Electronic signage is becoming quite popular, if not mandatory in an increasing number of situations and industries.
"Digital signage has really taken off," suggests Ryan Cahoy, VP, Rise Vision USA, Shawnee, KS. "It has been widely adopted in the education space, for example. We have approximately 125 universities as customers across Canada and the U.S. They’re using them to communicate with students and for alert messaging. Should a catastrophic event take place, at the touch of a button, they can transform all their displays into emergency notification systems."
Financial, banking, healthcare, and corporate installations are increasingly popular, too, according to Cahoy.
In the past, Rise Vision was a full-service digital display supplier—providing hardware, software, and installation services—today, the company’s business model is focused almost entirely on its core competency, digital signage software. It’s the company’s goal to enable sign makers to break into digital signage without fretting over the most complex piece of the puzzle—how to get the marketing messages up on the screen.
"We call it the Rise Display Network," Cahoy explains. "It’s completely Web-based, so we enable an organization to contribute content to digital displays from anywhere, at any time, with a username, password, and Internet access."
"Subscribers can manage an online media library with any media assets they may have—video, flash files, JPEG images," Cahoy continues. "They can upload them, and then whoever has permission may create a playlist of those assets, based on a detailed schedule."
An obvious benefit of digital signage is the ability to craft messages that precisely target the consumer. "If I’m in a banking environment, for example, I can study my demographics," Cahoy explains. "Maybe I find that mothers with small children come in most often between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., so I may want to show an ad about kids’ savings accounts during that time. Or I may find that business people come in at noon to do their transactions, so I may want to focus on an ad for an IRA account then. You can really target your displays to specific audiences."
Rise Vision created a stunning digital display for a Wyoming, MN-based bank. The signage, placed in the lobby, serves as a complete information source for its customers.
In addition to their own secure assets, Rise customers may also choose to complement their messaging with live data including stock quotes, headline news, weather, sports scores, and more.
Indiana State University deployed LCD displays in its on-campus financial trading lab with help from Rise Vision. Stock quotes on LED tickers and business news help train the business students for real-world experiences.
"That’s the key to digital signage—keeping it fresh. You want to attract those eyeballs every time they pass by," Cahoy stresses.
Though some corporations have conducted independent studies into the ROI of digital signage versus print, it’s difficult to generally apply the results.
"Every situation is different. An ROI for a bank will be different than that of a retail outlet or a coffee shop," Cahoy notes. "It’s really difficult to calculate an ROI for a university, for example. And what happens is that cost becomes less of a concern than the absolute need to access and disseminate data when you need to."
ING DIRECT USA recently complemented its Chicago Café with seven LCD displays. For this Internet-based banking and investment firm, the café provides a location for its customers to meet with company executives, interact with one another, and get real-time information on financial transactions and investment advice.
"The digital signage displays serve as a dynamic billboard that enables customers to get our complete message from the street, which embody our principles of high marketing combined with high technology," notes Shaun Rowley, manager, ING’s Chicago Café. "We worked with Rise to customize the displays to show information that our customers are interested in."
Undeniably, both plasma and LCD displays are getting better, and certainly they’re getting bigger. At least five manufactures—Hitachi, LG, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Vizio—make 60-inch plasma displays. And at least ten now make LCD solutions of 52 inches and up.
"Last week, I saw the new 70-inch LCD from Samsung that’s shipping this month. It looks great! And the amount of content you can put on a screen that size is really taking down some of the barriers to using these displays for digital signage," Cahoy affirms.
The seasoned print buyer accustomed to extremely sharp graphics rendered at high resolutions, will not be disappointed in the quality of today’s displays. Plasmas and LCD displays are readily available in stunning 1,080 pixel (p) resolution—1,920x1,080.
"The technology keeps getting bigger and thinner," Cahoy notes. "In terms of resolution, a lot of the screens are now running at 1,920x1,080 versus just a few years ago when the standard was 1,024x768."
The price differential between plasma and LCD technologies used to be significant, LCDs being the more expensive of the two. But the difference in cost—based on comparable sizes—isn’t as vast these days.
With comparable resolution, size, and price points, how should a sign supplier determine if plasma or LCD is best for their customers?
Plasma displays are said to excel in two ways. They offer greater contrast and richer blacks. They may also be viewed from a broader range of perspectives; it’s possible to see the display clearly from a peripheral vantage point.
But LCDs have advantages, too. "In our opinion, LCD is a stronger technology for digital signage, because it’s more resistant to image retention," Cahoy confides. "If you’re using static images, on a plasma, after a few months, you’ll start to burn in that image, and get a ghosted effect. And I don’t think plasma has quite the same life."
"LCDs are a little bit brighter," Cahoy adds. "And you’ll find there are strong commercial products that come with three-year warranties."
Making an Impact Statement
"The technology has a wow factor," Cahoy suggests. "When you walk into a business with LCDs in their lobbies, or by the elevator banks, it presents an energetic atmosphere."
There is something inherently rich and intriguing about a digital display. If orchestrated well, a digital sign doesn’t simply attract the passerby, it can engage them for a longer period of time than a simple static image.