University Digital Signage Installs with Rise Display, Part 2
Nov 8, 2011 1:32 PM, with Bennett Liles
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No longer content to just study the financial sector from afar, business schools are immersing their students in the look, sound, and feel of the financial world through direct connection. Ryan Cahoy is here to tell us how his firm, Rise Display, created that whole atmosphere in the Langdale College of Business Administration at Valdosta State University, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
Ryan, thanks for being back with me on the SVC Podcast for part 2 on digital signage in a business school setting with a couple of campus installations by Rise Display. Last time on part 1 we were talking about how you did that at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and this time we’re moving a few hundred miles to the east to Valdosta, Ga. and the Langdale College of Business Administration at my old alma mater, Valdosta State University. They wanted a digital signage setup similar to what you did for the business school out at SMU. I was curious about this though. It’s not really the same environment working with a university setting as it is with a corporate client on projects like this. How is working in the academic realm on these projects different?
It’s definitely a little different—during the sales process in a lot of cases you end up dealing with the big process which tends to delay things. Aside of the sales process with universities, universities are usually quite efficient as they have a structured IT, they have facilities groups, they have defined policies—sometimes that bureaucracy can cause you some delays and problems but for…in a lot of the cases it’s great to be able to work with specialized individuals versus in the corporate world, obviously big corporations are similar but when you get into some of the small to medium businesses that don’t have those structured policies or dedicated IT people and you’re doing something as technologically innovated as digital signage you can run into some challenges just because you don’t have those specialties there. [Timestamp: 2:16]
Well, there are always going to be some plusses and minuses between corporate and academic projects. What was VSU looking for in this project? Was it new construction or a retro fit in an existing facility?
This was a retro fit. They had an existing classroom and very similar to SMU they wanted to create a Wall Street atmosphere. That’s a very hot topic today with business schools is educating students and providing them the best opportunities for job placement after college, so they’re creating these finance labs to help these students become more fluent in how financial markets work and that was the primary reason why VSU looked at adding this technology into that classroom—to really create that Wall Street environment. [Timestamp: 2:55]
And the real centerpiece here is the interactive video wall. What type of displays did you use in putting this big quad touchscreen display together and what user options do they have with this one?
We used the NACP 461 displays and they were integrated with 3MDST touch integration so we tiled them all together to create that interactive video wall. And the real purpose of the interactive video wall in a finance curriculum like this is to highlight all the key domestic financial markets so that whether it’s a student or a processor can easily walk up and touch the type of market that they either want to they want to learn about or discuss—things like equities or bonds or currencies or agriculture or energy —and once they select a market then they can select individual instruments and view charts ranging from intraday all the way to five years back so really the key is giving them all the activity in the markets at the touch of a fingertip. [Timestamp: 3:49]
Yeah and it’s interesting to be there when they first see the finished product and they get to start playing with it to see what it’ll do and how they can really use it. Just to watch their reaction when all the really cool things happen in response to their inputs. And this is going to have a little bit of a learning curve, too.
Absolutely. And really, the purpose when they put it in is to give them that high-level reference tool, and it takes a while for those instructors to get used to it. I can walk up and I can touch it and I can say "hey the feds are going to raise rates today—let’s see how the markets are reacting." So it’s a little bit of work for the students and the faculty to realize "hey that’s interactive I can do something with it," and how to integrate that into their curriculum and their classes. [Timestamp: 4:31]
And of course the tech side of this that’s not out there and seen by the users, that’s pretty much essential to making it all work. What sort of control gear do you use on the interactive display at VSU and where is all the control stuff located?
In Valdosta’s case it’s just one rack-mounted engine that’s in their server room and then it’s connected via VGA-over-Cat-5 extenders. So all the control of the software and content’s done via the cloud or via a web interface so really from any computer connected to the internet they can come in and make changes to the content. Since we’ve installed Valdosta the technology’s evolved even a little bit further—just a few months ago NEC came out with their OPS media player. So even a more powerful and embedded media player and in working with that along with interactive touch technology figured out how to remove that remote engine and then use those embedded or those OPS media players so all the technology is right inside the screens. Which even further simplifies this for universities looking to put this in because you don’t have to worry about how am I going to cable it, where am I going to position that media player—it’s all right there, self-contained when you hang it on the wall. [Timestamp: 5:38]
And since you are extending the video with twisted pair you can upgrade for newer video formats at any time and not have to tear into it too much.
Which is great, and of course the original cost of the cabling is minimal as well. I’m sure that there are probably different guidelines for placement and installation of interactive displays as opposed to viewing-only signage.
Yeah, with anything interactive you really need to make sure that it’s accessible. It’s got to be at the proper height so people can reach it. We found that putting the base of the video wall about 30in. off of the ground tends to be about the right height since its 4ft. tall and we try to keep most of the interaction, the buttons, towards the bottom of the screen. It’s something to consider especially when you look at vertically challenged people. So when you’re positioning the screens the other thing to take into account is where are you going to put it. You don’t want to put into a space where you could create a traffic jam and clog up hallways or that. You really want to make sure that if you’re going to put something interactive in that space is conducive to someone or multiple people standing there, gathering around it and being able to interact with it. [Timestamp: 6:45]
Right, and unless there’s some kind of really big news coming over the display, people with a view-only situation aren’t going to be hanging around as long as a crowd that’s interested in playing with the controls and exploring all the options available on the interactive side of it. I would expect that more generic things like the local lighting conditions would be about the same.
