To date, growth areas in AV adoption have largely been concentrated in the knowledge industries. Elsewhere, end-users are often just at the beginning of their AV journeys, but the interval from initial adoption to rapid expansion of the customer brief can be rapid – so flexibility and scalability are important considerations in new markets.
The game changers in the widespread adoption of AV technology, are many and various: AV over IP; economy LFDs; and cloud-based software solutions. There has also been a marked change in attitude. Only a few years ago the thought of hanging AV on an IT network was the stuff of nightmares but the increasing convergence of AV and IT, at product level, has changed this situation dramatically in recent times. So, we begin to see more connected organisations, in terms of the range of devices that can be recognised, controlled and which are capable of returning a range of information/data points in the other direction.
New use cases are starting to pop up, seemingly on a weekly basis. Recent installations show how AV adoption is spreading beyond the familiar offices and meeting rooms to the factory floor, often via the training room.
ON-AV’s installation of ViewSonic’s 65-inch interactive flat screen displays is a case in point The client, Hartridge Ltd, has since 1930 become a world leader in diesel fuel injection test equipment, with the largest share of the world market for field service test equipment. Many of the world’s leading engine and fuel system manufacturers insist on Hartridge equipment for research and development applications.
Located in Buckingham, Hartridge occupies a 2,500 m2 purpose-built facility for production, R&D and administration of the business. This facility is supplemented by 85 distributors globally. With over 20 years of experience in AV systems and working on entry-level through to complex AV projects, ON-AV aims is to build lasting client relationships, by working in partnership with customers and suppliers and all others involved in the project.
The challenge for ON-AV was to install durable screens which could be used for both communication and training, within a busy production area and a corporate environment. Interactive flat panels were essential to meet the unique enterprise needs of the business, delivering eye-catching, high-impact communication to engage audiences with interactive touchscreen content.
Hartridge Ltd required an audio-visual solution which could transform the corporate spaces at the Buckingham headquarters, by bringing corporate presentations and training to life through interactivity. The solution needed to encompass both the production area and the company’s training room, with an approach which suited the business environment and organisational culture.
For the production area this meant adding value to the production line, highlighting and presenting the company’s communications to all staff. For the training room, the solution needed to facilitate a range of different activities. Both products were expected to be used in challenging work environments.
ON-AV recommended two 65” ViewSonic CDE6561T interactive flat panels which are the perfect size for both the training room and for the production area. The screens offer a number of benefits for the end-user including:
• A 65” screen which offers a large uninterrupted display
• A 20-point multi-touch interface which creates more engaging presentations and training
• Pre-installed FREE ViewBoard Annotation software which includes a number of additional benefits:
• A simple two-finger key which provides instant and easy access to the toolbar.
• An interface which is simple and intuitive, with a palette of annotation tools to write, highlight, edit, and transform documents and images on-screen in real-time.
• Automatic handwriting recognition which reads and recognizes almost everything that is written on-screen, whether written with fingers or with styluses.
• Support to import Microsoft Office files, PDFs and image files.
CDE6561T screens are designed to be robust, featuring an anti-scratch surface and an anti-glare glass faceplate, comprised of a durable, commercial-grade design that includes full metal construction and a scratch-resistant tempered glass screen. Such outstanding levels of protection make the screens ideal for deployment in a busy production area environment. ViewBoard Annotation software delivers more efficient and feasible ways for presenters to educate, to communicate and to present information. Presenters can even annotate files instantly with practical tools, saving changes immediately.
On-AV delivered a professional installation using standard VESA-compatible mountings. This approach enables products to be quickly installed and deployed.
“On-AV ensured a quick and professional installation. The easy-to-use, interactive technologies create collaborative spaces which really benefit the business!”, Anton Hobbs, Business Systems Manage, Hartridge.
The versatile input options fitted to the screen enable the connectivity required to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s evolving requirements. Inputs include HDMI, VGA, RS232, RJ45 and USB ports for productivity-boosting connectivity to PC systems, laptops, and other work devices.
Engagement and collaboration is now delivered within an AV-driven corporate work environment. In the production area, the screen is used to deliver corporate communications and information, and also to highlight staff achievements. The screen is also used as a huddle training space, where trainers can engage with the audience through interactive content.
In the training room, the simple, intuitive, user-friendly interface provides a simple “do-it-yourself” solution, which is supported with product training from ViewSonic, enabling the equipment to provide a range of training experiences and opportunities.
Ultimately, the products created more efficient space that impacts productivity and retention – without the need to replace existing hardware: “The ViewSonic interactive touch panels are made for easy, efficient deployment and management communication but also interactive training. The content can be managed and displayed directly from a USB stick straight into the panel, whilst the ability to connect a PC and other devices help to enhance flexibility”, Anton Hobbs, Business Systems Manage, Hartridge.
“On-AV ensured a quick and professional installation. The easy-to-use, interactive technologies create collaborative spaces which really benefit the business!”, Anton Hobbs, Business Systems Manage, Hartridge
A 20-point multi-touch interface which creates more engaging presentations and training.
Pre-installed free ViewBoard Annotation software which includes a number of additional benefits:
What starts as a small-scale solution for an SME, assuming the solution works well, can quickly transform into a more expansive and complex solution. Decisions taken at the outset of a project can have serious implications for scaling up. Flexibility and scalability are the orders of today.
