Before you work with higher ed customers on purchasing and installing digital signage, you must first help them decide how it will be deployed.
“There are two types of ways universities make decisions,” says Ryan Cahoy of Rise Display, a digital signage software company. “There are schools that look at it from a centralized approach where they make a decision for a standard that goes campus-wide. The other approach is little empires or silos. Each college makes a decision on what’s best for them.”
There are pros and cons to each approach. A centralized digital signage solution allows you to deploy the same type of display and the same software, etc. throughout campus. This makes it easier for IT or AV staff to maintain the displays and allows for everything to be tied together. A centralized solution may also allow schools to leverage their buying power.
“The negative is they have to make compromises because they have to do a kind of one-size-fits-all solution,” says Cahoy. In other words, certain departments or schools on campus may not get the exact display or display capabilities they wanted.
With the empire approach, each college or department chooses and purchases the digital signage solution that best fits its needs. The downside to this method is that the solution isn’t necessarily cohesive, making it difficult to deliver consistent messaging campus-wide.
Choosing a Display
There is no one display that is best. The type of displays will vary from school to school depending on where they want to install the digital signage and what type of content they want to play.
“That’s really an environmental thing,” says Cahoy. “It’s not necessarily ‘Okay, we have to use LCD across the whole campus.’ What they may look at is, okay, this is a really big atrium [so] maybe we want an LED board. This is a very video-intensive area [so] maybe we want to use a plasma because it’s got a little bit better video refresh rates.”
Schools must think about the purpose of their digital signage solutions and what they’re trying to communicate. Do they need an outdoor display or kiosk for way-finding? Are they trying to replay video highlights throughout a sports stadium? Do they simply want digital menus in the dining hall? These factors will drive the purchasing decisions.
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You also need to make sure to plan for the future. “The one inevitable trend when you look at all this is the technology is moving at an increasing pace,” says Cahoy.
Cahoy suggests not pitching higher ed customers on anything proprietary but rather staying with open standards.
Don’t Forget Content
One of the biggest mistakes clients make when looking at digital signage is that they become obsessed with the displays and the technical specifications. They look at
digital signage solely from an IT perspective and forget to consider content. This is where an integrator can put on its managed services hat.
“They look very technically at the displays and the media players and the mounts and so they end up with phenomenal hardware and great computer processing power and then it all gets installed and they look at each other and go what are we going to put on it? That’s where content becomes the driving factor. How are they going to feed the beast?” says Cahoy.
Content for digital signage can come from almost anywhere. You can pull Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and Flickr photos. You can use content created by the school’s marketing and communications team. If there’s a journalism program at the school you may be able to feed campus news updates into the digital signage. Integrators can partner with companies that specialize in creating content or manage content themselves.