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Friday
Apr272012

Smartphones, Tablets are Likely to Impact Direction of Future Digital Signage

Smartphones and tablets present digital signage with new opportunities to evolve.

The broad adoption by consumers of media tablets and smartphones, such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, is certain to impact digital signage in ways that today aren’t fully imaginable.

However, there are a few important data points about these devices that offer a clue as to what some of the effects will be and their potential magnitude.

First, the number of media tablets and smartphones in use is staggering. In the two years since they have become available, 55 million iPads have reached consumers’ hands. IHS iSuppli forecasts 275 million tablets worldwide (all tablets, not just iPads) will be sold by 2015. At home in America, 65 percent of the population, some 200 million, will have smartphones and/or tablets by 2015, an In-Stat study says.

Those numbers mean that whatever the ultimate impact will be of these devices on digital signage, it’s bound to be huge.

Second, these devices are changing how people like to interact with technology. Multi-touch screens, a critical component of the success of tablets and smartphones, will likely become an important component of some digital signage applications, too. After all, people by the millions are being trained by their devices on how to interact with screens.

Soon the desire to have multi-touch will shift from a want to an expectation in the minds of consumers who access information via a screen. This naturally will carry over to digital signage, particularly hybrid digital signage used in interactive kiosk applications.

It’s worth noting that the popularity of multi-touch is nearly overwhelming –literally. In late March, IHS iSuppli reported that the “runaway success” of the iPad and iPhone has created a boom in the shipment of touch screen display. That in turn will cause the market for the silicon that makes multi-touch possible to nearly triple in size over the next five years –from 865 million touch screen controller integrated circuits in 2010 to 2.4 billion in 2015.

Smartphones and tablets also will likely affect digital signage by giving this emerging communications medium a way to reach out to consumers in the proximity of a digital sign and wirelessly deliver information, coupons and QR codes. With so many smartphones and tablets in the hands of consumers, doing so seems like a natural way for marketers and other communicators to extend the digital signage experience beyond the public square and into the purses and pockets of the general public.

To be sure, my crystal ball is as clear as the next fellow’s. But it seems to me you don’t need to be Nostradamus to look a little bit down the road and see that smartphones and tablets will play an increasingly important role in the direction of digital signage.

While predicting exactly how these new devices will shape future digital signage developments is impossible to say, it is certain that digital signage vendors and the people who communicate with these signs will be hard at work seeking to find ways to benefit from the swelling ranks of their users.

Monday
Apr162012

Where Does Digital Signage Fit in a World Where TV is Ubiquitous?

Digital signage communicators must begin looking for ways to leverage the ubiquity of smartphones and media tablets.

If you are like me and drawn to science fiction, fascinated by quirky views of the future, you might remember a mid-1980s TV show called Max Headroom. While the particulars of the series have blurred in my memory over the years, the one thing that hasn't is the ubiquity of television in the society portrayed in the show.

I'm not talking television simply being convenient; in the world explored in the series, TV literally seemed to be everywhere. Not just in homes and apartments, but on the streets, resting on a pile of trash, in the trunk of a car. You get the idea. It was impossible to get away from the blasted things.

That feeling of society being overwhelmed by the tube -now there's an antiquated term- seemed so impossible, so remote, so "sci-fi" just a couple of decades ago. But today, I would argue, we are well on our way to similar television omnipresence.

In May 2011, the Nielsen Company estimated the number of TV households in the United States to be more than 114 million, or 96.7 percent of all households in the country. In January of the same year, Nielsen estimated there to be on average 2.5 TVs per U.S. household. Impressive, but nowhere near ubiquitous -at least not by "Headroomian" proportions.

But TV households don't tell the whole story. According to an online Time Business article published a few weeks ago, Apple has sold 55 million iPads in the two years they have existed. When all media tablets -not just the iPad- are factored in, market research firm IHS iSuppli projects that 275 million tablets will be sold by 2015, or about 16 times the number shipped in 2010.

Getting a little closer to ubiquity? Perhaps, but don't forget about smartphones. A CNN report from July 2011 quotes a report from the Pew Internet and the American Life Project estimating 35 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Another study from research firm In-Stat, quoted in an August 2011 CNET article, forecasts that 65 percent of Americans, some 200 million people, will have smartphones and/or tablets by 2015.

Now, it seems to me, we are approaching the Headroom threshold of TV ubiquity. Granted they are more likely to take the form of a sleek tablet, smartphone or flat panel TV than a beat up set teetering on a mound of broken TVs in an alleyway, but ubiquitous nonetheless.

This sort of near omnipresence would seem to raise a fundamental question for digital signage communicators: What is the value of communicating via a digital sign, if hundreds of potentially competing screens are literally a few feet away in the pockets and purses of passersby?

I would argue digital sign communication is not threatened by the broad availability of smartphones and media tablets, but potentially enhanced in at least three important ways.

