Digital Signage Strategies for Transit

Digital communication comprises many methods that can work in concert with each other to meet a variety of goals. Mass transit systems by definition congregate large numbers of people within definable demographics into common spaces. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for communications. Defining the right combination of technologies and channels to meet communication requirements within a venue is a major challenge to the operator. Restrictions in physical space, operating budgets and legislation governing public spaces require a system-wide strategy for communication. For the commuter, digital signage, the Internet and mobile applications are the three most common electronic media that they will engage. Therefore, a transit operator should define a common strategy for public communication that leverages all of these media. A common strategy does not necessarily mean a common platform, each of these technologies has their strengths but there should be interoperability and some common data elements between them. Best of breed for your mobile strategy may cause unnecessary compromise for your digital signage strategy; one should not be a slave to the other. The digital signage platform must accomplish a myriad of tasks, generating revenue through advertising is a valid application and helps offset infrastructure costs but there are many other things the system must be able to achieve. Schedules and timetables, wayfinding, emergency notifications, security and general information such as news and weather are just some applications for the digital signage network. Scalability, interactivity and support for multiple languages are necessary as well. Whereas mobile and internet applications serve individual audience with a single device per user, digital signage might serve one or many individuals at a given time. Additionally physical space for mounting signage is limited and the device/installation cost is not borne by the consumer. That means that the model for digital signage is different than the complimentary media but so are the results. Digital signage allows multiple assets to exist within a fixed space (repurposing a site) and also allows multiple assets to exist concurrently. Subsequently, the facility can optimize communications without cluttering the space. Additionally, digital signage can provide contextual joining or formatting of assets. A revenue based activity such as advertising hotels to arriving passengers can be targeted to the appropriate situation maximizing returns The value of information to the patron can be increased by displaying the language based on arrival origin and special instructions for those visitors. The trick to effective digital signage is relating content to events. The more you know about the circumstances of the viewer, the more pertinent the information that you can provide them. Making information relevant requires data, a collection of facts, observations or measurements from which conclusions can be drawn. Data about train schedules and weather may determine travel decisions by a commuter. Data retrieved through interaction with a touch screen may determine the appropriate advertising offer to play and data from the security system may trigger content advising patrons to respond in an emergency. When the system can automatically respond to conditions it dramatically reduces the operating costs without sacrificing functionality. Digital signage devices need to be intelligent, connected and centrally managed in order to deliver timely information based on a situation and allow multi-purposing of this expensive asset. It is not necessary to define all of the possible data elements that might drive content, as long as you recognize that data is a central driver for content and provides flexibility to respond to requirements that may not be defined initially. Building these elements into your communication strategy will improve effectiveness and enhance returns in the long term. Jeff Collard is president of Omnivex Corporation, which makes enterprise-wide software to manage all aspects of digital signage networks, including content management, real-time data acquisition and distribution, and remote device management. He can be reached at jcollard@omnivex.com. Transit case studies can be found at http://www.omnivex.com/casestudies/index.asp?story=Lamar Transit Advertising Ltd and http://www.omnivex.com/casestudies/index.asp?story=UMBC Collard will be presenting  "The Many Uses of Digital Signage in Transportation Facilities" at DSE 2012 on Thursday, March 8. To Learn more go to www.digitalsignageexpo.net.

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