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Digital Signage in a post COVID-19 world


As I write this, the Coronavirus pandemic in full swing and the whole world is waiting for infection numbers to start coming down.  Every economic sector has been affected and the outlook looks bleak, at least in the short to near term.  So what’s to come of digital signage once people are allowed to venture out?

Well, let’s take a look at what we can expect in the months ahead…

The new normal – interactive applications

Businesses that rely on touch screens will need to make some changes due to the public’s heightened awareness of the health risks associated to surface borne pathogens.  This will certainly apply to many quick service restaurants that feature customer ordering kiosks.  This will also impact wayfinding kiosks usually found in airports and shopping malls.

The new normal means all public touch screens will require some form of anti-bacterial coating to prevent the transmission of viruses like Covid-19.  In the wake of this pandemic, you can expect health officials to develop new regulations that will mandate all publicly accessible surfaces to be properly sanitized.  There are special antibacterial cleaning supplies and protective films that already exist.  A quick Google search will find plenty of information about these products so if your business uses touch screens, you should start reading up on this.

By the way, I also predict lots of folks will start talking about motion sensing and voice control technologies in the months ahead.  Think Alexa or Google Assistant for digital signage.  The use of non-touch technologies for interactive applications will surge as a large portion of the public becomes less interested in touching a screen that might have been exposed to harmful viruses and bacteria.  This could be a game-changer for interactive solutions.

What about digital signage?

Digital signage has proven itself to be very useful in situations where content needs to change quickly and often.  It’s been especially useful in keeping travellers informed in public venues like airports, train stations and other similar locations. In my opinion, digital signage will continue to be useful wherever there is an audience, regardless of its size.

Public venues

While most public venues have been shut down, there is still a need for targeted content in locations that have been allowed to remain open.  Take grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals.  Digital signage will continue to be used for queue management, information broadcasting and wayfinding.  It’s especially true in cases where there may be limited staff available to assist, or where important notices must be displayed to the widest possible audience.

LED Billboards

Travel may be severely limited but roadside LED billboards have played an important role during this crisis by providing another communication channel for health and government officials.  While road traffic may not fully bounce back for weeks or months, it’s clear LED billboards will continue to be extremely useful in a post-Covid-19 world.  They will surely be put to good use by healthcare agencies as they engage with the public in the weeks and months ahead.

Retail digital signage

Retail chains have been quick to adapt to our new reality by offering curbside pick up of online orders.  In the current scenario, shoppers are sent a confirmation email so they know when their order is ready.  Next, they drive out to the store, park in a designated pick-up spot and phone the store to let them know they are ready to receive their order.  An employee is then dispatched to the customer’s car with their order.  This service is offered by many restaurants (not just QSRs), grocery stores and general merchandise stores.

While the idea certainly has merit, the entire process and customer experience could be improved with some common digital signage technologies.

For example, you could replace the static sign at the designated pick up spot with a digital signage screen that would provide useful information and real-time messages from store staff.  Beacons and mobile apps could also be used to detect when the customer arrives and where he parked, triggering a notification message to initiate delivery.

Hospitality and travel industries

To say these sectors have been devastated is an understatement.  If these industries are to bounce back, they must to improve their health and safety practices and  then communicate these changes in a timely manner.

Travelers and guests will want to know what actions are being taken to safeguard their health and this is where digital signage can help by delivering updated information in real-time in hotel lobbies, waiting areas and other common spaces where people congregate.

There will also be a need to keep staff members up do date on the latest health and safety standards, with an emphasis on preventing the spread of harmful biological agents.

These are but a few examples of the role digital signage can play once the Covid-19 situation is behind us and life resumes for everyone.

Stay safe everyone! 

Navori to demo new software features at ISE2020

Navori Labs to demo new software features at ISE2020

The ISE 2020 show in Amsterdam is almost here and Navori Labs will once again exhibit. Navori staff will be on-hand, ready to demonstrate the company’s latest software.  