First, those portable devices offer a means for digital signage communicators in the future to continue their dialog with their audience once they leave the store, arena, lobby or other venue.

Second, if television-viewing habits are any indication, many people don't replace their TV viewing with online viewing, they complement it. Millions of people today regularly interact with their friends online via Facebook and other social media about a show while they are watching. It's not too far-fetched to envision similar sorts of interaction while in front of a digital sign, depending upon the circumstance.

Third, total viewing time of video entertainment is increasing. Rather than cannibalizing an existing audience, new media devices are driving greater viewing. For digital signage communicators, this increased viewing means it should be easier, not harder to attract people who have demonstrated a willingness to watch media on flat screens.

To me, it seems the Headroom-like availability of screens on the whole will complement the communications efforts of those who market and message with digital signs. Not embracing the ubiquity of these screens and looking for ways to leverage them would represent a major missed opportunity.

Friday
Mar232012

Interactive Digital Signage: New Smart TVs Will Create New Opportunities for Interactivity

Smart TVs with interfaces based on voice control and other cool technology may one day change how digital signs integrate interactivity.

It wasn’t too long ago when a digital sign consisted of a TV set and a VHS deck or DVD player. In what seems like a flash, tube TVs are passé, and VHS cassette players are beginning to look a little like antiques.

Driven largely by the overwhelming popularity of HDTV in America (recent research from Leichtman Research Group finds high-def sets are now in two-thirds of U.S. homes), flat panel displays are achieving ubiquity. Along the way, they transformed the look and appeal of digital signage.

As striking as that change has been, digital signs appear to be on track to see an equally dramatic change over the next few years, once again driven by the consumer television set. At the recently concluded 2012 International CES in Las Vegas, several television vendors rolled out their vision of what a “smart” TV should look like.

Among them were Samsung, LG, Sony and Lenovo, each with their own versions of smart TVs. Google already has taken a run at this market, and Apple is long rumored to be working on its own smart TV with a consumer interface similar to its Siri personal assistant for the iPhone 4S that would let owners control their TV with their voice. Samsung, too, reportedly is at work on adding voice and motion control to new televisions.

For the interactive digital signage industry, these new smart TVs will open doors to greater possibilities for digital sign-based interactivity and further reshape consumer expectations. How long will it be before we see digital signs that allow a hotel guest not only search a list of available restaurants from a digital sign in the lobby but also make reservations simply by speaking to the screen?

Beyond voice interaction with smart TVs, what other benefits might this new generation of televisions bring to digital signage interactivity? Perhaps, these TVs will lead to easier syncing with personal smart phones and tablets offering the public interactive takeaways from the sign. Or, they might make it possible to migrate the digital signage experience from outside the home into the living room –sort of an offshoot of the TV Everywhere concept being promoted these days by pay TV operators, such as cable TV companies.

To be sure, my crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else’s. However, it seems obvious that this next-generation television technology will open up new and exciting possibilities for those who communicate via interactive mobile devices. I’m not suggesting these opportunities to employ a higher degree of interactivity will be available in the short term. But when they do come, what it means to communicate with a digital sign will undergo a dramatic transformation.

Where we are today and where we might be headed in the not-too-distant future with this new technology might be as stark of a contrast as the difference between Tom Hanks feverishly plugging in numbers to an early microcomputer in his role as astronaut James Lovell in “Apollo 13” and Leonard Nimoy as Spock saying from his science station aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, "Computer, compute to the last digit the value of pi," and the computer replying: “You’re kidding, right?”

Wednesday
Mar212012

Barracuda Waterproof LCD Monitor

Completely submerged in a fully-decorated fish tank while showing fan favorites such as Finding Nemo and Spongebob SquarePants, as well as the requisite fish tank screen saver, the Barracuda is often hailed as the center of attention when displayed in our booth at trade shows. Owing to the cynicism of the times, many express doubt that the Barracuda is really submerged at all, thinking instead that the setup is some sort of elaborate trick. But this is no hoax; the Barracuda™ is engineered for the harshest environments.

Designed to meet IP67 and NEMA4X standards, the Barracuda holds up against the assaults of complete immersion in liquids as well as exposure to humidity, dust, blowing sand and the like. These qualifications make it ideal for use in military and mining applications.

In this brief video, we demonstrate the Barracuda’s ability to function while completely submerged. The fish tank, decorated as it would be at any of the trade shows at which we exhibit, is filled with water and the Barracuda is powered on and displaying simulated fish. For the purpose of the video, the Barracuda is left in the water for a short period. At the trade shows, the Barracuda remains submerged for up to eight or nine hours at a time.

Mentioned in the video, though not demonstrated, is the fact that the connectors on the monitor are also fully sealed regardless of connection. It is this attention to detail and functionality that you’ve come to expect from the innovators of flat panel technology.

