Digital signage can add considerable value to an accommodation provider, both through its promotional and organisational potential. Changing advertising, venue information and conference information on an appropriately placed LED Display panel can dissolve the queue at reception, ease pressure on staff and promote an establishment’s best features.
Content can be changed as required which does not happen with static signs. Digital signage can show RSS feeds of time, date, weather news and hundreds of other live feeds. The hotel can show video formats, still images or powerpoint presentations with banners all on one display with multiple windows. Marketing and venue management teams can adapt the displays to work with the daily audience. Digital signage may well offer superior return on investment. The hotel can meet with suppliers or nearby attractions and businesses to sell advertising space within the hotel complex, creating a new income stream whilst advising clients of nearby facilities or things to do.
Carefully considered decisions must be made if that signage is to achieve its maximum potential in achieving two separate functions:
1) a daily notice board/information display and
2) an eye-catching still or video imagery with up-to-the-minute information. Even a simple digital signage system can be set to fulfill each of these functions, in one full screen display or on a multiple window display.
In an accommodation centre context, where many visitors with different purposes are trying to find relevant information, this dual purpose is crucial. A large screen in a foyer area can be set to display particular information when visitors arrive for meetings or accommodation, then revert to a more general information and advertising format slides. This could be a split display – one side listing the booked venue rooms for the day and for what company has made the booking, while the other side can display a map of the hotel to assist visitors to find the correct room. This would be on a rotation with other signage and the display time can be extended on this to allow people to read the information.
From a management perspective, making full use of digital signage necessitates both events management and marketing people talking to each other. Combining the signage of both departments exposes the hotel to new clients and visitors every day. A visitor for a conference may not be aware the hotel has an award winning restaurant and may return to have a meal at a later date. Or the hotel can advertise special events, such as a Melbourne Cup or Mothers’ Day lunch.
A digital signage program displays information to LED screens connected to the hotel’s network. While a large foyer screen might display one campaign, a smaller screen situated outside a particular function space might only display the part of that information that is relevant to its location. And when that space is closed for the night, the panel has on board timers which can be set to turn off and on each day automatically.
An advantage of digital signage is that it can be managed on-site or remotely from a standard computer. Each screen can be accessed on an individual basis or screens can be grouped together to display common information, all from a single location. In the case of increasingly common web interface control, it can be managed from anywhere that internet access is available.
Managing an accommodation establishment entails juggling a set of routine tasks (such as bookings) and more unexpected events (like fire drills). The flexibility of digital displays can help in both cases. Displays can be planned days, weeks or months in advance to carry scheduled advertising content for instance, or updated live.
There are, of course, many other features which can add value to a digital signage system and the possibilities are expanding rapidly. Some of the more interesting ones include the use of triggers which enable content to display when a local action, such as a movement near the screen, is performed. In the context of these developments it is important for potential clients to be clear about what they want from a digital signage system before purchasing.
There are many different configurations for digital signage networks. Some companies will provide a complete off-the-shelf system but often not all of the components will suit a customer’s requirements.
It is likely those components will come from different manufacturers and integrating them can be tricky. For anything other than a very simple single screen system, it would be sensible to discuss requirements with a reputable local company. Before doing that however, it would pay to learn something about how digital signage systems work. Generally they consist of three key hardware components, plus the content management software that runs the system. The technology involved relies on a variety of hardware to deliver the content. The components of a typical digital signage installation include one or more display screens, one or more media players, and a content management server.
Screens: There are panels designed to run from 16 to 24 hours a day. A standard TV is rated at eight hours per day. The key considerations are: brightness and size. Even the cheapest modern screens will provide hi-definition resolution but may lack the connectivity to be managed remotely – i.e. no RJ45(lan) connectivity. Screen size will be dependent on its location and the type of content to be played, for instance, what size is the area the panel will be mounted, where will the viewers be entering the area and what they will be looking for? Will they need to read text and if so, how much? If the answer is that they will be far away, then obviously the screen and any text will need to be larger.
Players: Tucked away behind each screen is a small media player PC. The player requests content updates from a server and drives it through the screen via locally installed display software. When looking at players, robustness is really the key factor, particularly as it is likely to be difficult to access. Compact, fanless devices are highly recommended. Small windows 7 ce devices with solid state drives can be the best option, such as Samsung’s SBB series which mount onto the back of the LED panel. Samsung’s commercial panels have an on board media player eliminating the additional cost. Functions required by the client determine if an external media player is required.
Server: Content for digital signage is stored on a server hosting a display management system. The server can be part of an existing network or hosted elsewhere. The server receives instructions over the internet or via an internal network on how and what content to display, and sends them to the players. In some smaller networks, the server also functions as a player for one of the screens.
Display management system: The display management system is the most crucial part of a digital signage infrastructure because it is the software that controls the digital signage system. The software is installed on a client’s computer, managing deployment and scheduling content for each player supplying content updates, deploying current media files (RSS feeds or web pages) and providing status updates for each screen back to the user.
A company with considerable experience in providing digital signage systems for the accommodation sector within Australia is Yardley Hospitality which specializes in systems by Samsung, a recognised world leader in digital signage solutions. Managing director Paul Yardley says his company now has four offerings in Samsung’s MagicInfo suite which are designed to meet the requirements of hotels and motels.
“It’s very important to choose the correct system to maximise your advertising space. This can be with existing panels on site and by implementing additional hardware, or by rolling out a new solution,” he said.
“Magic Info Digital Signage has three formats – Magic Info Lite (included 25 free licenses per location with all Samsung Commercial LFD Panels); Magic Info S Premium and Magic Info I Premium. Magic Info S and I Premium require licenses and additional hardware. Samsung has developed these three different programs to supply a solution based on the requirements of the user.”
Mr Yardley says Samsung developed the Magic Info Digital Signage software to work with the range of Commercial grade panels. “These panels have a three year on-site warranty, can run 16 hours or 24 hours per day and range from 32″ to 75″ currently with a 95″ due in early 2014. They have an on- board media player which processes the S Premium version, providing the client with a cost-effective advertising platform with RSS feed, banners, still images, power point, video, flash and many other formats all supported. All it requires is a network connection to reach into the controlling software.”
“Magic Info server software is designed to run on any current model PC within the location or remotely. It will use the network to distribute the content to the panels and the media player attached. All content is stored at the point of display with Magic Info. This means there is no live streaming and this does not slow down the hotels network infrastructure. Live streaming is massive files, especially when video is added,” Mr Yardley said.