It’s normal lighting conditions that they have there, so we didn’t have any major obstacles like ambient light from skylights or anything to deal with so both the ticker display and the LCD screens are well suited to that indoor lighting condition. The great thing with both of the technologies is you can tune them in to make sure they properly fit into their surroundings. [Timestamp: 7:25]
University Digital Signage Installs with Rise Display, Part 2
Nov 8, 2011 1:32 PM, with Bennett Liles
So how long is the ticker that you installed at Valdosta State and where does the content displayed on there originate?
A ticker’s about 16ft. long and it’s about 8in. tall. They chose that unit because its 24 pixels in height and that’s an ideal height for showing logos associated with a stock quote so it makes it a little more graphical—a little bit more interesting and engaging. The content all resides in the cloud so again users can go into our web based interface be able to schedule their messages and put up their own announcements, they could put in RSS feeds from the university blog, they can interject Twitter feeds, or they can always use the live data such as our stock quotes or sports scores. We manage all the data feed agreements so the stocks and sports are bundled in with the software and it makes it really easy to for users to be able to select the layouts they want to see. In Valdosta’s case they wanted to focus on showing the Dow 30 stock components because they’re very recognizable companies—they’ve got the logo’s for them and that helps keep people’s attention and engage them because they’re recognizable—that’s the Wal-Mart’s, the Microsoft’s, things like that. [Timestamp: 8:29]
Ok and did you use the same software application on this one that you used at SMU?
We did. The same as the platform that we used for all of our installations—the open source components from our sister company Rise Vision—so again it’s built off the Google app engine. It allows us to take all that open source documentation and create the gadgets—in this case it’s really focused around financial gadgets—leveraging that Thomson Reuters information and making it easy for those professors to be able to interact with it and put up what’s important to them. If their curriculum is focused in on equities or currencies or bonds, letting them handpick those instruments whether it’s for the video wall or for the ticker so that they can really use it as a tool as they’re teaching those classes. [Timestamp: 9:09]
Now is the interactive quad display at Valdosta located in a public hallway or reception area or is it in a classroom situation where they can demonstrate it to students?
It’s more for demonstrating to classes. [Timestamp: 9:21]
OK, so the instructors obviously want to get in on the ground floor and make sure they know what they’re doing before they try to demo it for a class. I think this one was done last spring sometime so they’ve had some time to get familiar with the system there.
Correct, I think it went in about three or four months ago. [Timestamp: 9:37]
You’ve had some time to get some feedback on this one and see how things are going with it.
Absolutely, the neat thing when you put any of this technology in whether it’s digital signage or donor recognition displays or interactive market walls is the first 30 days is that feeling out period for the client where they have that opportunity. On paper you always have perceptions about how you think things will work once you get it on the wall and you realize, "hey, that font needs to be a little bit bigger so the people in the back can see it" or people aren’t really interacting with these aspects. That’s where those first 30 days are really great to collect that feedback and help them fine tune the message, the branding, the sizes of it, the type of content that’s there so it really fits the purpose. What we found and even though clients have the flexibility especially in these types of applications with live market data, they’ve got flexibility to change it whenever they want but once you get that core group of content elements that the professors are comfortable with it doesn’t change very frequently maybe at semester breaks or on an annual basis they’ll make a few updates but the Dow will always be Dow, gold will always be gold. The key things that they’re looking at for market indicators stay pretty stationary so that’s really the trick with those first 30 days is fine tuning it into what’s important to them. [Timestamp: 10:54]
Sounds like it worked pretty well for Valdosta State University and of course every venue where you install an interactive display has its own sort of collective personality among the users. So what’s Rise Display got coming up? What have you got in the box ready to come out pretty soon?
We have a lot of exciting projects. The advancements in digital signage make every one fun and unique. As we wrap up September here we’ll put in our 195th business school finance lab so we’re anxious to just get a few more over this fall semester to cross that magic threshold of the 200th school that’s put it in. But in addition to the finance labs we’re seeing a lot of excitement for the use of interactive displays whether it’s for…I’ll call it an info wall where students can come up and get maps of nearby restaurants or events schedules or announcements or interactive donor recognition whether you’re a business school or university or a hospital to make these facilities possible there’s always these key business—key individuals that help make those key donations that make it all possible and they’re all looking for new ways to recognize those donors—getting away from a traditional plaque or an etched glass wall and that’s where interactive displays make it fun because they can tell a story, students can come up, they can touch, they can interact, they can view a profile of those donors. So the excitement we’re seeing right now is really coming into its own with interactive activity and all the fun ideas that our clients are coming up with on new things that we can implement. [Timestamp: 12:26]
Right, and in the academic realm, one thing that you can count on is there are always going to be new people coming along and I would think that one of the most useful digital signage applications on a university campus would be in way finding area and people just trying to find their way around.
Absolutely and what’s really neat with way finding is it’s moving beyond the digital display—it’s one thing to walk up to the display and touch a map and find out where a building is or the local restaurant is or a hotel or whatever it may be but the next step is using a QR code—a quick response code, those rectangular bar codes that you can scan with your cell phone—and then letting you transfer that map to your cell phone so that when you walk away from that display all the instructions are right there with you so you don’t get five steps down the path and go was it a left or a right, it’s all right in your hand. So think of these digital displays as becoming the sign posts to really get that information onto your mobile device so that it’s all portable and can be taken with you. [Timestamp: 13:24]
And QR codes are a whole world in themselves and we could talk about all the things you can do with those for the whole time here. I thank you Ryan for taking time to tell us the details on the interactive signage displays for the Langdale College of Business Administration at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. All done by Rise Display.