Friday
Mar162012

Digital Signage 101: The Three Approaches to File Transfer

Modern digital signage players support three ways of transporting files from here to there and back again.

Transport, transfer, conveyance, movement –that is, getting from here to there and back with the “stuff” of digital signage may seem a bit mundane to those who are knee-deep in the digital signage deluge. But to many, it’s probably never been given a second thought.

This column is devoted to the topics of moving digital signage “stuff,” what that “stuff” is and how to do it. If you’re a digital signage veteran, you might want to move on; but if you just recently discovered digital signage and are new to the party, read on. You’re bound to find something useful.

So, what is the “stuff” of digital signage? A few things come to mind, including the playlist –in other words the sequence of all events that will be played out and displayed on the sign as well as commands that trigger a device that’s external to the digital signage player, such as a monitor, to do something – a master schedule that can include multiple playlists and the actual media files, including video, audio, text, graphics and animation, required for playout.

Transporting this material can be accomplished in three basic ways: first, via IP over the public Internet; second, via IP over a local area or wide area network; and third via a portable digital storage device, such as a USB drive or SD memory card, and the use of your Keds, which otherwise is known as “sneakernet.” There are more advanced methods of transport include cellular and IP multicasting via satellite links, but these methods are not very common and are outside the scope of this article.

Clearly, different digital signage applications require different approaches to the transport of media, schedules and playlists. A retail store, for example, with a basic installation of one or two digital signage players is a perfect candidate for the sneakernet approach. It’s quick, convenient and removes a layer of complexity that would be required otherwise if a LAN/WAN or Internet transfer were employed.

A bigger installation, such as a large hotel with convention and meeting facilities scattered throughout the complex, would be better served using IP transport via a LAN or WAN.  No one must carry a USB drive from player to player because schedules, playlists and media files are easily transported to individual players or groups of players on the network. Each player is assigned its own IP address in this scenario and can be pinged from a central computer on the network to determine that it is functioning. Existing content and control files can be inspected, and new schedules, playlists and content transferred with a simple mouse click.

Digital signage applications that are larger still –say statewide, national or international in scope- are candidates for transport via the public Internet. With the proper security measures in place, the Internet offers a highly efficient way to transport digital signage “stuff” around the globe.

There is another important part of this transfer story that must not be ignored. Digital signage playback can require a tremendous number of files that must be organized and stored so they can be easily retrieved by the player when needed. Whether files are transferred via a USB storage device or an Ethernet connection, the right version of the file better end up in the right folder.  Otherwise, the playlist won’t find the media needed for playback.

Add to this the complexity introduced when multiple people build content and playlists for a sign or groups of signs, and the need for software that tracks versions of media files, manages permissions for who is authorized to make changes and maintains consistency in file structure and placement between the player and content workstations becomes all the more important.

Wednesday
Mar142012

Cleaning the Mean Screen

Cleaning an LCD monitor isn't difficult, but should be performed properly to ensure a long, clear life. We provide a brief outline on the proper cleaning of an LCD monitor.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar132012

Kiosks4business Exhibit Their Excellence in Bespoke Kiosk Design at the Retail Business Technology Expo

Kiosks4business is getting ready for the Retail Business Technology Expo which is a two day event at Earls court on the 13th and 14th of March. Exhibiting companies are technology rich experts that have something to offer to the retail industry to help with the running and increased sales. Kiosks4business are their in their capacity of point of sales retail kiosks with touchscreens and multi touch touchscreen self service solutions.

Kiosk4business will be demonstrating their brand new range of kiosks including Okul, Nixi Micro Kiosk and their DDA kiosk, Eidos. In addition to these they will also be taking along abespoke kiosk design they have been working on to demonstrate their capabilities of custom kiosk design. The featured touchscreen kiosk was designed by Kiosks4business from an initial design brief of what the kiosk needed to do and the sphere in which it needed to fit. The Kiosk design team created a bespoke kiosk design which was imaginative, ticked all the functionality boxes and came in on budget.

Kiosk4business have worked on a number of projects where a bespoke design was required with great success and resulting with very happy customers who own unique kiosk systems, designed, branded and uniquely exclusive to them alone.

If you are looking for something more than ‘off the peg’ kiosks and might be interested inbespoke kiosks designed by Kiosks4business, visit us at the Retail Business Technology Expo at stand 499 and find out what we could do for you.

Monday
Mar122012

Visit Kiosks4Business’ Nixi Micro Kiosk and be in with a Chance of Winning an iPad


Nixi Micro Kiosk
To celebrate the launch of the new Nixi Micro Kiosks,Kiosks4business are offering an iPad as a prize for customers who visit their stand at the Retail Business Technology Expo and view a demo of the kiosk.

