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Nadejda Alkhaldi
Nadejda Alkhaldi

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How IoT Empowers Digital Signage to Become a Viable Business Tool

Screens that convey information to people in public places (stores, streets, educational establishments, hospitals, etc.) have become an integral part of modern city life. These LED, LCD, or projection screens display content that informs, educates, and engages nearby viewers.

Digital signage is gaining popularity as an information-sharing medium due to advancements in technology. The technological capability to deliver digital images is peaking, while the cost of high-definition displays is decreasing. Different streaming solutions for digital signage are now available, and it is possible to control and manage data streaming over Wi-Fi. As a result, the global digital signage market is expected to reach $29.8 billion by 2024, rising at a CAGR of 8.6% from 2018.

Nowadays, this technology can be leveraged to advance your business by reacting to the outside world and displaying creative targeted content, attracting the attention of your current and potential customers.

When coupled with IoT, digital signage can act upon data received in real time, create a personalized experience for your visitors, and deliver targeted content, which can sway consumers towards your product or your company.

In this digital signage case, advertising agencies are using signages in public locations to broadcast their ads and reach their target audience.

How IoT Enhances Digital Signage

“There is far more information in the world than people could possibly type in through a keyboard or scan with a barcode. In the twenty-first century, because of the Internet of Things, computers can sense things for themselves.”

Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID Lab at the Massachusetts University of Technology

The key component of the Internet of Things system is the data generated by those “things”. Enriched with this data, digital signage becomes more than just a screen, it starts reacting to the real world and reflecting it. Connecting this technology with IoT devices results in “signage with a brain” enabling it to:

  • Perform operations based on changes in circumstances: adding sensors enables digital screens to adapt their content based on the weather, traffic, or other relevant conditions.

  • Interact with the surroundings: digital screens can be either configured to allow direct interaction with people through a touch screen, or an indirect interaction through sensors. One example of the latter scenario is when the signage connects to consumers’ smartphones and reviews past purchases they have made through the store’s app. Using this data, businesses can personalize their ads and promote similar or compatible products.

  • Gain valuable insights through data analysis: the connected devices generate a vast amount of data, and provided it is collected and analyzed properly, this information helps generate innovative business ideas. For instance, this data allows AI-based algorithms to learn customers’ habits based on their demographics and purchasing behavior, thus laying the foundation for more targeted advertising.

Digital signage can accommodate different types of IoT devices such as thermometers, cameras, beacons, and GPS sensors.

IoT-Enhanced Digital Signage applications

Even though digital signage and IoT really shine in the retail industry by enabling targeted advertisement, this duo is expanding to other industries including healthcare and education. In healthcare, it entertains patients and helps medical staff to perform examinations and manage alerts. In education, it engages students with informative content and assists in emergencies.

Digital Signage in Healthcare

IoT technologies are widely used in healthcare, capturing the attention of Internet of Things software development companies. The global IoT healthcare market reached $55.5 billion in 2019 and is expected to rise to $188 billion in 2024. The technology’s use cases in healthcare ranges from connected contact lenses to ingestible sensors to smart insulin pumps. Coupling IoT with digital signage will further empower healthcare and expand a plethora of IoT applications. Here are a few prominent ones:

Patient Entertainment in Waiting Rooms

Waiting for an appointment can be rather frustrating especially when there are considerable delays. Digital signage can ease the tension by displaying relevant educational healthcare information, for example: messages about the importance of flu vaccines, benefits of regular medical checkups, or various support group meeting schedules. Such information can capture the patient's attention and reduce the perceived waiting time.

An IoT-connected display positioned at a hospital’s entrance can act as a receptionist. Upon arrival, patients can check into the digital signage system, which will connect to the doctor’s office to confirm the appointment, and then, display a wayfinding map to help patients navigate to their waiting rooms.

Patient Assistance During Examination

During examinations, physicians can connect digital screens to their patient's EHR, and other medical data sources like wearable sensors, in order to display a comprehensive picture of their health. Furthermore, displays can be used to present examination results to patients and to compare treatment options showing them side by side.

Alert Handling in Hospitals

Hospitalized patients are usually connected to several sensors, which are a part of a complete IoT ecosystem. Those sensors are measuring vital signs and monitoring other health aspects. When something goes wrong, sensors trigger an alarm, requiring a medical staff member to check upon the affected patient. Unfortunately, many of those alarms are false, and extensive alarm fatigue in nurses is very real. Connecting digital signage to the alarm triggering sensors broadcasts the emergency to several people instead of just directly connecting to one nurse’s phone. Furthermore, the signage can be configured to display patient details along with a hospital map to coordinate intervention efforts.

Digital Signage in Retail

The retail sector offers numerous opportunities for digital signage application. For example, it can be used to attract customers’ attention, advertise the right product at the right time, and generate impulsive purchases. Additionally, companies can employ smart digital screens to make their products stand out against the competition. Coca-Cola HBC Russia has used digital signage technology to differentiate its products in supermarkets by placing them on digital shelves.

Below are two common applications of IoT and digital signage technology in retail:

Innovative Product Introduction

IoT and digital signage can be used to capitalize on consumers’ curiosity. A handful of the selected products can be equipped with sensors, and as soon as a consumer lifts one of those products, relevant information is broadcasted on a digital display. This information includes how the product was made and/or some of its unconventional uses.

Promotion Customization

This application is based on online customer behavior data. If a customer is interested in a particular store, they are likely to download its app and browse products online. When they walk into the physical store, the signage will “remember” the last products the customer checked using the app, and will display relevant promotions.

Digital Signage in Education

Large digital screens in school hallways can enhance the educational process and keep students busy.

Engaging Content Promotion

Educational staff leverages digital signage technology to broadcast school social media and news, present educational events, publicize students’ achievements, and advertise the school for visitors. Bridgewater College employs signage to motivate students by showing success stories of their predecessors. Visitors to the school's business department can see how their alumni became successful business owners or CEOs. Consequently, digital signage keeps students up to date on the school’s news and motivates them by presenting real-life success stories.

Assistance in Emergencies

In light of the unfortunate rise of school shootings, security is emerging as a primary concern among school administrators. Strategically positioned buttons and sensors can detect danger, alert the authorities and initiate school lockdowns. Digital signage connected to those sensors can display alerts together with sensor data and give further instructions and directions to students, all the while transmitting real-time updates to police monitors.

Key Takeaways for Businesses

IoT-enabled digital signage is a useful, but still a rather complex system which is challenging to coordinate and manage. However, with all the success it has achieved in different industries, digital signage is worth a try. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Start with something simple. The basic version of digital displays can also be effective, while sparing you from getting overwhelmed with managing large amounts of data.
  • Assess the real cost of owning digital signage. Do not make the mistake of only considering the initial investment of purchasing the screen and the sensors. Keep in mind the additional costs including installation, maintenance, content and data management.
  • Look for a partnership, rather than a one-time sale when choosing a supplier. A partner will help you develop a long-term strategy for maintenance and content updates, and will advise you on the point of deployment.

In the age of information abundance, when consumers are bombarded with data, it is challenging for businesses to capture consumers’ attention. Coupled with the IoT, digital signage offers a great opportunity for organizations to present their message to the right people at the right time. Additionally, this technology can be the solution for organizations struggling to channel their internal communication. Finally, digital signage can be a basis for your own innovative way of process optimization.

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