Visitors can expect to see Navori’s new Computer Vision technology which will be shown for the first time.  Navori’s Computer Vision software provides anonymous crowd analysis for digital signage and many other types of applications (queue management, customer counts, security…).

The company will also be featuring the QL CMS platform’s latest features, including rule-based content programming and QL Player for BrightSign media players.  QL Player for BrightSign is Navori’s latest player software with full support for QL’s entire feature set.

There will also be hands-on demos of QL Mobile for remote workers.  QL Mobile has new features and full support for smartphones and tablets.  QL Mobile users can perform most content and player management tasks from any location.

So, plenty of new things to see at ISE2020, booth 8-E212.


Mixing Digital Signage with Augmented Reality

Using AR with your smartphone

Should you consider adding AR to your next digital signage project?

Digital signage expo is coming up next week and this got me thinking about “the next big thing”.

It just seems like there’s always some new technology poised to revolutionize the industry. Take 3D for example. It was supposed to be everywhere. There were many booths on the DSE floor showing some type of 3D display. But 3D never really took off. It’s still being promoted by a few hardware manufacturers but it’s nowhere near what we expected based on the hype.

It wasn’t just a digital signage thing, because consumer 3D flopped too. There are many reasons to explain why 3D failed to take off. Costs, complexity, lack of good content… the list goes on!

But for every loser, there is a winner and I feel quite positive about this year’s “next big thing”. I’m talking about augmented reality (AR) and what it can bring to folks who install digital signage screens in their stores, hotels and restaurants.

Those who don’t recognize the term “augmented reality” should remember the Pokemon Go mobile game that became the benchmark for the technology. Back in 2016, Pokemon Go showed how immersive (and addictive) AR could be. It was a massive global success and soon other developers followed with their own AR games. While no other AR based game ever matched Pokemon Go, the technology had made its mark.

It’s been a couple of years since Pokemon Go and while the buzz has died down, AR seems poised to make a comeback and this time it’s not just about games.

Case in point, Microsoft is on it’s second generation of HoloLens technology and there are others in this space, like Google and Magic Leap who are developing advanced AR tools aimed at the industrial sector. HoloLens, Google Glass and other similar products require some type of headset or special goggles to project computer graphics within the wearer’s field of vision. While there are some potential consumer applications on the horizon, the current state of this technology is mostly aimed at the manufacturing, medical and scientific fields.

Now, you may ask… “What does this all have to do with digital signage?”

Pokemon Go showed us how AR can be an incredible tool to attract and engage an audience, and when combined with digital signage, AR apps can do much more. Software developers can write an app that lets smartphones detect visual cues on a digital signage screen to deliver personalized content. AR apps can detect a logo, a person’s face or any other shape. Once the app is installed, the audience can trigger a coupon download, an animation or any other type of content just by pointing their phone towards a screen.

It’s important to note AR interactions can also be based on a physical location, like GPS coordinates so you’re not limited to scanning for graphics. The point is, AR can add value to any digital signage network regardless of the venue and it works with any CMS software.

Retailers already talk of “gamification”, where techniques borrowed from the gaming world are used to engage customers. This is becoming very popular as retailers try to pull more traffic into their bricks-and-mortar stores. AR enables these types of interactions through a smartphone app.

For example, a car dealership can deliver product information like videos, brochures or other relevant content when someone points a smartphone at one of their cars. The same technique can be used in a retail store selling appliances or other big ticket items.

But it’s not just for retail. You can deliver digital coupons that get triggered when a logo or other graphic appears on the LED scoreboard at a sporting event. You can create “easter egg hunts” that require participants to reach a series of physical locations inside a stadium to unlock unique digital content, or access some giveaways. And these are just a few possibilities.

AR can enhance the impact of your digital signage content. It engages viewers by creating memorable experiences where static content becomes interactive.

Deploying an AR solution used to be expensive, complicated and time consuming, but recent breakthroughs are making AR much more accessible. This is where the software-as-a-service model comes into play. Rather than having to write your own AR apps from scratch, the service based model is making the technology more affordable and easier to deploy. It can also deliver valuable statistics and provide insights into consumer behavior.