During March the 13th and 14th Kiosks4Business will be exhibiting their new micro kiosk the Nixi at the Retail Business Technology Expo, at Earls court. To be in with a chance of winning an iPad all you need to do is to come along to the show and visit Kiosks4Business at stand 499 and watch the demonstration of the Nixi and hand us your business card. The lucky winner’s business card will be drawn at random at the on March 23rd.

Nixi Micro KioskSo why is Kiosks4Business so excited about the Nixi Kiosk?
Nixi is the newest kiosk design for Kiosks4Business and was designed in response to the rising demands for small footprint micro kiosks. Nixi micro kiosks are small-screen but full featured touchscreen kiosks ideal for retail. The kiosks use the latest high reliability rugged computing platforms and can include many options such as RFID, Bar code scanner and much more. Nixi is available as a desk or wall mounted design and transaction versions include thermal printer for wall mount style. Nixi screen sizes start at just 10in with standard sizes of 12in and 15in screens.

We know that Nixi is going to be a big hit because it’s small and beautifully designed and has a quality finish, but not only does it look really good but it is so versatile. Nixi is designed for continuous use or can automatically switch on and off each day to save power. Connectivity options include wired and wireless options. Its compact size means that it will fit almost anywhere, which is why it is perfect for the retail sector.

So whilst you’re visiting the Retail Business Technology Expo, remember to visit Kiosk4Business and ask us about our Nixi kiosk and the iPad prize draw.

Thursday
Mar082012

Testdrive Okul at the Retail Business Technology Expo 2012

Testdrive Okul at the Retail Business Technology Expo 2012 The Retail Business Technology Expo is providing the perfect opportunity for you to view and test drive Okul, the new high-end retail touchscreen kiosk from Kiosks4Business. Okul doesn’t look like your average kiosk, it’s curvy and contemporary. The Kiosk4Business designers wanted to design a kiosk that was bold to stand out in any environment, and what they have achieved is a modern looking kiosk which is perfectly suited for the retail environment.

Okul comes with a 22inch widescreen HD display, on which your customers will be amazed to find a multi touch touchscreen, offering you the opportunity to incorporate high end software onto the display. Multi Touch is relatively new to the Kiosk sphere and Okul gives you an opportunity to equip your retail outlet with cutting edge technology before your competitors.

What’s more Okul can really be ‘yours’ because the Okul can be branded up to be in keeping with your brand and colours.

With Okul you can have as much or as little as you like. Okul can have a chip and pin, a receipt or ticket printer, RFID reader, a bar code scanner, a web cam or microphone or none of these. In this way the Okul can be custom made to suit your needs and requirements, so you’re not paying for facilities that you wouldn’t make use of.

Of course seeing the Okul Kiosk at the Retail Business Technology Expo in ‘the flesh’ means that you can actually see how your customers would view it for their first encounter. You will also get to see the size and workmanship of the kiosk, information you can only get from seeing a kiosk first hand. Demonstration software will be running on the Okul so you will also be able to use the kiosk as if you were a customer, to give you an idea of feel of use. The Kiosks4Business team will be on hand to answer any questions you might have.

Kiosk4Business will be displaying and demonstration a number of their Touchscreen kiosks, and you can view them all at the Retail Business Technology Expo at Earls Court on the 13th and 14th of March. You’ll find Kiosks4Business on stand 499.

Wednesday
Mar072012

Visit Kiosks4Business at the Retail Business Technology Expo

Okul kiosk

Okul kiosk

The Retail Business Technology Expo and Cards and Payments Solutions is said to be Europe’s fastest growing retail expo, making this show the ‘Must Attend’ retail expo of the year. The show has exhibitors demonstrating a comprehensive range of innovative retail solutions.

Nixi Micro Kiosk

This year Kiosk4Business will be attending to debut some of their newest kiosk designs including the contemporary Okul and the newest member of the family, Nixi. Nixi is a very versatile micro kiosk which is available as desk or wall mounted. Nixi small kiosks start at screen sizes of just 10in up to 15in for but still have many of the features you would expect of a cutting edge design with options for RFID, Barcode scanner, printing and much more.

Chris Cowper the division manager of Kiosks4Busines said “We are really excited to be attending the show and are confident that visitors will love the new multi touch touchscreen kiosk designs. The show also offers visitors a superb opportunity to not just look at the new kiosk but to also ‘have a go’ as we shall have demonstration software running on a number of the machines to show how the kiosks could be used in a retail setting”

As well the latest kiosk designs Kiosk4Business will also be bringing along their Eidos kiosk. Eidos is a very stylish kiosk solution with an illuminated edge and offers wheelchair access. Eidos has a multi touch screen and looks amazing so it takes people breath away they hear the great value for money price of the Eidos.

