In our experience, the ability to innovate, and truly surprise and delight the user, will usually come from software, not hardware
In most cases displays are just an end point and once you realise they are all big, bright, with clear image quality and precise touch, the question shifts to what software can be used.
So how we go about identifying solutions that integrators can then take to their customers and hopefully create that delight? And what are the challenges that have to be addressed?
The first thing to understand is that one size does not fit all. We see hardware vendors building, for example, digital signage software into their screens. But what happens when the integrator visits a customer who has already invested heavily in alternative hardware or software? How can that solution work, be integrated and managed? Most estates in business and education have a mixture of new and old hardware, often all running different software solutions, adding to the complexity of what is a short term view.
Instead, we would recommend a software platform approach
Zoom is an example of this, as is Skype for Business, but neither platform is good enough to satisfy every UC need let alone digital signage requirement. There are still plenty of examples in the market of features being added for demonstration/sales purposes. But once in the real world, their application is limited.
In our discussions with users they say these standard platforms work fine for basic collaboration requirements but are not sufficient in all aspects of their business, there is a definite need for more specialism. Examples of specialist signage needs that require a more all-encompassing platform include room booking, multi-touch and non-interactive screens through to video walls.
One of the challenges is that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is often adopted by IT and AV departments
They’ll make a platform such as Skype for Business, available to everyone, and then install the same size screen in every room. From a management point of view, it’s an approach that’s easy to control and maintain - but it doesn’t take into account the differing needs of users, who will want flexibility in solutions and functionality that will support their own activities. Indeed, we are big advocates of activity based working where everything from furniture to technology is designed to support the task that teams will usually perform in the space.
By adopting software platforms that run on any hardware, customers will find them so much easier to scale and manage. And there are added benefits. These software products enable key metrics to be delivered, such as user adoption and data analytics, with the results being meaningful and trusted as they come from one single platform.
Good signage vendors are focusing on peripheral add-ons
An example is the STiNO software platform, where proximity marketing is one of the creative uses being implemented for users such as Orange. By using proximity sensors or lasers, the system can track a customer’s behaviour towards, and engagement with, an individual product. They may be approaching it, standing in front of it or picking it up. Different actions drive relevant, tailored content to a nearby display. And the system enables those key metrics to be measured, tracking actions depending on product location, information displayed and so on.
Nureva Span Workspace is another example of a hardware agnostic software platform that enables more bespoke requirements to be achieved in collaboration and signage without tying yourself to a specific hardware vendor. Whilst the software works fantastically with Nureva wall, the complementary hardware that creates a huge canvas, it’s equally as accessible on a Smartphone. Such solutions support workplace culture changes too, such as BYOD. A cloud-based platform is pretty essential for this, otherwise you run into security issues with the IT dept.
Ultimately, an experience that will truly surprise and delight should come from great, reliable hardware and software designed for the task it is intended to be used for. The job of integrators and consultants is to help define this ultimate experience but a hardware agnostic software platform used across the business should drive adoption and deliver a fantastic user experience.