Smartphones aren’t going away anytime soon, so I expect AR will be around for a long time. I also see this technology grow in popularity as we look to engage audiences in a more meaningful way.

Automated content updates are here to stay

rule based programming

The digital signage industry is entering a new phase. Automation is taking over, to the joy of content administrators. You’ve probably heard about facial recognition, rule-based programming, meta tags, content triggers… All these technologies are coming together and changing how we publish content to our screens.

When properly implemented, automation can provide big productivity gains, especially with very large screen networks. You can manage huge content libraries and ensure each image or video will be seen by the right audience, at the right time, with near-perfect acuracy.

Use meta tags and rules to determine how, where and when content can be seen. With automation, you don’t rely entirely on schedules. A single word in a RSS feed or a person’s physical traits can trigger any media instantly.

Advertised products can change dynamically within a programmed day-part, adapting to stock levels and competitive pricing in real-time. Ads for overstock items are shown more often, or pulled as soon as stock levels return to normal without any manual intervention.

Content can be triggered based on a variety of factors like the audience’s age, gender, or some other other physical aspect. Content can also be triggered by proximity using sensors and beacons.

Marketers and advertisers can achieve any scenario by combining these techniques.

Here’s an example… Take a morning playlist scheduled from 6:00 am to noon that contains tagged content (based on screen orientation and type of viewership). Meanwhile, a conditional rule is monitoring a social media feed ready to launch different content when a word match is encountered.

In this case, portrait content would only be shown on portrait screens. Content tagged as public would be shown on customer facing screens while private content would only be shown to staff members. Should someone make a mistake and drop the wrong content in the wrong playlist, the content would simply be ignored. Meanwhile, the company announces record revenues and suddenly all internal screens display a congratulatory message to employees while customer screens show a different message.

In this scenario, scheduling and tagging are the only manual processes. Everything else is dynamic.

Rules and tags provide peace of mind. Content will only play where and when it should so there are less mistakes. Complex programming scenarios can be executed quickly and more reliably.

This is why your digital signage CMS should support playlist based scheduling, tagging, rule-based programming and provide dynamic features like conditional triggering.

Navori QL adds support for LG webOS


Navori recently announced they now support LG webOS devices. QL Player for webOS is the latest version of the company’s media player software. As with other QL Player versions, this software is based on Navori’s proprietary graphics engine and adapted to the webOS platform.

The QL CMS software supports a growing list of hardware devices, from Windows PCs and Android devices, to System-on-Chip displays from several manufacturers.

Navori will be showing off their QL webOS compatible player software at the ISE show in Amsterdam this February 5 to 9.

Why System-on-Chip?

SoC displays are popular for the following reasons…

  • It’s easier to install an integrated SoC display compared to other solutions that require multiple components. You don’t need to mount the media player hardware separately and you don’t have any hanging wires (other than the display’s own power cable). You also save a lot of time because there is only one component to install.
  • Modern SoC displays feature more powerful components. You get much better performance, in some cases on par with external Android media player hardware. SoC displays can handle video and other “heavy” content better than the first generation models.
  • You pay more for a SoC display compared to a “dumb” TV. However, the cost compares more favorably if you factor in the latter’s need for an external media player (Android or Windows), extra cabling and media player mount.

Some will say the SoC display’s weak point is having to replace the entire display if there’s a problem with the built-in media player. While that may be true, the fact is these products are well engineered. Especially the Pro versions which are built for 24/7 use. I would be more concerned about the display’s backlighting than the media player hardware. Nevertheless, it’s something you need to be comfortable with.

Why Navori QL?

Navori QL has lots of great features, but I think the software’s availability on so many platforms is what makes it special. While some CMS offerings support some features on some hardware, Navori has made the effort to port over as many features as possible for each new device. In fact, most features carry across all QL player versions, from Windows to Android, and SoC. If a feature is missing, it’s because it’s simply not available on that hardware. Navori engineers make sure the QL Player software operates in a predictable way on every device. Each platform gets its own version, optimized for that platform.

