Campus digital signage keeps faculty, staff, students and visitors throughout the campus connected. Whether at their desks or on the run, everyone can stay informed. A campus-wide digital signage network usually includes screens with media players at multiple locations throughout one or more campuses. Both campus-level network managers and department-level managers will need to program content for the network. How to effectively manage content and audience interaction becomes extremely important in this multi-location and multi-user environment. In this chapter, we’ll introduce three key functions that to manage campus digital signage better and more cost-effectively.
The essence of digital signage is targetcasting. Targetcasting allows a digital signage deployer to accomplish what TV broadcasting or campus TV narrowcasting cannot accomplish. It allows a deployer to deliver individualized content to screens on a network based on their locations. While a digital signage network can be used to deliver the same message to all screens, it is the function of targetcasting that sets IP-based digital signage networks apart from the traditional campus narrowcasting TV network. After a large campus digital signage network has been deployed, it should be able to perform the following functions routinely and effectively:
- Publish content to all screens in the entire network
- Publish content to screens in only one building or department (for example, the library)
- Publish content to screens with certain specific attributes at different locations across campus, such as screens only placed at the entrances of buildings
- Publish content to a particular screen, e.g., a screen inside the bookstore
Campus-wide emergency alerts would go to all screens, for example, while a departmental seminar event appears only on selected screens.
Use the content management system to effectively organize the screens and assign proper access controls to multiple users based on how content can be published on the network. For example, screens should be grouped based on locations and other attributes. A campus-wide network manager should have full control on all screens, while a department-level manager may only be allowed to publish content to the screens in the department. As big as a campus digital signage network can be, allowing local managers to have as much local control as possible is the most efficient way to deliver the right content to the right screens at the right time. All screens should be centrally managed campus-wide on the common platform with the flexibility of dedicated local control.
The best content engages the audience with relevant and timely information. That means keeping content fresh and up to date, with regular updates and influxes of new information. Manually collecting, producing and publishing content to a campus digital signage network is a daunting and expensive undertaking. Content may be the king, but content management is really the heart and soul of a digital signage network. With the help of a content management system, the entire content flow process can be automated to deliver fresh content to the screens, while at the same time minimizing human errors and labor cost. Content automation provides efficiency for a campus network.
The basic concept in content automation is to automate the entire content flow process from content collection at the source to content playback on screens. The job of a digital signage content management system is to make the content automation process easy and seamless, including:
- Collection: Retrieve the content elements automatically from their sources with update intervals specific to each particular content area
- Presentation: Use a set of predefined content templates designed for individual content sources
- Scheduling: Schedule content delivery and playback time
- Delivery: Deliver content elements, including XML and media files to the media players
- Playback: Play content according to the predetermined schedules
Implementing the content automation process ensures up-to-date and relevant content flow to displays throughout the campus automatically, without manual intervention.
Content automation can feed a wide variety of content sources to the screens automatically, including:
- Emergency alert systems
- Event scheduling systems
- Weather and news feeds
- Social media applications
- Bus schedule information
- Local events and community information
- Campus poll or survey results
Without content automation, content publishing requires a significant amount of manual operation. However, by implementing content automation, content publishing becomes seamless and effortless. The end result is that each screen on campus becomes an effective communication tool to display the relevant content to the right people at the right place at the right time.
There are numerous ways for content to be automated in the academic setting, from linking scheduling software to show which rooms are being used for what or when tuition payments are due, to linking to online RSS feeds to automatically import up-to-the-minute news or weather information, to linking to social media sites such as Twitter to display tweets featuring certain tagged words.
A project Dynasign has worked on with the Chicago Transit Authority provides a good example of simple content automation that will captivate at least a certain number of eyes on campus. Dynasign, a digital signage provider based in Freemont, Calif., and the CTA have piloted a digital signage network that broadcasts up-to-date, real-time bus scheduling information using GPS technology, letting bus riders know just how long it will be before the next bus arrives based on the current location of the bus.
Audience interaction and measurement
The first generation digital signage network can be characterized by delivery of one-way passive content without audience interaction and measurement. A deployer could know how many times an image or a video had been shown, but it was impossible to determine if anyone actually saw it. By introducing audience interaction into digital signage, the audience is engaged and the deployer can obtain audience measurement and tracking. Like other digital signage networks, campus digital signage can engage its audience with interactivity in a variety of effective ways:
- Touchscreens. Touchscreen technology is the most common way to achieve audience interaction. Touchscreens have been popular for many years in informational kiosk systems. By integrating digital signage with informational kiosk applications, a hybrid solution can be created that shares the benefits of both worlds. A digital signage loop with up-to-date content can be played while no one interacts with the screen, but then switch to interactive mode immediately upon touch. All clicks can be recorded and analyzed for audience measurement.
- Mobile phones. In recent years, smartphones, such as the iPhone or Android, have experienced tremendous growth. Those smartphones are pre-installed with Web browsers and also have the capabilities for add-on applications. Campus digital signage can use mobile websites or mobile applications to allow audience interaction with screens in real time.
- Anonymous video analytics. Another form of interaction is through anonymous video analytics (AVA). By integrating AVA software (such as Intel’s AIM) with the digital signage player, a deployer can detect the number of people who have looked at a screen and how long they were looking at it. Content can then be triggered according to the presence and gender of an audience in front of the screens. The number of impressions, length of impressions, audience size, dwell time and gender data all can be recorded and analyzed for anonymous audience analysis.
- Web applications. While most interactions can happen in front of screens, another type of interactions can occur away from screens. When properly managed and controlled, social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr can be used to interact with campus digital signage. For example, messages can be sent to screens via Twitter feeds, allowing the audience to interact with the screens even when not on campus. Results from student polls and surveys can be collected from Web applications and sent to screens automatically in real time.
An audience can achieve interactivity with digital signage via different means. Whether they are in front of a digital signage screen at the location or miles away from the location, in this new paradigm, the audience will be able to interact with and contribute to digital signage screens. Campus digital signage is no longer a stand-alone technology; instead, it becomes an integral part of the campus communications platform.
Read more about digital signage in education and schools.
(Excerpted from the recently published DigitalSignageToday guide, "Campus Digital Signage." To read more, download the free publication.)