The emerging digital signage market is both fast-growing and challenging, yet an exciting opportunity for integrators. To help demystify this fast-evolving industry, Commercial Integrator, as part of our 2023 Digital Signage Deep Dive, asked Rich Ventura, vice president, professional display solutions at Sony, around the evolution and importance of digital signage and the strategic planning required for its implementation.
The discussion of Sony digital signage includes the impact of mobile device management, the benefits of having a single manufacturer, and the importance of powerful visual experiences. In addition, Ventura notes partnerships fostered by Sony, sustainability efforts and tools designed to facilitate the digital-signage process.
Read on for a look at what Ventura had to say about the latest Sony digital signage integration trends!
Commercial Integrator: There might have been a time when digital signage was just “nice to have,” but, these days, digital signage has become a necessity. Describe the new and different ways that digital signage is being used, touching on why it’s more important now than ever before.
Rich Ventura: When you look back a decade or two, few companies employed digital signage. For those who did, it was more of a novelty or a way to demonstrate innovation. Then we moved to the use of large format displays and even dvLED for digital signage in an experiential way to welcome and impress people in the lobbies of schools and organizations of many different sizes and reach. This was a way to create a strong impression and drive engagement. The strategic and expanded use of digital signage really accelerated during the pandemic and moved it from a “nice to have” to a critical communication and messaging tool. As digital signage became more commonplace, it rapidly established itself as an essential part of the workplace and companies saw the potential it held to help employees and students stay informed in many different environments.
Now, as many companies have returned to the office in some capacity, digital signage is used in several new and innovative ways to help foster collaboration, awareness and keep employees notified. It’s common to use digital signage and associated workplace tools for office and space management such as hot desking, hoteling, checking the occupancy or cleanliness of a room, providing status updates, wayfinding, corporate communications and emergency messaging. I expect digital signage’s uses to expand even more over the next few years.
CI: Shed some light on why it’s so important to strategically plan a digital-signage deployment, including having a firm grasp of the objective and then planning content to meet it.
Ventura: Being strategic in planning digital signage efforts is critical. In the early days of digital signage, people took a “sneakernet” approach – using methods such as USB sticks, SD cards, and DVDs to populate displays with content – without a lot of thought about the quality of the visuals or ways in which to better manage the content. As we evolved from that methodology, it’s helped shine a light on the importance that planning plays in creating a meaningful deployment that maximizes time and resources. Integrators first need to identify their expected outlooks and objectives and then put a strategy in place to dictate the content.
It’s important for the integrator to have a proper understanding of the customer’s needs, budget, infrastructure and desires. Having a clear ROO (return on objective) can help set the tone and get everyone working toward the same SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) goals. A final part of the process is sourcing customer feedback and using data and analytics to measure, learn, and improve upon your deployment, which helps ensure that everyone wins.
CI: How powerful a trend is mobile-device management (MDM) with respect to digital signage today?
Ventura: Mobile device management is on the rise in digital signage efforts. Taking a page from our everyday use of mobile phones and laptops, MDM for digital signage professionals allows for the installation of software or firmware updates, initialization of reboots, application updates and provisioning of a system in seconds with the use of a no-touch QR code. Using MDM also provides valuable data, insights and reporting, whether you approach it from an integrated digital signage platform or a separate investment in an MDM that allows flexibility in providers.
Another important aspect of MDM is the use of the cloud. Having cloud-based digital signage platforms and MDM empowers users to do more, faster and smarter, from virtually anywhere.
CI: Describe some of the benefits of having a single go-to manufacturer for digital-signage projects – especially one, like Sony, that has a flexible portfolio with plenty of options as regards size, features, price, etc.
Ventura: At Sony, we pride ourselves on providing integrators and end users with options. No matter what they’re looking for, we likely have a solution that meets their specific budget, space, or requirements. From basic entry-level to fully-featured premium displays, Sony offers a diverse range of offerings in sizes from 32-inches to 98-inches. Additional thought goes into elements like uniform cabinets which provide consistency in installation and ease of replacement. Additionally, Sony works with software and hardware partners throughout the pro AV industry to make our products easier to spec, deploy, and use and enables more compatibility with users’ existing workflows and preferred tools. We’ve also implemented improved integration experiences through thoughtful service options, seamless provisioning, leading warranties, and abundant resources and expertise for technical teams.
