Digital screens offer sign of the times

Digital screens offer sign of the times

Exit onto the 35th floor at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne and you'll be faced with an electronic directory board chock-full of information. The NEC panel welcomes patrons and highlights all manner of hotel functions and services.

"The panel hits you in the face. It directs you where to go, while displaying high-quality photos and important information," AV and IT specialist Mike Quinn, owner of Victoria-based Architectural AV, said.

The integrator is seeing high demand for digital signage solutions in the hospitality sector, and plans to focus more resources on the space.

"In hospitality, we call it passive digital signage," Quinn said. "They're not pushing product in the traditional sense but they create a professional image, which boosts business down the line."

The hotel plans to hook up another five panels in various locations from the reception area to major function rooms and conference facilities.

Hotels are just one area where digital signage makes sense. A host of consumer and business environments including pubs and clubs, retail, airports, banks, cinemas, museums and conferences are looking to move away from the static posters and lifeless billboards. Digital signage offers a way of modernising and conveying several messages from the same location.

From catching sale information displayed in-store or checking flight timetables at the airport, the latest digital products are big, splashy and overflowing with content.

Growing market

IDC market analyst, Mercie Clement, said the digital signage market was starting to take hold although local numbers were not yet available for the emerging category. "We're watching this space," she said. "We know there are opportunities for resellers to provide end-to-end solutions."

Total Concept Media knows a thing or two about hooking up digital signage solutions in the club environment, as well as putting the total package together, according to CEO, Mary McTaggart. It has built a network of 700 42-inch plasma screens in RSL and Leagues clubs, and can perform all manner of complex jobs associated with the technology. In addition to providing the hardware and scheduling software implementation, McTaggart there are network management issues and creative content decisions to be made.

"Our IT infrastructure is a VPN network. We load content via ADSL and download a couple of times a week to the club network," McTaggart said. "Content is an issue because you can't have ad after ad. You need interactive content, which engages the customer. It could be a mix of news, weather, sports, trivia, music or bloopers - the idea is to mix it up.

"You need to understand that what you display in a sports bar is not what you'd play in a restaurant. There's a lot of programming and strategy involved."

And while most of the digital signage action is in the club scene, McTaggart said Total Concept plans to break into new markets in the next three years including retail, pubs and in-store private networks.

While clubs gravitate towards plasma given the need for large screens, the company plans to offer LCD technology in the retail space. But whichever form of display is implemented, the technology is modernising the message.

"Digital signage is dynamic and flexible. It allows you to have moving images, using different platforms and you can also do streaming and set up XML feeds via our servers," McTaggart said.

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