All the touchscreen kiosks will be running and visitors to the stand will be invited to try and test each one to get a real feel of what the kiosk fees like to use and how they can enhance the customer experience in your retail outlet. If you would like to try out the kiosk and quiz the team about how these kiosks could work for you, go along and visit Kiosk4Business at The Retail Business Technology Expo, Earls Court at stand 499 from 13 March to 14 March 2012.

Tuesday
Feb282012

Digital Signage Content: RSS Feeds Offer Inexpensive Way to Keep Content Fresh

Digital Sign Using RSSKeeping digital signage content interesting and up-to-date has never been easier thanks to an explosion in the availability of RSS feeds.

Turn on your favorite cable news channel, and what do you see at the bottom of the screen? How about over on the business channel you like to watch? What's being shown at the bottom of the screen of many sports and weather channels? See any similarities?

Did you conjure up in your mind the ticker that crawls across the bottom of the screen, displaying everything from top news headlines to stock movements, sports scores to even weather conditions? Firsthand experience as a TV viewer with these sorts of tickers should make clear how up-to-the-moment information can motivate viewers to focus their attention on the screen.

If these sorts of crawls are successful in grabbing and holding the public's attention on television, have you ever asked yourself why they shouldn't be equally as effective on a digital sign? There's little reason to think otherwise. But many digital signage content creators don't even consider such news tickers because they assume the expense of the data required to feed the onscreen info crawls will be prohibitively expensive

Read additional digital signage content tips.

To be sure data subscriptions exist, and they vary in price. But data subscriptions aren't the only way to feed fresh news headlines, stock quotes and other changing information to a digital signage screen. There are sources of free content that can feed digital signs a stream of fresh, up-to-the-minute content that will grab and hold the attention of an audience. These sources are available online in the form of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds that offer something for just about everyone.

The diversity of the info available via RSS feeds is critical because there are so many uses for digital signs. What might attract the attention of a digital signage viewer in a car dealership service department waiting area could be entirely different from what grabs the attention of those waiting in the reception area of an investment advisor or dentist. Fortunately, with enough online investigation it's possible to find RSS feed sources on topics that make sense for both people with shared, yet highly defined interests as well as mass audiences.

For those who are a little uncertain about what an RSS feed is, think of it as a stream of headlines, info bits, data or conditions that is regularly updated and syndicated by online publishers. RSS source feeds literally are as diverse as the Internet, and it would be impossible to list them all. But to illustrate the diversity of content available via RSS feeds, consider such feeds are available from the NASDAQ stock exchange, Rotten Tomatoes movie review site, the BBC, the New York Times and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Topics range widely from science and culture, to financial and gardening.

For digital signage content producers looking to tap into this rich source of freshly updated information all that's needed is a digital signage system with RSS reader functionality that can take incoming RSS feeds and present them on the screen as a text crawl.

Finding RSS feeds to consider is as easy as doing a Google search for "most popular RSS feeds" and spending sometime honing in on those that make the most sense for your audience. To get you started, I've included a few URLs with lists of RSS sites: The Free Dictionary, Feeds for All and RSS Feed Folder. Good luck with your search.

Wednesday
Feb222012

Keywest Technology Announces a Free Download of MediaZone Editor Pro Digital Signage Software

The digital signage software is now available as a free trial from the company’s MediaZonePro.com website.

Keywest Technology today announces the immediate availability of a of its MediaZone Pro digital signage editor software as a free full version download.

“We are excited to offer the free trial of MediaZone so that thousands of more digital signage communicators can experience firsthand the power and ease of use MediaZone Pro offers,” said Nick Nichols, president of Keywest Technology.

“We are confident that once digital signage professionals have tasted the benefits MediaZone Pro offers, they will adopt it as their digital signage workhorse for combining text, graphics, video and animation and scheduling playback,” he added.

The MediaZone Pro digital signage editor offers a flexible “media-zone” template editor with comprehensive media scheduling and management functionality from a single easy-to-use desktop program. The editor operates on common PC platforms running Windows® XP, Vista™ or Windows 7. The software provides a complete digital signage software solution with all of the tools needed to build compelling media playlists with text, graphics, video and animation and play them back.

Keywest Technology is offering the full version of MediaZone Editor Pro free of charge so potential users can test and demo the easy-to-use digital signage editor until they are ready to buy.

There is no cost, obligation or hassle to test MediaZone Pro. Those wishing to download the free trial version of the MediaZone Pro software simply visit the company's product website. The free trial can be transferred at high speed via a secure Internet connection. All are welcome to download and try out the free trial of the MediaZone Pro software.

Keywest Technology also has announced that it welcomes questions from the public about installing MediaZone Pro as well as actually using the software. The company’s trained, courteous staff will be available to answer questions via an online webinar, chat and through an online inquiry form.

Friday
Feb102012

Digital Signage Content: Integrating Social Media Can Garner Attention and Build Interest

Enhancing digital signage content may be as simple as tapping the power of social media.

