The term digital signage refers to a number of different components working together: the hardware (media player, screen, enclosure) which are used to display and house the display, the software that is used to structure what material is shown and when, the content that actually appears on the display, and usually an internet connection.
Although these three elements (hardware, software, and content) are almost always present, the appearance of digital signage can be vastly different, depending on the screen and enclosure chosen. Examples of formats include digital posters, small interactive tablet-style consoles, a billboard or video wall, an outdoor totem or even a ticket machine.
To make digital signage suitable for use in a range of environments (e.g. outdoors or industrial spaces), special enclosures are used to make them weather-proof, dust-proof, and/or vandal-proof. These can come in a range of formats to cater for different situations.
Controlling a digital signage system
The screens involved in digital signage can be large or small and are usually controlled remotely via a cloud-based content management software which instructs the media player what to play on the screen and when. This remote control of the system enables a single person to manage an estate of hundreds of screens all simultaneously showing different content.
Screens can be one-way and used purely to display information, or two-way so that people can interact with it (usually by touching the screen) to obtain specific information, or to undertake a transaction, which could be financial or an exchange of information.
Digital signage uses
Digital signage can be used to show videos and still images, but also display information from other software applications like social media or news feeds. This flexible functionality enables it to be used for an almost endless number of tasks. These can be practical, for example wayfinding within large buildings like hospitals or shopping centres, to show conference delegates information in hotels, or a digital menu board in restaurants or fast-food outlets.
Alternatively, it can be used to encourage behaviour change, for example showing health & safety information in industrial environments to reinforce best practice, or to shape and strengthen organisational culture in a large corporate environment.
As the use of digital signage increases in a variety of different sectors, it continues to evolve. Screens are now being used in conjunction with responsive technology (e.g. motion sensors, gesture control) and artificial intelligence (AI) to maximise engagement and effectiveness tracking.