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Digital signage in retail: new choices and opportunities

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[Photo credit: Handy AV]

With just a few days to go before 17,000 visitors are expected to descend on the co-located Retail Design Expo and Retail Digital Signage Expo events, AV News looks at the key choices facing digital signage users.

In most cases, a retail store cannot display its complete line up of goods comprising all styles, sizes, colour options etc. Retail space is at a premium, limiting the full, live fashion experience to just the large flagship stores. Life size interactive displays with dedicated applications enable store customers to envisage themselves wearing the latest styles, altering the colour with just a touch of a touch screen!
With interactive signage and ordering systems, the customer can choose how deeply he or she wants to delve into additional product details, to get enough information to support a solid buying decision. An additional step, to focus more on customers’ needs, is to enhance the interactive display with sensors to individually react to the customers’ behaviour for a more personalised experience.
For instance, in a mobile phone store, there are three types of smartphone laying on a desk, each of them equipped with a sensor. When a customer picks up one phone the dedicated sensor triggers the signage display to start playing specific content relevant to this phone. When picking up two phones in parallel, two sensors will trigger and the signage content will provide a comparison of both devices.
Hardware choices
But a customer’s ability to take advantage of these latest innovations could be hampered by choices made right at the outset of a digital signage project.

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The performance levels of digital signage players, and therefore the requirements that users have, are developing rapidly. Applications in digital signage are getting more customer-centric and extend way beyond simple slide shows. Displays today have a much longer life-cycle than their player sources. This can pose a problem for users opting for System On Chip solutions. While SoC can provide a cost-effective and easy-to-install solution for new users of digital signage, Wolfgang Haunschild, product marketing manager at NEC Display Solutions Europe argues that:
“Buying a built-in solution simply does not make sense in the mid- to long-term. In one or two years’ time, when advertisers want to increase the efficiency of their advertising and information screens, the performance level of the player/PC is fixed and cannot meet the new demands, therefore, the entire signage solution needs to be replaced even though the screen itself is working fine. A fixed display-integrated player/PC solution feels like buying a product with an almost expired ‘best before’ date.
Flexibility
Haunschild goes on to argue that solutions that are completely embedded, but which remain interchangeable, provide the best performance for advertisers over the years. Avoiding the hassle with external cabling, storage and mounting of the player solution, the embedded digital signage player/PC can be easily interchanged and upgraded when a new performance level or servicing is required.
In contrast to built-in players/PCs, purpose built signage players/PCs are completely open and allow full control over the processing power. This allows signage software providers to install their software kit, without any limitations and with full performance power, having the choice over the preferred operating system while choosing the required performance level for the individual project requirements.
For example, NEC’s Open Modular intelligence (OMi) platform enables the creation of tailor-made solutions for digital signage. Scalable computing power such as Raspberry Pi compute modules or Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) Slot-in PCs can be seamlessly embedded into displays and projectors to create a fully integrated solution.
Open v closed solutions

Unlike System On Chip (SoC) which is a closed system with compatibility limitations, NEC argues that OMi is an open platform allowing computing performance to be fully used without limitation, which greatly appeals to software providers. Upgradable with customisable performance levels, NEC’s embedded solution is future-proof and highly versatile supporting a broad range of operating systems.