Here is a remarkable statistic published online by USA Today’s Technology Live website in October 2010. As of that date, there were 6.8 billion people in the world, 1.96 billion Internet users and 517 million Facebook users.

As Byron Acohido, author of the piece noted: “Put another way: about 7 percent of the world’s humans are on Facebook.” Just over a year later, Facebook notes on its statistics page that there are now 800 million active users of the social media network.

How many of those Facebook users carrying smartphones will visit somewhere that relies on a digital sign? One can only imagine the number for a particular venue. But consider this: Facebook’s statistics page says there are 350 million users who actively interact with Facebook via their smartphones. So it’s a pretty safe bet that the closer the demographics of the audience for a digital sign match those of typical mobile Facebook users, the more likely there’s a vast opportunity to be realized.

The likely proximity of a smartphone to a digital sign creates an important opportunity for anyone communicating via a digital sign who possesses a bit of an imagination and a willingness to experiment. Consider a noisy environment, such as a popular bar, dance club or even certain restaurants. Could designating on-screen real estate of a digital sign to a special Facebook page, give a business owner a way to help patrons connect with one another on screen and in so doing cut through the noise, attract the attention of customers and promote goods or services in other zones on the sign?

Leveraging social media in this way could be as simple as giving patrons a virtual bulletin board on which to post vetted observations and pictures or as complex as giving them a way to play bar games, like trivia, with one another. Imagination, budget and creativity would seem to be the only limitations.

The good news for small businesses looking to take advantage of this opportunity is many are already quite familiar and fluent with Facebook. According to the quarterly Merchant Confidence Index released in February 2011 by MerchantCircle, 70 percent of local merchants are using Facebook for marketing –up from 50 percent the preceding year. In fact, MerchantCircle, among largest social network of local business owners in the United States with more than 1.6 million members, found Facebook has passed Google as the most widely used marketing method for local merchants.

In addition to its wide use by local merchants, the rapid growth Facebook saw over the past year saw among merchants is positive. It appears to indicate local merchants have proven themselves to be quite willing to explore the potential of this social network. Thus taking the next step to integrate a Facebook page as digital signage content doesn’t seem to be too far of a stretch for merchants with a knack for the platform.

It’s also important to note that Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that can be leveraged for digital signage content. Twitter, too, easily fits into the same mold as a convenient way to let patrons publicly interact with one another on a digital sign via their smartphones. Like Facebook, Twitter also is familiar to local merchants. The
Merchant Confidence Index found about 40 percent currently use the platform, which is up from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

As business owners, outside creative agencies and internal graphics departments consider what digital signage content to present to the public, they would do well to remember that adding engaging, attention-grabbing element to their digital sign may be no further away than a Facebook page or Twitter account.

David Little is a charter member of the Digital Screenmedia Association with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to effectively communicate. For further digital signage insight from Keywest Technology, visit our website for many helpful tips and examples. For more in-depth research from Keywest Technology, download our free digital signage white papers and case studies.

Thursday
Jan262012

Keywest Technology Offers Checklist On Working With Graphic Artists For Digital Signage

Whether working with an in-house art department or an outside agency, here's a handy checklist to make sure your digital signage content achieves what you want.

Digital signage is going mainstream as a medium. Simply look around in retail stores, shopping malls, arenas, gas stations, hotel lobbies, restaurants, and just about any other place you can image, and you're bound to see one or more digital signs.

However, even though digital signs are growing in popularity, they are likely to be a rather new medium for the majority of graphic artists and other media creators, like graphic designers and animators, which you may turn to to create compelling content to achieve your communications goals.

Perhaps, you will be working with in-house graphic artists whose expertise is the design of brochures, reports and other printed collateral. Or, you may find yourself working with a creative agency that specializes in television commercials. Both are creative, talented and have an abundance of knowledge and experience to bring to the table. Your challenge will be communicating the unique demands of digital signage content to them and directing them so they deliver the message you need.

Following some or all of the recommendations on this handy checklist should help you focus your creative team's talent regardless of their prior experience, or lack of experience, in creating digital signage porfolio.

* Clearly state what you wish to accomplish. Explain precisely how the signs are to be used. Will they be informational in nature? Do you want to sell a product or service with the signs?  Is the communication mission straightforward like that of a menu board or more nuanced?

* Define your target audience. Layout as much demographic information, i.e. age, sex, ethnic background, and psychographic information, including interests, attitudes and opinions, of your intended viewers as possible.

* Identify where the sign or signs will be located. Giving your creative team this information will inform decisions they make later about the appearance, placement and dwell time of content they will create.

* Explain desired quality. In today's world, it is hard to imagine that the display or displays to be used won't be HDTVs. But even if that's the case, will they be 720p, 1080i or even 1080p displays? That information will be helpful when content is created and may reduce the need for up, down or cross conversion of video, graphics and animation content.