CI: When you think about features and benefits that integrators should prioritize when they’re planning digital-signage deployments, what are some of the specs or capabilities that most reliably indicate a strong visual experience?
Ventura: Powerful visuals are paramount in the digital signage realm. In order to create a memorable experience that prioritizes image quality, there are a few key factors. The first is color accuracy, which is supported by wider viewing angles and bright, high-contrast imagery with lifelike color and 4K detail – driven by leading processing technology. Another consideration is how glare can impact your content. Having a non-glare option like Sony’s BZ40L series, with high haze and low reflection has strong potential in high ambient light environments that contend with bright or harsh lighting such as retail, corporate lobbies, conference rooms, and classrooms.
CI: The word “frictionless” has come to the fore throughout our industry in recent years, and that’s especially true with digital signage. Describe how Sony leans into partnerships, such as with software providers, and how this results in easier deployment of Sony technology.
Ventura: We’re very proud of the network of digital signage hardware and software partners we’ve built, who are leaders in their respective areas of focus. By bringing together multiple vendors, we’re able to deliver a more complete AV ecosystem with valuable workflow and productivity advantages. A frictionless, integrated experience benefits all parties and helps integrators and end users continue to employ their favored solutions.
In aligning with the biggest and most influential names in the digital signage space, we’re providing customers with the best of our collective strength and expertise, in a seamless and interoperable way that has the potential to save time and money, provides enhanced connectivity and can reduce points of failure. These partnerships can also enable more creative freedom, collaboration, centralization and compatibility.
CI: Continuing with this idea of Sony making things easier for its channel partners, provide some insight into the tools that Sony offers to make spec’ing and provisioning easier. For example, what can you share about Sony’s ACE Portal and Sony’s DMP?
Ventura: Sony’s Device Management Platform (DMP) is making device management and provisioning a breeze for Pro BRAVIA users. Regardless of scale, displays can be up and running in minutes and centrally and remotely managed and monitored with consistency, from virtually any location. From issue resolution to monitoring analytics, users can oversee their network of displays without touching a device. Automated device provisioning removes complexity and saves time and resources.
Our Architects, Consultants, and Engineers (ACE) Portal, which was purpose-built with input from our industry, provides critical assets and knowledge that creates a more accessible way to inform, spec, and integrate projects featuring Sony’s technology. Featuring building information management (BIM) content, CAD drawings, and Revit files, as well as technical information, configurator tools, webinars, and case studies, the portal helps the ACE community plan and implement a project with Sony.
CI: We know that sustainability and environmental friendliness are core values for both Sony broadly and you personally. How does that commitment to sustainability shine through in Sony’s digital-signage-optimized product portfolio?
Ventura: Sustainability is something that I’m proud Sony prioritizes from a personal and professional standpoint since it will benefit not only our customers but the future of our world. Throughout the product lifecycle – from product design to logistics and operation – Sony is being as conscious as possible to leverage its global leadership position to help implement mindful policies that affect change and create a better tomorrow.
This sentiment is reflected across our company portfolio and put into action through Sony’s “Road to Zero” initiative which focuses on four key areas – reducing greenhouse emissions, conserving resources by eliminating the use of virgin materials, careful management of chemical substances, and protecting biodiversity to maintain balanced ecosystems.
From a digital signage perspective, sustainability has been a primary focus of our professional BRAVIA displays. All of our newest models adopt SORPLAS recycled plastic material, use a simpler carton with less ink, are energy efficient, and offer a tabletop stand as an optional accessory to reduce waste. Additionally, the displays have an ECO Dashboard to speed up configuration and achieve optimal eco-friendly settings, while better understanding power consumption.
CI: Is there anything that we’ve forgotten to ask or that you’d like to add about Sony digital signage and related topics?
Ventura: It’s important for technology users to recognize the ways they can maximize their existing technology, and in turn, their investment. Display technology can serve multiple purposes in an “always-on” environment. If a school or corporation is using displays in a conference room or classroom, they can populate the screen with important messaging and repurpose it for digital-signage needs when it’s not actively in use for collaboration or the sharing of content.
Be smart and strategic with your investments through better utilization of existing resources. A blank screen can be a wasted opportunity for engagement or sharing critical information.
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