmental footprint, drastic reduction in the use of paper, a modern image and, above all, improved communications thanks to the attraction and stimulation inherent in the images shown on the screens. The power of image over text has been widely documented (cf. Ralph Haber, 1960). Digital Signage enables the user to present all types of information through dynamic images and, consequently, to increase adhesion and memorization.”

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