* Visual SPAM. Because digital signage is becoming more common, the level of "visual noise" is also increasing. This should be considered along with the sensibilities of the target demographic. Work with your designers in creating a pleasing visual environment that will be more readily received by a discerning audience. Avoid excessive in-your-face content that may wax against the shopping experience by overloading the senses. Too much eye candy is not a good thing -it can give eye pain.

* Define duration. On a macro level, your messaging will be used for a finite period before it must be updated or changed entirely. On a micro level, individual pieces of content will dwell on the screen before being updated by the next item in the list. Information about both will help your team in creating content that can accomplish its communications task in the allotted time on screen as well as give the team a way to begin building a workable content production schedule. 

* Discuss the number of onscreen zones desired. Start out by giving your team an idea of how many discrete areas of onscreen real estate you envision to communicate your message and what you believe should be communicated in each. Don't consider this the last word on the topic. Rather use your list as a point of departure to discuss and ultimately define how many zones actually will be used.

* Identify existing content resources. While you will want your content to be fresh, engaging and designed to meet your communications goals, there is no sense reinventing the wheel when existing resources can be used or repurposed. For example, if you intend to communicate to owners of high performance cars as they wait in a car dealer's service area, an existing RSS feed of Formula One, Indy Car and NASCAR race results and news might be available already for an onscreen crawl.

Whether or not your designers are experienced with digital signage, they will appreciate the guidance you give by discussing the items in the checklist. More importantly, reviewing the points in the checklist will help ensure you receive the content you need to achieve your communications goals.

Wednesday
Jan252012

Keywest Technology Releases New Version of MediaZone Pro Software 

MediaZone Pro version 2.0.15 adds 25 important, new features and enhancements to the digital signage software.

LENEXA, Kan. (Jan. 25) – Keywest Technology has announced the release of MediaZone Pro version 2.0.15, the company's first significant update to its new digital signage software application since its initial release in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The latest version of the software offers a long list of enhancements, including an Instant Commands wizard to send commands to an individual player or a group of players; a Retrieve Playlist function that allows a user to collect a playlist or schedule of playlists from a player; support for import or export of a playlist or schedule of playlists from an external USB drive; and a redesigned Add Web Page cropping tool.

"This software release offers customers more than 25 enhancements they've requested since our introduction of MediaZone Pro late last year," said Keywest Technology president Nick Nichols. "We are delivering on our promise to customers to give them greater control, flexibility and convenience with this release."

For example, the new Instant Commands wizard, which has been added to the Share menu, adds a greater level of flexibility by letting users communicate with a single player or group of players. Commands can include scripts to execute a range of functions, including controlling and triggering external events.

Another example is the Retrieve Playlists wizard that allows a user to retrieve a playlist or schedule of playlists from a player. This lets users update a desired playlist even if the media to be used is not stored or shared on their computers.

The new support for Import and Export from an external USB memory stick launches a wizard for retrieving or sending a playlist or playlists from the external memory device. This feature has a variety of uses including sneakernet, which provides a secure, simple approach to digital sign playlist management. It also can serve as a backup system incase the network were to go down.

Keywest Technology also has redesigned the Add Web Page cropping tool, which launches a full-screen Web browser with a blue window for setting and cropping dimensions.

The complete list of all of the MediaZone Pro enhancements available with this software release is available on the Keywest Technology website.

Tuesday
Jan172012

Digital signage worth while waiting for

Fys’Optima deploys Adtraxion digital signage solution to engage, inform and entertain clients

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan162012

Keywest Technology Recommends First Step to a Successful Digital Signage Campaign

Digital signage tipsLike any other aspect of business, successfully deploying digital signs hinges on achieving an acceptable return on investment on both the technology and the content to be displayed.

The use of digital signage is varied and diverse, which means the background, knowledge and skill brought to creating content to be delivered via this powerful medium is just as diverse and varied.

Consider the stark differences between a four-star hotel chain that's decided at the corporate level to use digital signs throughout its properties to welcome guests, offer wayfinding and promote various features and amenities. Now think about the local sports bar that's added digital signs to promote featured drinks and menu items while patrons quench their thirst and watch the game. 

These are two entirely different types of businesses, with dramatically different resources to spend on digital signage content, varied levels of experience with using media to reach the public and quite diverse ideas about what they would like to accomplish with digital signs.

Regardless of these differences, however, the hotel chain and single sports bar -along with all other digital signage users- should share one common characteristic when it comes to digital signage: They need to determine their return on investment -not simply on the hardware and software needed but also on the digital content to be used.

Determining ROI on digital signage hardware and software is pretty straightforward. Simply divide the expense of both by their anticipated useful life in months or years. (For this example, I'll use months.) Then subtract this monthly expense from the revenue generated by the digital signs and divide this difference by the monthly expense.

