The Perspective 
Wednesday, 27 August 2014

By Dan Brown
RMG Networks


Less is more. It's a phrase that gets used often and one that came to mind recently as I heard about the results of a company's decision related to a digital signage deployment.

In this particular instance, the company's goal was to build out a digital signage network on three different floors of their office building. The company spent tens of thousands of dollars on server hardware, various server software licenses, digital signage software, media players, mounting brackets, video transmitters and receivers, cabling - you get the idea. The list goes on and on and the dollars added up to a large capital investment. Obviously the problem that needed solving was important, so an investment was made.

What could possibly go wrong?

This was an infrastructure install resulting from a move into a new building. In order to cut costs, the company decided to repurpose existing 32" flat panel displays from their old building. These displays were showing their age. I'm sure you've seen the type - the ones that have that have amber tint on the right half of the display like someone spilled coffee on it. Yikes!

The majority of the displays were mounted on a high overhang of inner perimeter hallways. Potential hallway viewers either walked right under the displays without noticing them or had to lean against a cubicle wall and look almost straight up (a la front-row-of movie-theater effect). The displays were also too small to see past the first two rows of cubicles, rendering them ineffective for the other 80% of potential viewers.

After thousands of dollars of investment, skimping on the final and most important part of the digital signage installation ruined the objective of the whole system.

What should have happened?

The company should have heeded the previously mentioned old adage and scaled back. Instead of servicing three floors, they could have deployed only the two most important floors at the onset and invested the third floor savings in larger and higher quality displays.

Hiring a professional digital signage consultant to help plan display locations in order to reach the most viewers (and right viewers) would have yielded a better result and a better ROI. The company's on screen messaging was important (no doubt) for employees to see. So it stands to reason that the greater the influence the message could deliver, the greater the measurable ROI. Had this influence and ROI been properly recognized, the argument to approve costs to extend the installation to the third floor would have become natural.

This all brings to mind another saying: the most brilliant book cannot be read and appreciated if it isn't opened. For our market, this translate to a digital signage system isn't effective if it can't be seen.

Posted by: Admin AT 08:01 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  
Tuesday, 19 August 2014

   By Kisha Wilson
   Marketing Manager
   Slabb, Inc.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about potential job loss due to emerging technologies, including robots, self-service terminals and even kiosks. It’s an interesting fear that might be rooted in events of the past including the industrial revolution which saw the loss of many jobs due to automation.

But is there enough evidence currently to worry about something like this happening in the near future? Some will argue that there already is. Panera bread recently implemented ordering kiosk which will replace human cashiers. An article on – Panera Bread Ordering Kiosks to Replace Human Kiosks, reports that these kiosks will be deployed by 2016. The goal is to not only reduce the amount of time that customers stand in line to place their orders but reduce the wait time once the order has been placed as well.

The new technology, which is already being used at the company’s Boston and Charlotte locations, will be implemented at an additional 150 Panera restaurants this year. This means there will be a reduction in the number of cash registers at each store and customers will have the option of also placing orders via smartphones, laptops or tablets while at a Panera restaurant for either eat in orders or takeout. The company insists that despite the introduction of the kiosks that there will be no job loss as employees will now be delivering food directly to customers’ tables. It’s being done to improve service and order accuracy.

McDonald’s restaurants also introduced 7,000 touchscreen kiosks at some of their European outlets that will allow customers to place and pay for orders using cash or credit. It is no surprise then that according to a report, three in ten Britons believe their jobs will be replaced by a robot. In an article by Rhiannon Williams “Almost half of the 2,000 members of the British public surveyed (46 percent) admitted they are concerned that technology is evolving too quickly and is undermining traditional ways of life.”

Maybe it’s a development that is inevitable, with the increased need for us to stay connected – always having a device that allows us to quickly access information, complete transactions and just generally do things faster and more efficiently. It seems that self-service technology and gadgets associated with it would be a natural progression given our growing dependence on technology.

However, the jury is still out, especially with regard to self-service kiosks eliminating workers. Kiosks provide an easier way to serve customers and improve a company’s ability to provide an enhanced service experience. But they can never replace the human interaction which is still important in situations where a customer may be frustrated, lack knowledge or be averse to using technology and businesses must still attempt to cater to all.

As Martin Smith, Professor of Robotics at University of Middlesex, so aptly puts it in Ms. Williams’ article, “Though many fear their jobs will be taken over by machines, it is more likely that robots will be used as assistants, and the future workforce could have the benefit of avoiding hazardous and repetitive tasks rather than suffer mass redundancies.” We couldn’t have said it better.

Posted by: Admin AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 13 August 2014

By Ben Johnston
RMG Networks

So you've decided what you need to satisfy that hunger is some good old fashioned digital signage.

