Digital signage competes for students’ attention

UC Irvine recently upgraded its campus's digital signage.

Budget-conscious colleges and universities are finding digital signage not only helps them improve their campus-wide communications and emergency messaging, but many discover that it’s cost-effective and eco-friendly. And the signs might just make students glance up from their smart phones.

The need for improved communications is driven by a consumer electronics industry that has created a generation bombarded with engaging messages all day, every day.

As a result, students tend to ignore messages that don’t meet their high standards for media and its messages.

A new study from Platt Retail Institute, “Communication Effectiveness in Higher Education,” reveals the significant role of digital signage in communicating on campus.

According to the report, 97 percent of students responded that they prefer to receive information via digital channels, rather than from a non-digital source. Students indicated that digital channels are effective for communicating school-related messages.

With  technological advancements, the cost for deploying, managing and updating digital signage is no longer prohibitive. Higher education institutions can now deliver eye-catching messages while reducing their carbon footprint.

Priced significantly lower than PC-based solutions, solid-state digital signage players cost less to operate because they only require about 3-5 watts, compared to 70-90 watts for an average PC.

In addition to providing a substantial savings in energy costs, the players completely eliminate PC issues such as high maintenance costs, system crashes, and exposure to crippling viruses.  And with no moving parts to fail, the PC-less players deliver increased reliability.

To reduce installation costs, there are complete, ready-to-use solid-state signage solutions available that include  hardware, software, and networking capabilities.  This all-in-one approach eliminates hardware/software issues and makes digital signage truly easy to deploy.

Colleges and universities looking to add a digital signage solution or replace their vulnerable PC- based systems should be aware that many digital signage players do not include software.

When the software is included, users don’t have to worry about the added cost of site licenses or compatibility issues. Potential buyers also should compare software features and ease of use.

Today, there are applications that feature intuitive templates and tools to make creating, updating, managing, and monitoring digital signage displays so easy that even non-technical users don’t need an IT person to assist them.

Taking simplicity and convenience a step further, there are new non-PC digital signage players available that include built-in Wi-Fi for increased mobility and versatility.

A key advantage with these players is that they can be connected to a wireless network without having to install a PC, cabling, or an adapter—the clutter is eliminated.  Users also have the freedom to easily change the location of their digital sign.  In addition, with built-in Wi-Fi and networking software, users can access their controllers to change displays and schedule timely, highly customized content at multiple locations from anywhere there’s internet connectivity.

By combining a turnkey solid-state player with an LCD monitor that has earned ENERGY STAR 5.0 certification, you can further reduce your carbon footprint and increase your power savings.

Although plasma screens were widely used in the late ‘90s, they’ve already been replaced with the second generation of flat-screen technology — the LCD display, which delivers a better image for a fraction of the energy cost.

With affordable digital signage solutions, colleges and universities of all sizes can enhance student, staff, faculty, and visitor campus experiences in a wide range of applications ranging from registration deadlines, class cancellations and campus news, to cafeteria digital menu boards.

The University of California, Irvine recently replaced its outmoded communications systems with solid-state digital signage for three applications:

  • Looping signage is used to feature a sponsor’s alumni and their biographies. The biography series concludes with an appreciation screen thanking the sponsor before automatically looping back to the first screen in the series.
  • Other players display inter-school news as well as RSS feeds from Reuters and The Wall Street Journal through a subscription service.
  • Another player is used for a touch screen building directory.  With support for both basic looping and interactive presentations, slides thanking the school’s latest donors are displayed until someone touches the screen.  The directory immediately appears with an alphabetical reference of the staff and faculty names and their room numbers.  Previously, students and visitors had to search a board listing more than 200 offices to find the one they wanted, and whenever someone in the building changed offices, the letters had to be manually peeled off and moved around.

Some colleges and universities are even using digital signage to generate income.

By selling advertising space on their displays to companies with products or services that are relevant to their students, they can they can increase their digital signage ROI.  This also benefits local retailers and restaurants because their messages will be viewed by thousands of students, faculty, and staff

Regardless of the applications deployed, your digital signage solution should be able to double as an emergency messaging system to relay information about evacuation routes and safe areas in real time.

Jeff Hastings is CEO of BrightSign, a California-based company specializing in digital signage.

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