For example, the ROI of a simple, single-sign system costing $6000 for hardware, software and display would look like this. Assuming a useful life of five years, or 60 months, $100 of expense should be assigned to each month of the system's useful life. If the sign generates an additional $150 in business per month, then the ROI in this example is 50 percent [that is $150 (revenue) - $100 (monthly expense of signage) = $50/$100 (monthly expense of signage) = .5].

The same sort of ROI equation can be applied to digital signage content; however, there are a few wrinkles to consider that make doing so a little trickier. First, consider that the useful life of content will be far shorter than that of the hardware and software. To be effective, that is to consistently attract the attention of patrons, content must be fresh and relevant. Thus, in a retail setting, the useful life of content will likely be measured in weeks, and possibly even days during certain times of the year.

Second, the expense side of the equation is a little more complex when it comes to digital signage content. For instance, will content be created in-house or by an outside agency? If in-house, will a new employee be required, or will an existing graphic artist take on the responsibility. Will elements of content created once be repurposed again and again in successive campaigns, thus requiring apportionment of content expenses across multiple uses? Will "free" content, such as an RSS feed, be leveraged in some campaigns and not others, thus impacting digital content expenses differently? Will the digital content be used across in multiple locations so a portion of the expense can be assigned to each location?

Third, digital signage content frequently has nothing to do with commerce. When revenue generation is not the goal of the sign, determining the ROI on content gets a little squishy. Considerations such as goodwill created among the public are much harder to quantify than dollars and cents.

Even though determining the return on investment of creating digital signage content can be difficult, it is essential. After all, doing so is the logical first step in assessing the value of any given digital signage content campaign.

Monday
Jan162012

Kiosks4business Produce New Small Micro Kiosks for Retail

Nixi Micro KioskKiosks4business designers have created a contemporary new range of Micro Kiosks under the name of Nixi. Nixi kiosks are designed for applications where space is limited and can be wall mounted or desk mounted. The design and features make Nixi represent a real alternative to using consumer products such as Ipads and other tablet devices. With Nixi, power and networking connections are hidden so no need for external power supplies.

Nixi screens, including touchscreen, are available from 10in to 15in (1024 x 768 XGA resolution) with the latest LED backlight screens for optimum viewing quality. Widescreen versions are available for volume orders.

Nixi has been designed with retail applications in mind and can be ordered complete with Bar Code scanner, RFID, Magnetic card reader, thermal receipt printer and many other options.

Nixi Micro KioskNixi processing power is provided by the latest Intel Atom high reliability industrial computing platforms with Core2Duo available for high-end graphics applications. Network connectivity is via on-board 100/1000 wired , WiFi or 3G. Nixi comes as standard with Ubuntu Linux and can also be supplied with Windows 7 pre-installed.

Whether it’s for customer interactive experiences, price checking, in-store shopping , employee time and attendance, Nixi is equally at home for many and varied applications.

If you would like to find out more about the new Nixi micro kiosks then visit stand 499 at the Retail Business Technology Expo, Earls Court, March 13-14.

Friday
Jan132012

General Digital's 15" XGA LED/NVIS Display

General Digital has taken NEC’s very impressive 15" Super-Transmissive Natural Light TFT and done the impossible—we have made it better! GDC began by replacing the four cold cathode fluorescent lamps which comprise the OEM backlight with two of our proprietary NVIS / high brightness LED rails. The conversion to LED technology not only makes the solution greener (no mercury content), but it also improves the luminance efficiency, and provides full NVIS compatibility. The General Digital-enhanced 90-4150-002 display produces nearly twice the brightness (1000 nits) as the OEM configuration (NL10276BC30-18C) while consuming similar power (15 watts). The enhanced display module also meets NVIS-B Radiance and White Color requirements as defined by MIL-L-3009 specifications. General Digital’s enhancements do not change the physical characteristics of the original display.

Friday
Jan132012

General Digital's 10.4" XGA Sunlight Readable LED/NVIS Display

General Digital has taken CMO’s very impressive 10.4" TFT and done the impossible—we have
made it better! We began by replacing the two cold cathode fluorescent lamps which comprise
the OEM backlight with one of our proprietary NVIS / high brightness LED rails. The conversion
to LED technology not only makes the solution greener (no mercury content), but it also
improves the luminance efficiency, and provides full NVIS compatibility. The General Digitalenhanced
90-4104-002 display produces three times the brightness (1200 nits) as the OEM
configuration (G104X-L01) while consuming similar power (10 watts). The enhanced display
module also meets NVIS-B Radiance requirements as defined by MIL-L-3009 specifications.
General Digital’s enhancements do not change the physical characteristics of the original
display.

Options: Optical Bonding EMI Touch Sensors, AR Overlays, ITO Glass Heaters, Custom Front Bezels