Cooking Up Digital Signage

Nothing like using screens and software to motivate employees, shoppers, or whoever is coming over for dinner. No doubt you've put lots of thought into all the benefits:

  •  Better performance from more engaged and informed employees or
  •  Sales lift on items shown on displays in your store or
  •  Better decision making from your frontline employees

Regardless of what appeals to you, your mind is set. You want Digital Signage. But you're not quite sure how to get started. Well, stay tuned my hungry friend and I'll share with you the ingredients for Digital Signage a la mode.

Basic Ingredients of Digital Signage

  •  LCD Displays
  •  A place to hang them (walls are great)
  •  Media Player (basically a PC or computer that plays video)
  •  Content (stuff to put on the screens)
  •  Software to control the stuff you put on the screens
  •  Some cables, mounts and other doo-dads

Step 1: Hang the displays on the wall. Don't forget to use a level and make sure the displays are at eye level. Oh, and lift with your legs when unboxing the displays - we don't need any injuries on the job.

Step 2: Connect that media players to the displays. Hopefully you bought nice ones that are easy to install and play nicely with the other devices in your technology pantry. Season with the cables, mounts and other doo-dads.

Step 3: Fire up your Digital Signage software. Once properly heated, import your content and schedule it to play on the displays.

Step 4: Head to 7-11 and pick up your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's (I had to work in that a la mode promise).

Step 5: Back in the office, enjoy the fruits of your labor as your company's productivity soars and all your problems vanish like the hunger you felt before you ate the pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Alas, if only Digital Signage were so simple. In reality, the recipe for digital signage really isn't much different than the list above. But like a good recipe and quality ingredients make a gourmet meal, the right hardware and a well crafted content strategy separate the successful digital signage deployments from the failed pilots. 

Posted by: Admin AT 01:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 06 August 2014

Tracy Robertson
ADFLOW Networks

With 14 years of experience managing complex digital signage rollouts for some of the largest retailers in North America, we have developed a few best practices along the way. Deploying digital signage is not just hanging screens – it is about integrating the digital experience into the DNA of a store’s design. From considerations around cabling to positioning media players and digital screens, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned that save time and money and ensure our clients get the most value from their investment.

1. A site survey streamlines the installation process.

Conducting a site survey before the installation identifies the right mount for the solution upfront. For example, in cases when a site survey isn’t done beforehand, the installer may not realize that the media player is going to be mounted on a cement wall, which requires a ceiling mount. The site survey also prevents problems with cabling; we’ve seen situations where clients must redo cabling because they didn’t factor in the impact of other electrical devices in the store and that can be costly.

2. The optimal location boosts the effectiveness of digital signage.

Attracting the attention of shoppers is key to a successful retail digital signage project. Unfortunately, when installing cabling the tendency is to just put the screen close to the power source which isn’t always the optimal location. Even if cables need to be changed or the power moved, it is important to take the time to determine the right screen location for the best impact. Understanding the goals behind the installation of the digital signage helps determine the proper placement. Before you install your screens, ask yourself “what behavior am I trying to encourage with these screens?” This simple question will force you to think through screen placement and store traffic patterns.

3. The right cabling set-up is critical.

When we arrive at locations where someone else has done the installation, often the cables are running here, there and everywhere and nothing is tied down. Cabling shouldn’t look like a spaghetti dinner. Taking the time to meticulously label and tie down each cable so it’s well organized will save time and avoid headaches in the long run. That way if you need to resolve a problem in the future, it’s easier to determine which cable is causing the issue.

4. Purpose-built media players enhance digital signage solutions.

We see people using a regular PC to deploy digital signage and then experiencing jittery content or issues with content that won’t play properly. Using media players that are purpose-built for digital signage and custom-designed for your applications provides greater reliability and better results.

5. All screens are not created equal.

Some people use consumer TVs for their digital signage solutions, however, home TVs are not meant to run 24/7 so they end up failing, which is costly. If you are serious about providing a superior customer experience, it pays to use commercial screens, which are designed to run continuously while maintaining a sharp, high quality picture.

6. Good communication is an essential part of the process.

We do a number of things to keep the lines of communication open including site surveys so everyone is on the same page about the project. Another critical activity we do on all installations is to create a wire diagram using a store layout and architectural drawings to detail the engineer’s designs for the mounting and placement of digital signage. When a technician goes to do the installation, they have a clearly laid-out plan of every engineered detail of the solution. In cases where a company has their own installation team, we provide instructions and direction.

7. A strong project plan helps mitigate risk.

Everyone involved should know what needs to get done, when, how and who is responsible. This will prevent problems such as components not arriving on time. If you are planning renovations, the project manager can coordinate them to dovetail perfectly with the digital signage installation to avoid extra costs. Perfect execution is critical. If a new store has a grand opening, sometimes there is a narrow window to get the installation done.

8. A support team is invaluable for resolving installation issues.

When you encounter issues, having access to a knowledgeable support team is critical. We have a remote online monitoring system that enables us to ensure the media player is working properly before the installation is completed. When issues arise, we can proactively reach out to resolve them before our customers even realize there’s a problem.

Posted by: Admin AT 07:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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