Layered-LIVE
Industrial and embedded components lower the demand on power usage resulting in significant energy savings and a longer product lifecycle compared to consumer products. As standardised solutions, both OPS and the compute module offer a futureproof investment; infrastructure and design will sustain over a long lifecycle. Its usage can continue even as the display or projector is upgraded. Industrial grade components ensure low failure rates and suitability for 24/7 applications. NEC’s the 3-year warranty is valid not only for the host display and projector but also for the embedded slot-in product.
Haunschild believes that the problem posed by fixed integrated SoC hardware will become more acute as requirements for digital signage installations change, in addition to future performance upgrades and complex service requirements should a defect occur. Nowhere is this more apparent than it retail applications, where a key theme at the forthcoming events will be the use of the screen display as the portal to the ordering system, social media and a range of customer services.
Rich and social media
Shopping is now an activity that integrates both online rich and social media. Customers like to research and share media with friends and colleagues. They like to consider all the options and prices, and to share this information socially. A recent announcement by Signagelive adds dynamic, engaging and relevant content for digital signage networks through a new partnership with Seenspire.
Signagelive’s new partnership could see Seenspire’s Social Media Wall, which enables customers to create their own social media channels. featured on up to 1,700 Signagelive networks around the globe “Getting a screen on the wall playing content is relatively easy,” said Jason Cremins, CEO of Signagelive. “How to make that screen relevant to the viewer is a different story. Social media, if delivered correctly, can make an incredible impact through digital displays.”
Social Media Wall users can moderate their channels manually or set automated rules. The cloud-based system delivers the social content in HTML5 format and is compatible with Signagelive’s many supported digital signage devices, including; Samsung’s new Tizen-powered displays, Google Chrome OS devices, LG WebOS Displays, Philips Android SoC Displays, IAdea players and displays, and the latest BrightSign Series 3 digital signage players.
Seenspire’s Social Media Wall solution is designed to give partners and end users a never-ending supply of user-generated content. Cost-effective subscription pricing, dynamic display designs and a user-friendly interface were just some of the many reasons that prompted Signagelive to recommend the Seenspire Social Media Wall.

“From our point of view, we have a duty to recommend best of breed solutions for use with our platform and the media devices that we support and to our resellers and customers,” Cremins said. “What I love is the workflow, how easy it is to connect a social media account, choose a display design and publish ready for use with Signagelive.”
Vendor collaboration
The recent announcement that Signagelive, probably the leading cloud-based digital signage software, is to support leading media player manufacturer BrightSign’s 3 series presents the marketplaces with a welcome partnership. To deliver BrightSign digital signage media player support, Signagelive has developed an optimised version of its

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HTML5 based solution. The combined BrightSign/Signagelive digital media player solution supports a full range of rich media, HTML5 web pages, widgets and proof-of-play reporting of all media playback
Developers and customers can now build and publish custom HTML5 content and interactive experiences to BrightSign Series 3 digital signage media players. In addition, BrightSign resellers and customers will be able to make use of the suite of developer APIs enabling code-level integration with Signagelive for; network and device monitoring, content management and publishing, and real time web triggers enabling contextual and dynamic content updates.
Cremins explains: “The initiative to integrate Signagelive with BrightSign Series 3 digital signage players is in response to market demand. We are impressed with the quality, features and performance of the Series 3 players. In our integration, we have ensured that those features and that performance is fully accessible to Signagelive users.”
Content management
Content is critical when using digital signage to create immersive retail experiences. It’s essential that signage hardware and content work together seamlessly, which is why it’s important that CMS vendors test and certify media players that are best suited to work with their content creation and management platforms.
In a similarly timed announcement to that of Signagelive, BrightSign revealed that a trio of leading CMS (Content Management System) providers are now compatible with the company’s media players. ComQi, Four Winds Interactive and Signagelive itself have all integrated their platforms with BrightSign’s Series 3 family of media players and validated them as compatible with their respective CMS platforms, including:

ComQi
ComQi is a global leader providing a cloud-based Shopper Engagement Technology that influences consumers at the point of decision, in-venue, using all digital touch-points: digital signage, mobile, video, touch, web and social networks. BrightSign’s XT1143 has been qualified for use with ComQi’s CMS. ComQi CTO Max Stevens-Guille commented, “We’re pleased to be working with BrightSign. Their XT line of players will provide our customers with a cost-effective solution to integrate cable TV with digital signage content.”
Four Winds Interactive
Four Winds Interactive is an industry-leader of enterprise Visual Communications software. The company makes it easy to deploy content to any screen, through one powerful integrated software platform that allows customers to deploy preconfigured applications or build applications of their own. BrightSign’s Series 3 XD and XT digital signage media players have been tested and are fully compatible with FWI’s full portfolio of Visual Communications solutions
Signagelive
Customers using Signagelive on BrightSign players will enjoy full access to the recently announced Signagelive Marketplace, containing over 500 free backgrounds, editable templates and widgets. Jason Cremins, CEO of Signagelive, said, “The initiative to integrate BrightSign players is in response to market demand. We are impressed with the quality, features and performance of the Series 3 players. In our integration, we have ensured that those features and that performance is fully accessible to Signagelive users. We are particularly excited about B-Deploy, a powerful setup and provisioning feature that allows customers to setup and deploy a multitude of players all at once.”

Integrated retail signage: Clas Ohlson conceptual pilot installation


In the Clas Ohlson flagship store located in the recently opened Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm, NEC teamed up with SMS/Smart Media Solutions, and Smartsign to create a new digitalised display solution that interacts with customers and shows commercial messages.
The stand integrates a professional NEC 40” display, leafengine sensor technology, two sensors and Smartsign software, along with the retail products from Kärcher and a product demonstration video. The NEC display was prepared with leafengine sensor technology and Smartsign software in the integrated computer – a Slot-in PC located on the back of the screen. The display screen was mounted in the custom-made stand, created by SMS/Smart Media Solutions.
Two sensors were installed – one sensor senses if someone gets closer than one metre to the screen and the other one, a light-sensor, senses when the product is lifted from the shelf at the stand. The sensors were calibrated to be adapted to local light conditions. When the sensors are triggered, new messages appear on the screen.
To see the solution in action please watch this YouTube video:
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NEC’s leafengine technology makes stores and displays interactive.

Handy AV offers free consultancy

Handy AV will be bringing examples from their comprehensive portfolio to the Retail Digital Signage Expo this month, along with one-off offers designed to save customers large bills for consultancy and integration services.
Handy AV is the UK-exclusive provider of Telefonica OnTheSpot services – a cost effective single box solution for delivering SMART Retail, managing video content, audio, wi-fi and customer analytics. Visitors to Handy AV booth at RDSE will qualify for a free consultation to assess OnTheSpot suitability in their store.
OnTheSpot Pre-Sales Engineer at Handy AV – Warren Bremner – explains:

“OnTheSpot solutions are changing technology in many stores and outlets across Europe. We are keen for our customers old and new to see the numerous benefits of synchronising AV management with a leading solution from a trusted global provider. The free consultation offer will allow stores to assess which components fit with their business model, as well as a breakdown of how the solution makes for a more efficient store and happier customers.”
Handy AV will also be bringing a free installation offer to the Olympia show. This highly cost effective, limited promotion covers the installation of Samsung displays and Optoma projectors, subject to offer conditions. Warren reveals he is expecting this offer to be warmly welcomed at the show.
He adds: “For many stores, installing cutting-edge digital signage is an exciting, and sometimes expensive, time. Here at Handy AV, we are focused on offering true value for money with minimal hassle. By offering this free installation offer at RDSE, we are removing a typical cost from new projects – giving our customers even more bang for their buck.”
Visitors to Handy AV’s RDSE booth will also be able to discuss their content management expertise. Handy AV has been providing solutions to high street stores such as Primark, TSB, Dior and Adidas for over 15 years and are acknowledged as Samsung’s MagicInfo specialist. Indeed, Handy AV worked with Samsung in the development of the renowned content management software.
With a large range of LED signage solutions, from the smallest to the largest display, along with projection, kiosks and interactive displays, Handy AV have all bases covered at RDSE.
Retail Digital Signage Expo runs from 8-9 May at London Olympia. Book your FREE place here https://reedtechnology.circdata-solutions.co.uk/RFG/publish/RDSE17/

 


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