It takes more time and effort to roll out each QL Player version but the results are worth it. End-users can manage large networks of players, confident the results will be the same regardless of the device or operating system at the other end.

Navori simplifies digital signage updates with new mobile device support

Update your digital signage displays anytime, anywhere…

Navori has announced the upcoming release of it’s next generation digital signage CMS software. QL v2.1 will introduce mobile display updates from any iOS and Android device.

This builds on the previous versions remote control app that let QL end-users trigger content remotely. With this new version, Navori goes one step further by letting people upload snapshots taken from their smartphone and perform more complex tasks from any location.

Remote updates can be a real time-saver for anyone working out in the field, or those who work with the public like retail sales people and QSR managers.

Folks who don’t have easy access to a PC or laptop can make changes on-the-fly using a smartphone or tablet. They can change content, rearrange playlists and perform many advanced tasks that used to require a full desktop UI.

Who else can benefit from this app? People who work in car dealerships or appliance stores can call-up product-specific content while answering customers questions. QSR managers can make quick programming changes to respond to customer demand or to deal with competitive pressures.

Navori will be demonstrating the new QL 2.1 features at the ISE expo in Amsterdam in February, and at the DSE in Las Vegas at the end of March.

Navori CMS adds “Insane” content playback capabilities

Navori IPR player software in action

Your average Digital Signage CMS might support Full HD, or even 4K… but what about 8K? Enter Navori with its latest 64 bit media player engine. The IPR, or “insane playback rendering” engine supports up to sixteen full HD displays (that’s also four 4K displays, or a single 8K display).

With this new offering, Navori makes it really easy to drive very large video walls and high-resolution displays using mixed hardware platforms. You get the familiar Navori CMS dashboard that’s super-easy to learn and use, and you can manage a mix of PCs, Android devices, and System on Chip displays without giving it much thought.

Many software developers focus on specific types of hardware, and some even support multiple devices. But there aren’t many products that can offer the same experience across all supported devices and operating systems.

From the beginning, Navori has produced native software that’s optimized for the target platform. They just don’t believe in taking shortcuts. The result is a more predictable outcome regardless of the hardware you choose. The same features are supported across the board, whether you’re deploying an Intel NUC PC, a Samsung Tizen display or a Navori branded Android device.

Navori’s latest IPR media player is a great example of a company that reinvests in R&D to deliver more innovative products.  The Swiss company constantly updates its software and expands its capabilities, basically making it “future proof”.

The IPR player is an example of Navori’s commitment to constant innovation.

Navori QL IPR is a 64-bit Windows software optimized for ultra-high resolution content playback.  You install the software on a single device and all your content is shown fully synchronized.

It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a mix of videos, images, or HTML5 since the player sees the total screen area as a single unified backdrop. Content can be positioned anywhere… spread across multiple screens or inside zones positioned on each screen.

You can be as creative as you want.  You’re never locked into a static layout because each template can have it’s own unique design.  Just set your content validity, then add each template to your playlists and publish to your screens. 

Navori will be featuring the IPR player at the upcoming ISE show in Amsterdam, February 5 to 8 and at the DSE show in Las Vegas, March 26 to 29, 2019.

System on Chip display offerings are expanding

Is it time to consider System on Chip displays for your projects?

System on Chip

With SoC displays, digital signage operators and network owners have more options than ever.  As reported by David Haynes on the Sixteen-Nine blog, Sharp is adding a bunch of new Android powered System on Chip displays to their product assortment.

These new displays are light, extra-bright, and offer many network options through a MINI OPS port where you can plug-in adapter cards for wired or wireless networks.

SoC displays have come a long way.  Newer models feature content playback hardware that matches stand-alone Android players.  This has prompted CMS companies like Navori to develop proprietary software for SoC hardware that performs like any other media player.

