Creating a Digital Signage Network
WVU Information Stations
West Virginia University Digital Signage Network
In today’s busy world the relatively young digital signage (DS) industry and technology has become a regular addition to our daily lives. We see it represented as huge LED billboards along our highways and byways. It appears dangling over the aisles of our local department stores encouraging us to consider this product, or that new gizmo as we fill our carts with our necessities of life. Some of the graphic displays are stunning in appearance to catch our wandering eyes, and yet other pages of information are merely bland text messages. Some of the messaging of this data is quite overt, while some messaging is almost subliminal. Regardless of the presentation style, we are being bombarded with information from a myriad of messengers seemingly every minute! Digital signage has been used heavily in the area of retail businesses and point-of-sale (POS) venues for some time now but we are seeing the magic of digital signage entering almost everywhere we go these days.
We are a very pedestrian population and marketing messages are being presented to us during any opportunity where we have idle seconds of time. As we are moving in our automobiles, walking along the aisles of our favorite stores or even traversing across our college campuses we are intercepted by messages and information of all kinds. A smart deployment of digital signage targets the individual at a point that their travel slows down or stops for a period of time, such as a traffic stop light, an elevator bank, a check-out line in a store, a food court, a lobby, a doorway or an information desk. We call these places “pedestrian choke-points” as evidenced by an area of a high volume of pedestrian traffic that slows down noticeably or evens stops for a certain period of time. As the pedestrian is hindered in their progress of moving from Point A to Point B, for whatever reason, they are dwelling (Dwell Time) at that point and can be provided with a digital signage message that “someone” wants them to ingest. Any organization worth their salt wants to get the good word out about their products, services or value of the institution. Make no mistake; integrated marketing should be the goal of any organization. Everyone markets something!
We became intimately involved in the area of digital signage on April 16, 2007 as an outgrowth of a horrible tragedy that befell the Virginia Tech university campus. The lessons learned from that tragedy are now assisting and serving to protect tens of thousands of lives on the campuses of West Virginia University. (See The West Virginia University Digital Signage Project story at the end of this material.)
Since that fateful day in 2007 I have been privileged to work with some great minds and professional technologists to help create a large digital signage network spanning three college campuses with more than seventy digital signs serving more than 45,000 pedestrians each day with both campus information and emergency messaging features. The team of professionals responsible for operations takes their work seriously and are constantly looking for ways to maximize the digital signage network for the benefit of everyone. From technology to content creation, we have succeeded in providing a stunning visual experience and messaging to our own target market.
Creating something new and unique is always a vast challenge. It can be a daunting task to do a great job! We were all overwhelmed with learning an unknown technology and initially baffled by determining how to make it all work fluidly and flawlessly. Failure was not an option. We set out in a very methodical manner to research and develop the network to accomplish specific goals that were assigned to us from the highest level of authority at a major land grant university. It is my desire that the information you are about to receive can shorten your journey into the area of how to create your own digital signage network by learning from our experiences at West Virginia University. We will discuss every aspect of creation of a digital signage network from concept to reality. Obviously, my personal experience in digital signage has been in the area of Higher Education, but the basics are easily transferred to most applications. Regardless of the size of the organization, digital signage can provide them the vehicle to getting their important message out to the target audience. Understand this… digital signage is NOT television. While it can be entertaining by using well thought content creation ideas, it is a unique methodology of communicating to various audiences. Merely replaying your corporate commercials ad infinitum reduces your content to noise.
I will present the steps and methodology in a logical progression so that you can begin the thought processes and discussions easily within your own organization. Everything that you will be presented comes out of actual discussions our team has held over countless meetings and cups of coffee at all levels of management. Some discussions were held with numerous stakeholders within our institution. Certain discussions needed to be held and decisions made based upon normal chains of command. Once the conceptual discussions were held at higher levels, others were tasked to research and recommend a plan of action. Once those plans of action were determined and approved the digital signage team was funded and tasked to complete Phase 1 of the project within the first six months. Subsequent phasing projects added additional technology and features to the overall network so that growth was throttled within a series of reasonable and measurable timeframes. Each phase had to stand on its own merits and was funded accordingly based upon a timely proposal brought to senior management and then approved and funded for execution. It is the norm that in the course of conversation multiple ideas are discussed for future phases and presented at the appropriate time for discussion in a logical and sequential manner based upon the overall goals of our network development. In our system of management of the digital signage network, phases are funded both at the administrative level (central funding) and sometimes at the departmental level if a particular college or department wishes to install their own digital signage that is fed by our WVU Information Stations content and emergency messaging features.
(Be sure to consult the Appendices and additional information at the end of this document.)