Making Digital Signage Work for Specific Clients, Part 2
Jun 9, 2010 12:01 PM
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When the Alabama Teachers Credit Union decided to install digital signage at its five locations, they called Rise Display for advice and support on how set it all up…
There’s a lot more to digital signage installation than mounting monitors and splashing on some snappy pictures; Rise Display Managing Director Ryan Cahoy is here to get into the details on how Rise worked with the Alabama Teachers Credit Union to get the right results for clients in their five locations.
OK Ryan, in part one we were talking about the digital signage installation that Rise Display did at the Alabama Teachers Credit Union and about the way that you have a captive audience there. The staff in these five locations hear sort of the same questions all of the time, it really saves times and mistakes to be able to post those questions and answers on the signage system. All of this is done through the software application. What do you call the authoring software that you use to do this?
We’re using a software called Display Wire. It’s a web service that’s used to manage the content. [Timestamp: 1:18]
OK, and what’s the general learning curve on Display Wire?
The nice thing with a web service is it’s a pretty easy learning curve. You don’t have a lot of the complexity when you’re looking at more traditional software applications that are up there on the space. It’s more of a scale-balanced, simplified version, which is ideal for things like financial applications where you really just want to maybe have the tellers or a branch manager—somebody that doesn’t have a lot of IT or technical background, nor the time to have to learn a complex application—where they just simply want to log in, make the change to their daily rates or their announcements, make sure it’s approved, and get it out to the display. So from a learning-curve standpoint, it’s really designed so that it’s very plug-and-play. You can sit down and, within maybe with an hour of an online learning course, really understand the basics of what you need to do to manage that content. Obviously, if you are looking at it from an IT perspective where you’re monitoring the displays or running proof-of-play reports or changing schedules, there’s a little bit more complexity there. But again, it’s designed around the concept of a very simple application that’s easy to use and easy to understand. [Timestamp: 2:28]
And one of the big decisions that you have to make at the beginning is whether you’ve got just one location or the whole network is going to be—who the local guru is in charge of all this, and what’s going to be the extent of access for various members of the staff. Is this usually done the same way everywhere, or how did you work in the five location credit union installation on this one?
Well, there’s a lot of flexibility and scale ability in the system, so we really try to put that power in the client’s hands to decide. Do they want a very centralized control where you’ve got that one dictator, if you will, that’s monitoring the content and pushing it down, or do you want a more decentralized approach where you’ve got each of the branch managers maybe contributing content? And in a lot of cases you’re trying to find that happy medium, that hybrid, where you’re balancing those two opposing ends to get the best possible messaging content out. And in the case of the Alabama Teachers Credit Union, they’re running a little bit more centralized. They’ve got a marketing group that is really controlling the message that is going out to these five branches, and they’re controlling that from that department. But they’ve always got the flexibility as their needs change and evolve if they want to give that local branch manager control to put up announcements that says “congratulations” to local baseball team or a local fundraiser. And one of the things that I know they’re working very closely on in the credit union is working with the local nonprofits to showcase their community events and announcements. And then by locating that content to the teller lines, they’re finding ways that they can educate those members while they are waiting in line. They’re drawing them in with the live TV and the live data to help reduce the perceived wait time, but also by bringing in that information and those announcements from the local nonprofits; they’re making that connection in the community. [Timestamp: 4:15]
When they get ready to actually come up with a design for the content, have they got a selection of stock templates they can choose from, or do they normally start from zero and come up with something completely new every time?
We do have a number of templates, but to be candid, very few people use them just because nobody really wants their display to look like the guy down the street’s display. Everybody is looking for that unique experience, so one of the key value-adds we provide in offering that complete solution to our client is we’ve got creative designers and we’ve got project managers that have—this is what they do every week, every day. So as they’re working with those clients, we can make suggestions. We can get their branding elements, their colors, their fonts, and some of the key requirements they’re looking at in terms of, Do they want TV, do they want the weather, what kind of messages do they want to put out? We can render several different designs for them to look at, choose from, and put them into their library so if a client wanted to start from scratch and they’ve got a lot of creative talent, they can use third-party off-the-shelf programs like Adobe Photoshop or … Flash or something like that to build a background to the design that they insert their content into. But for those clients that maybe don’t have those resources or are looking for the guidance, that’s where we really step in on the creative side to make sure that the end result when that screen goes up on the wall is a unique experience for their viewers. [Timestamp: 5:39]
Making Digital Signage Work for Specific Clients, Part 2
Jun 9, 2010 12:01 PM
Yeah, I guess if they wanted to get a quick start, you could use a template and work into something more customized. And of course there are a lot of elements that you can use—probably a lot more than you used on this installation. LED tickers, for instance. What’s the first reaction that you normally get when you show this to a client? Are they thinking about the content, or the location—where are they going to put this thing—first? What do you usually hear?
When you look at LED tickers, a lot of it comes down to an architectural atmosphere. Content’s interesting, stock quotes, or news or weather—that type of thing. But a lot of the times—whether it’s a university or it’s a corporate lobby or it’s a bank branch, something like that—the reason that they’re putting in a ticker is they want that atmosphere and that barber-shop pole so that as people pass by they make the connection with the stock market or the news. And since it’s always moving and it’s always flowing, it creates that energetic or that vibrant atmosphere. So that’s one of the key things people look at when they’re gravitating towards a ticker-type technology. Another thing when you’re looking at digital signage in general is it’s starting to evolve past the passive digital displays into interactive experiences, so are there different ways you can shape these displays or maybe make videowalls out of them or different configurations that encourage people to come up, touch them, interact with them, play with them. And now you’ve got a two-way conversation going with the client instead of just telling them your message on your display; you’re letting them interact with it and learn about what they want. One of the real exciting things is videowalls. The bezels are getting thinner on the screens, computer processing power—the whole ability to build bigger, more unique walls is advancing. And now one of the things we are playing with is bringing interactivity to that level so that instead of just a small kiosk or something personal, you’re standing in front of an entire wall of information that you are playing with. So the technology is very exciting, and it’s one of the key things we try to consult our clients on as we are speaking with them is, What’s the main impression, or what’s the atmosphere that they are trying to create, or what’s that wow factor that they want to put the display in? And then from there, taking all of these pieces of technology and putting the right solution together for them. [Timestamp: 7:56]
Yeah, you’ve got to give some prime consideration in most cases to the unique personality of the viewers for this. And in the case of the credit union, who might be more receptive to the message, is there a profile that comes out? Is it typically the younger crowd that gets more into the digital signage message and initiates the interactivity, or is it more unpredictable?