Irrespective of the scale of the proposed installation, Thomas Walter, section manager strategic product marketing at NEC Display Solutions Europe, argues that: “An open and modular signage player approach is the best solution for digital signage as it allows a smart upgrade of the signage player and screen both in terms of scale and performance.
He believes that: “A basic integrated media player for simple media playback is ideal for single screen installations or small companies. With an open modular solution, performance levels can be upgraded should future requirements change,” and, unsurprisingly that: “The NEC Open Modular Intelligence (OMi) platform is an open and modular computing intelligence concept that allows the integration of a broad range of computing power from RaspberryPi to Intel Core i7 slot-in PCs.
Supporting all the common OS such as Windows, Linux, android and Raspbian, this solution provides compatibility with all major digital signage software providers. Full performance media playback is fully integrated in the screen for a holistic approach which is neat and cable free whilst customisable for current requirements and remaining compatible for future upgrade.
Walter argues that the best system for digital signage is the one that provides the most flexible solution to the wide range of different customer requirements and an open and modular system can do that best. The OMi concept allows all kinds of signage applications including cloud-based software solutions.
Cloud-based signage systems provide fast availability, quick adoption and low operational efforts. We recommend our partners to be clear on their requirements and then recommend the best fit solution which might differ from case to case.
Digital Signage is generally used to stand out from the crowd and successfully impact on target customers. “We don’t believe that a standardised approach which appears similar to all other signage installs will capture the viewers’ attention as much as a unique and targeted install can,” says Walter. “Our customisable products allow tailor-made solutions in terms of performance, system integration, management and maintenance and are the basis for a good return on investment in the signage system.”
Many new buyers of digital signage are attracted by the economy ranges offered by hardware vendors. Walter maintains that it is the total cost of the hardware that is the relevant factor here: “NEC’s OMi allows the continuous use of the display even when the computing performance needs an upgrade. This extends the lifetime of an up-to-date signage display and reduces replacement cycles and operational costs.”
But what about changes in performance standards? 4K UHD is becoming more and more prevalent – starting with the larger sizes from 65” onwards, it will soon become the de facto standard. UHD brings huge advantages when it comes to shorter viewing distances.
“In digital signage the viewing distance constantly changes, as the viewer passes by he will approach from a distance than be in close proximity. In both instances, the content needs to be crisp, readable and appealing. This is achieved with UHD. As UHD content is also becoming more common we are expecting a significant ramp-up of UHD resolution displays in the next year. We already see a huge demand for UHD in fashion retail where the retailers not only want to show more detail but also more life-like and CI-conforming colours,” explains Walter.
NEC recently collaborated with RaspberryPi to bring embedded upgradable computing power to its large format displays. It is a true IoT device that can be smartly integrated into cloud-based systems.
“NEC’s solution greatly appeals as it is not a closed system. Unlike SoC which is limited with compatibility issues, the performance power is entirely available for media playback and not diverted to power the on-screen menu or display operation. It’s the most cost-effective open and modular solution on the market. A broad developers community is currently working on ways to further improve the computing performance.”
An open and modular computing intelligence concept that allows the integration of a broad range of computing power from RaspberryPi to Intel Core i7 slot-in PCs.
Thomas Walter, Section Manager Strategic Product Marketing, NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH: “We don’t believe that a standardised approach which appears similar to all other signage installs will capture the viewers’ attention as much as a unique and targeted install can.”
Digital signage: a growing opportunity
Notcutts Garden Centres Ltd, a private limited company, operates 18 individual garden centres across England and has been supplying plants etc. for over a century. Proud to be family-owned and independent, their core values of quality and customer care remain the same as when they first started.
Systems integrator On-AV is well placed to ascertain the requirements of the garden centres both now and in the future. The integrator recommended the flexibility of a cloud-based digital signage solution, Signagelive.
The solution is being used to show menu prices and special food promotions within the restaurant areas, also product information throughout the stores. Some stores have outdoor kiosk points showing seasonal offers. The system also serves to present various POS information and to direct customers to certain key locations in store.
The Notcutts deployment is typical of the organic spread of technology through an organisation. Initially, the solution was implemented to show promotions and seasonal offers. This has now expanded into a mixed array of point of sale, café menus as well as promotional displays.
The integrator justifies the choice of Signagelive, on the basis of adaptability and fit with the clients’ needs. Content can be updated centrally and pushed out company-wide. They have also found the online live chat support to be of great help and the team has been very helpful in providing support for any issues and the development of new features.
Prior to deploying Signagelive, Notcutts used small 10” screens updated with a USB key at each point, and printed posters or A1 display boards. Scalability and the ability to completely customise every section/part of every display and menu were cited by the client as favourite features of the solution. In fact, the client felt that the adoption of the solution was such a ‘no brainer’ that no formal business case was necessary.
Were there any challenges during any part of the project implementation? How were these resolved? “Being completely new to Signagelive, and digital signage. meant we had to pick things up quickly. However, with the Live Chat functionality which comes as part of the solution, it meant they were always on hand to help us regardless of whether we were querying hardware issues.” Said Lee Rogers, IT Systems Coordinator at Notcutts
“Working with customers like Notcutts really shows how digital signage has crossed borders in terms of suitability for use as well as of course return on the customer experience. What started off as an original idea for QSR menu boards grew into new possibilities of adding value to the customer journey, through wayfinding, POS integration etc. It is down to knowledgeable partners whom we work with which this would be possible to achieve,” said Aferdita Qesku, Director of Sales at Signagelive.