While some vendors have opted for a web browser based experience, Navori has been especially good at developing a hardware specific version of their existing software.  This lets them retain virtually all the features of their Windows and Android players on SoC hardware from supported manufacturers (EloTouch, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung/Tizen, Sharp, including their upcoming support for LG WebOS).

SoC advantages

  • Ease of deployment and installation.
  • Cleaner installations with no external devices or wires hanging behind the display.
  • Lower acquisition and operation costs.
  • Enhanced support for remote control and display monitoring.
  • Professional-grade hardware rated for 24/7/365 operation.
  • A single vendor for warranty and service.

If you are deploying single digital signage displays, be sure to check out SoC products.  Current models are up to the task, and will cost you less than a traditional PC/Android device + digital display.

Great advice we can all use!

David Haynes recently posted a new article written by Sean Matthews of Visix.  It’s full of great advice and it’s worth a read.

I know about Visix, but I don’t have any experience with their software.  However, this article touches on subjects that are useful to anyone involved in digital signage, regardless of their CMS of choice. It’s certainly a good read for anyone who is contemplating a new digital signage deployment, or someone who wants to improve an existing project.

Programmatic vs. Manual Digital Signage Programming

programmatic scheduling

Digital signage CMS products are split into 3 camps.  Those who offer manual scheduling, the automated / programmatic software, and products that offer both options.

Talk to any CMS vendor and they will tell you their product is better than the others based on what they sell.  They will either say “software A is bad because it only supports programmatic scheduling”, or “software B is inferior because it doesn’t do it”…

Which one should you pick?

The push towards automation in digital signage stems from a broader trend in global tech.  The popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI powered devices has brought automation into everyone’s home.  It’s now common to schedule your Twitter postings and let Alexa manage the lights around the house.

The same trend is affecting digital signage. More and more products are adding automation features that are meant to simplify everyday tasks.  In fact, there are few CMS products still on the market that don’t offer some form of automation through rule-based programming.

While it’s true that automation has become essential to modern digital signage advertising, the same cannot be said of all digital signage applications.  For example, your typical “mom & pop” pizza joint doesn’t need a complex algorithm to schedule a menu.  Listening to some CMS vendors, you would think everyone is using algorithms and rule-based logic to trigger content based on external data.  However, it’s not always necessary.

There are still plenty of folks who are are perfectly happy using a playlist and time-based scheduling system.  They just want something that is easy to learn, and simple to use.  I see it in education, retail, corporate communications, and hospitality sectors.  There are small-scale projects being launched in  many corporate departments that have nothing to do with a global enterprise-wide rollout, or public schools and small businesses who have very simple needs and aspirations.  For many, programmatic features add complexity because there aren’t any dedicated staff who have the time or technical background to learn and implement these features.

Why go programmatic?

Programmatic and rule-based content scheduling has its place, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular.  But the target customer tends to be larger, and more sophisticated.  They are national and global companies that have massive amounts of content and data to sort, update, and publish across vast networks.  They are communicators and advertisers who must rely on automation to deliver fresh content to very large and diverse audiences.

When shopping for a digital signage CMS solution, always consider your current and near-future needs. If you’re a small business or a minor department within a mid-size organization, look for software that is easy to learn and deploy.  If you plan to grow your network soon, make sure the software can also support some form of automation.  There’s less chance to outgrow your solution if it lets you automate repetitive tasks when the need arises.

Alternatively, consider third-party content providers.  They can be a great source of “fresh” material that will keep your viewers looking at your screens without adding to your workload.

Large corporations and global media outlets should only consider products that can be extended and enhanced through automation.  They should look for software that offers APIs (application programming interfaces) or SDKs (software development kits) so  in-house developers can integrate the CMS software into the company’s business systems.

Automation has its place, but it’s important to know when it’s a necessity.  One day, all our software and devices may be integrated into one bit IoT network. Until then, we still need to do some work manually and that’s where the old scheduling grid comes in handy.