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What is digital signage? – The full guide

By Oliver Candy | 17.07.19

What is digital signage?

Digital signage is the name given to any content which is displayed on digital screens to communicate a message. It’s a centrally managed networked platform which enables you to push multimedia content from one location to highly visible screens across your organisation.

You can find digital signage pretty much anywhere. Some of the most common places you’ll spot it include museums, sports stadiums or even on public transport.

We’re surrounded by these digital communication methods on a daily basis. They saturate most public spaces, providing us with useful information which we absorb either consciously or subliminally.

It’s because of the power digital signage has to spread a message that so many companies turn to it. Whether it’s to alert the masses to important information, or for internal communications alone, there are lots of ways a company can benefit from its use.

 

Who are we?

At Sabercom, we’ve been utilising the power of digital signage for over 10 years. Working with a host of experts, we broadcast content to both multimedia and single screens, across multiple sites.

Using a series of software and hardware, we help a variety of companies to have their message heard how and when they want it. But how do we do it?

In this short guide, we’ll look to explain all aspects of what digital signage is. From how it can make a difference to your company, to the benefits of using On-premise or Cloud systems.

We’ll be looking at all of the following:

  1. How can digital signage help my company?
  2.  

  3. Industries which can benefit from digital signage
  4.  

  5. The components of digital signage
  6.  

  7. On-Premise vs Cloud

Let the Sabercom team show you just how important digital signage can be, and how you can make the most of it in your business.
 

How can digital signage help my company?


 

Identifying what you need digital signage for

There are several reasons why a business might want to use digital signage. Some of the most notable benefits include:

  • Streamlined internal communications. If you work at a company where it’s important for internal information to be accessible, digital signage provides a fantastic platform to do so. The use of technology can help remind everyone of health and safety regulations and core organisation values. Digital signage can be particularly beneficial to a non desk based work force where employees do not have easy access to email, the intranet or other digital communication channels.
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  • Information for patients and customers. If you have a heavy footfall of visitors in your building who aren’t employed by the company, digital signage can help point them in the right direction. This is particularly helpful for medical centres, where patients are turning up and requiring immediate information about their appointment.
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  • Transport timetables. If you’ve ever seen digital sign boards outside a bus, train or coach station, you’ll understand their importance. They’ll point people in the right direction, while also providing a detailed schedule for the day ahead. Digital signage can be great for communicating with bus, train, delivery and lorry drivers who are frequently at different depo locations with no access to email.
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  • Information in warehouses, factories and manufacturing facilities. Project management displays and health and safety boards both play a crucial role within this industry. Having live, up-to-the-minute information readily accessible can make a huge difference to both efficiency and risk management.

 
These are just some of the major benefits you’ll experience when using a digital signage platform to convey information.
 

Working out which technology you need

Given the varying needs each of these industries, businesses can choose between a wide range of options when it comes to how their information is being displayed.

There are a number of different technologies to choose from:

  • Menu boards. These are longer screens which are used by customers looking to place orders quickly in a public space. They’re most commonly used by fast food chains looking to speed-up the ordering process.
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  • Single screens. These large screens are common in public places (perhaps most famously in spots like Times Square or Piccadilly Circus). Their primary objective is to display information on a wider scale to thousands of people at once. You can also get smaller single screens for more modest uses, like in a reception or at a school.
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  • Public facing boards. If you’re trying to provide the general public with information about your company, you can do so quickly and easily with the use of digital signage. You can display valuable information to quickly update potential customers about the goings on of your business.
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  • Wayfinding screens. Worried people are going to get lost in your office building or shopping centre? Setting up screens throughout the complex will go a long way to ensuring reach their destination easily.

 

Industries which can benefit from digital signage


 
We’ve already looked at some of the core benefits of digital signage. Let’s now take a brief look at how that could apply to a number of different sectors.

  • Internal communications. Digital signs aren’t all about communicating a message to the masses. Sometimes their best use can be for internal purposes. Some of the most valuable uses include reminding employees of core values, communicating important corporate information and reinforcing a brand and corporate identity.
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  • Contact centres. As well as sharing important corporate information in a heartbeat, digital signage at contact centres can utilise the ability to schedule uploads. This can be achieved as a result of a CMS system, such as the one Sabercom offer.
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  • Reception areas. Signage can be used here to alert visitors immediately to anything they might need to know ahead of their appointment, while also providing them with information about your company. A screen in reception is a great opportunity to showcase what your company has to offer, be it a new service or a new product.
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  • Healthcare. Arguably the most important aspect of signage at a healthcare centre is information about waiting times. Patients want to know how long delays are (or if there are any at all). Wayfinding also comes into play if your signs are set up in a larger hospital or clinic. Digital signage can also be used to communicate with medical staff who are constantly on the move between different wards, floors and buildings.
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  • Education. Guiding students to where they need to be is integral to a school or university. In the case of the latter it’s particularly important for students to know if there have been any curriculum or lecture theatre changes. Emergencies can also be published on these kinds of boards.
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  • Transport. Schedules and timetables are crucial to passengers looking to make sure they don’t miss their coach, bus or train. Digital signage at these locations can also help to quickly send messages to staff who aren’t working behind a desk. Drivers in particular, are frequently at different depo locations with no access to email.
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  • Manufacturing and factories. There’s a myriad of reasons why having a digital message board can be useful in more industrial environments. This includes information about health and safely, new project launches, rota or shift changes, achievements, milestones and even company goals.
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    No matter what your sector, the presence of digital signage can go a long way to making it quick and easy to communicate important information to visitors, customers or staff.