Especially when you look at banks, they definitely track the demographics. And they are very scientific in terms of knowing in the morning if it’s a elderly crowd or mothers with small children; the lunch hour, the businesspeople; maybe later in the afternoon is the younger crowd coming in. So they track the demographics. But when you overlay that with interactivity, a couple of years ago, it was probably the younger crowd that was gravitating to it because that Xbox, Twitter, Blog RSS—that type of generation—they were more comfortable with the technology. But as iPhones and Android and Palms and all of these personal communication devices have advanced—everybody is carrying around a small touchscreen in their pocket now, and they’re getting very familiar with interacting with different kinds of content, and you’re starting to see people expect it. I was passing through an airport here not too long ago that had some LCD screens that were down towards eye level, and they had big stickers on the bottom that said “Please don’t touch the screens.” Because—just human nature, people were walking up, touching it, trying to interact with it—and I am going to assume they got tired of cleaning the fingerprints off of the screens. So it’s really interesting to watch the dynamic of people and how they’ve gotten very comfortable with the technology, and I really attribute it to the iPhone. I mean that’s a device that it’s very easy to use—it’s very addictive—and people have found a comfort zone with interacting with technology now. [Timestamp: 9:46]
It really gets to be an electronic friend that you can personalize to suit your needs, and it’s one of those things—it almost becomes a part of you. Now when you install one of these digital signage systems, what kind of ongoing service and support plan normally goes with it?
It really depends on the client and what they’re comfortable with. We’ll offer anything from one- to three-year on-site service plans for our client where we’re covering the media players, we’re covering the software, we’re covering the display. So it’s as simple as they pick up the phone, they call us, and we take care of everything. In some cases, bigger deployments, clients may be comfortable buying an extra screen or having their facilities people handle that level of service. So really the key is giving the client the power of choice—letting them decide what’s best for them. And in a lot of cases—like the credit union here, where you’ve got five remote branches, you probably don’t have an IT or a facilities tech person at each one of those branches—it’s a lot easier for them just to contract a full-service program with us so that those branch managers can call in and know that things are going to be taken care of. It’s very much like an insurance policy. [Timestamp: 10:53]
And I guess the security aspect of it is handled very much the same way as the security on the existing computer network.
Yeah, there’s a couple of parts to security when you look at digital signage. The first is when you look at a person’s service or a web service, like us, is what’s the back end? And most companies providing software service are doing things very similar to us. When you’re partnering with a global data center that’s enterprise-grade, tier-one provider, you’ve got things like SAS 70 certifications and your typical 99.9 percent SLA, so you’ve got the security and the robustness of the back end of the system. And then the second piece is how are you securing those media players? And in a lot of cases, like at the credit union here, it’s within their firewall, so they’re controlling it within their network and securing it just as they would any other PC they put on their network. And from a software perspective, we do things like use very long serial keys that are unique to each player and it’s got to be combined with the request in a special format, so that everything hitting our server is a known quantity to us, but it’s very, very difficult to try to hack in. And even if you did, it’s very limited to what you can do because you have to know all the controls and functions that are around it. [Timestamp: 12:08]
Well, you’ve been into this for a good while now, and I guess the credit union installation wasn’t all that unusual. Have you ever had anything really unusual, I mean on a digital signage installation, that really stretched the limits?
Those are the fun ones. When you get into a client that’s got an imagination and they want to stretch the limits to really push technology, and they’re not afraid to live with a little bit of gremlins in their system while you work it out. One fun one that we did here was a couple of years ago was the ING Direct Café in Chicago, where they came and said they wanted a LCD ticker. Instead of an LED ticker, they wanted a bunch of LCDs, high-resolution, in their windows facing out. A couple of years ago, it was difficult to get your hands on high-ambient-output LCD screens, let alone tying them all together so that you can run eight, 10 of these from one screen or from one computer. So it was a very exciting project because there was a lot of technology hurdles for us to overcome to figure it out. And the end result has been great; that installation has been written up a number of times, and it is a very cool end result. One that we’re working on right now is we’ve got some corporate environments, financial trading rooms, business schools that want large interactive displays—larger than a lot of the constraints of current interactive technology. So they’re asking us to make interactive videowalls, which—it’s challenging to take a USB connection or a mouse connection from multiple different screens and have a computer interpret multiple bytes at the same time. So working with the touchscreen integrators and the display manufacturers and media player people to pull all that together so we can build videowall that’s interactive. So those are definitely the fun projects, when you get clients that want to test the limits of technology. And that’s really what helps us as an industry and as a whole advance the technology to that next level. [Timestamp: 14:07]
Well, Ryan, the possibilities are endless, and I can’t even imagine some of the things that are going to be introduced with the third dimensional aspect of interactivity. That’s still a fairly new thing, I’m sure we are going to be getting into a very dynamic business with it. Thanks a lot for being here to tell us about the Alabama Teachers Credit Union installation and I hope you’ll stay in touch.
Absolutely, I appreciate the time.