In a tough economy, digital signage technologies and deployments remain one of the few bright spots, continuing to grow. Digital signage screens have become an indispensable communications tool for many types and sizes of business, particularly university campuses. Almost every university has established a digital signage system, ranging from a few screens in the administration building to a campus-wide screenmedia network. While most of the networks are well established, the sharing of content and utilization of the screens has tremendous room for improvement. However, the foundation for the improvements must start with a university or campus-wide initiative, instead of treating the process as a facility improvement project.
Digital signage is no longer brand new; most of the technologies, in fact, are very mature. More information, then, is available to allow clients to control the deployment pace and keep costs manageable.
The latest innovation is cloud-based digital signage. More institutions are starting to keep their information "in the cloud," making Software as a Service (SaaS), or managed services, a good consideration for university digital signage deployments. The SaaS model offers a flexible deployment schedule and budget for a minimum initial investment.
Any digital signage screen deployment, even as small as a one-screen project, should be coordinated by a single centralized stake holder on campus. Too often, each department deploys its own digital signage, meaning the athletic department is running a different system than the science department, for example, and making it harder to display content across all screens. A best practice is to have a university communications team partner with the IT group to evaluate and contract a single technology vendor for all screen deployments on campus. The contract even can be for just one or a few screens as the university determines how it wants to use digital signage. Having a central management structure and master contract will ensure the continuity and consistency of all digital signage screens for content reach and sharing, as well as a unified visual appearance and centrally managed screenmedia network.
During the technology evaluation process, make sure to review a few mainstream and stable vendors. Some of the must-have features for university applications include scalability, usability, granular access control for collaborative content contributions, seamless interactive application and ready-to-use live data feed integration from university applications such as events, schedules and emergency alerts.
The following chapters provide the basic building blocks and best practices for establishing and operating an effective campus-wide digital signage network.