     

    The components of digital signage

    We’ve discussed the benefits of using digital signage for your business. But what goes into the creation of these communication devices? The main components of a digital message board can be broken down into four parts.

    1. It starts with the creation of the content you want your audience to see
    2. Next comes the utilisation of a software platform which manages this content
    3. Then the hardware (a PC or digital signage player for example) to run the software on
    4. Arguably the most important part comes next – the screens themselves
    5. But none of these are any good without the final piece of the puzzle, a professional installation service with training and ongoing support services.

    Let’s look at how each component plays a vital role in the whole process.
     

    The content

    What do you want your message to say? This is something you’ll already have a good idea about. After all, you’ll know why you’re looking to use digital signage.

    Make sure to consult with a designer so your content is as appealing as possible. The more aesthetically pleasing, as well as easy to process, the better for whoever’s reading it.
     

    Software for content management

    Having a good CMS (content management system) is key to successful signage. Running off any web browser, a CMS will allow a user to control what they want to appear on multiple screens.

    Whether you’re looking to manage a single screen in a reception, or have an entire network you need to keep updated, this tool makes it fast and simple to do so at the click of a button.

    Benefits of a CMS include the ability to get access to an entire digital library, template creation for your signs and a split screen design which allows you to have different messages communicated at the same time.
     

    Hardware to run and display content

    A PC or digital signage player is needed to drive the screens. This is a small device that can fit neatly out of sight behind each screen or in a different room with cabling running to each screen.

    There are pros and cons to using PCs and dedicated players. Generally PCs are a familiar platform that can easily be upgraded and can run as part of your organisations own environment. Player hardware can be smaller and is customised for the digital signage solution. It often needs replacing in order to update your digital signage solution.
     

    TV and display screens

    Where would anyone be without a screen to visibly communicate a message? There are many different types of screens to choose from, with some of the most common being:

    • Wall mounted. 90% of all the screens Sabercom install are wall mounted. These are the small-to-medium sized devices which most people usually associate with travelling up an escalator on the tube. That’s far from their only purpose though. A versatile location for installations, they’re most commonly associated with healthcare and reception areas.
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    • Ceiling mounted. These are most often employed when a business has glass or curved walls. Ceiling-mounted screens are easy enough to install, you just have to make sure the area you want to place them in has no pre-existing ventilation or water pipes in the way. A mount is attached to the ceiling, with a hinge and pivot which allows the screen to face out towards the room.
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    • Freestanding. The beauty of these is they can be placed practically anywhere. You just have to make sure there’s enough of a power supply nearby to keep them active all day.

     

    Installation services

    You’ll need a professional team like Sabercom to come in and install your signs. A full site survey is required, where we’ll come in and carry out a risk management assessment.

    We can also provide guidance on where we think the screens would be best fitted. Remember, we’ve had years of experience working with businesses, helping them to optimise their digital signage strategy. We know what works best.
     

    On-Premise vs Cloud

    Remember when we spoke about controlling your content from a CMS? When it comes to how you manage this system, you have two choices: on-premise and cloud-based.

    But what’s the difference?

    In short, premise-based solutions run via a CMS which sits on the hard drive of your own personal device. By contrast, the cloud sees a company reach their content management system by accessing it through the web. In this instance, the server is owned by someone else.

    Both are viable methods for managing your content, but offer different benefits.
     

    Pros and cons of on-premise

    Using on-premise management puts the power to control your signs completely in your hands. That means more upfront costs as you purchase all the hardware and software required, but much cheaper prices heading forwards.

    It does also mean that any errors, bug fixes or updates need to be paid for and applied internally.

    Pros:

    • You have total control over the development and deployment of your content
    • Your long-term costs will be significantly lower
    • Total security of data, as all information stays within your own self-managed server

     
    Cons:

    • More budget required in the initial purchase of equipment
    • All updates and fixes are your own responsibility

     

    Pros and cons of Cloud

    Unsurprisingly then, you’re going to save a lot of money when it comes to the initial purchase when using a cloud system. There’s going to be a fixed monthly cost, but this is easily maintained so long as you set aside a budget for it.

    Safety is also heightened, with the cloud host able to provide a secondary line of protection in the form of their own firewall. One disadvantage could occur if, for example, you had an on-premise event management system which needed to interact with a cloud-hosted data source.

    It’s for this reason you really need to consider the vendor you’re partnering with for your cloud solutions. Here at Sabercom, we have our own cloud servers, which have helped to provide versatile support and ease of control for a number of clients.

    Pros:

    • Upfront costs are significantly smaller
    • No responsibility on you for server updates or maintenance
    • Versatile systems like Sabercoms allow you to balance both on-premise and cloud servers together

     
    Cons:

    • Using inferior cloud servers can lead to a limited functionality

     
    Have a better understanding of digital signage? Make sure to get in touch with Sabercom if you feel like you could benefit from the use of these fantastic communication tools.