Connecting Digital Signage with IoT

One of the biggest markers of our increasingly digitalized world is the proliferation of digital signage. We see them everywhere – walking down the street, driving in our cars, dashing to the gate at the airport – and there are few things that will grab a consumer’s attention more than a large, colorful digital display. Digital Visual Solutions (DVS) understands the power of digital signage and is now using IoT technology to offer all the pieces of the puzzle companies and other stakeholders need to digitally communicate their messaging through rich imagery and engaging content that can be switched up and responsive in seconds.

As the use of IoT technology in digital signage quickly gathers steam, it’s clear the market for both indoor and outdoor digital displays is diverse and growing.

Indoors, everything from informational displays in shopping malls to digital self-serve kiosks are being connected. Outdoors, there are the usual suspects – highway billboards that can be changed and updated swiftly and the massive digital signs we see in places like Times Square. But there are also things like displays at ATMs, roadside alerts and emergency messages for motorists, public transport schedules with real-time updates, and time-sensitive promotions at brick-and-mortar retail shops where connecting digital signage can be crucial.

About fifteen years ago Per Wahrolén saw the digital writing on the wall, founding Digital Visual Solutions in order to offer customers a wide range of digital signs, from smalls ones like you might see outside a conference room to the massive ones you drive by on the highway.

I could immediately see that digital signage was the future – and I also saw that digital signs were going to be too big to be just a business area within the present business in the signage industry, so I started DVS as a stand-alone business focused exclusively on digital signage.

Per Wahrolén Founder & CEO Digital Visual Solutions

How connected digital signage works

Before digital signs we had billboards where you pasted up your ad and that was that. Now, with digital signs, there are a number of technologies involved. The screen itself is simply a display, much like your desktop monitor, but not all screens are created equal. You need to choose the right screen/display for the environment in which it will be installed, meaning an outdoor screen will need high brightness, while that isn’t as necessary for a digital display in a conference room. You also need to think about if you want it running 24/7 and a number of other issues.

“Beyond the screen, you have the CMS (Content Management System) to handle all the content that will be displayed on the screen,” says Per Wahrolén. “The CMS is cloud-based and then you have the internet. These are the basic building blocks for any digital signage, whether that’s a digital timetable at a bus stop or an in-store advertisement or any other kind of content – video, images, text. On top of that we also collect data by API from other systems to publish content automatic, such as the bus timetables etc.”

Why IoT for digital signs?

IoT has come into the digital signage picture for several reasons: cellular connectivity and SIM cards remove the need to install cabling, which can be expensive and present some big challenges when you want to move a sign to a new location. Also, the public internet isn’t reliable or stable when it comes to these kinds of applications.

“A lot of customers say, ‘but we already have the internet’ when I talk to them about IoT,” says Per Wahrolén. “But the public internet isn’t secure, and it isn’t always stable. With IoT, you get a secure, stable connection that makes sure your ad or whatever else you’re displaying is always ‘on’, because the last thing you want is a blank screen – with an external player you get a much more stability.”

Product as a service

DVS’s default offer is a service, meaning instead of having to make the investment, customers pay a monthly fee for the screens, players, CMS, connectivity, installation, and everything else needed to get their digital signs up and running. DVS takes care of the rest, allowing customers to focus on their own business, secure in the knowledge that if any challenges arise, it falls under the category of ‘not my problem’.

“I say to my customers that they don’t need to speak to their IT department in order to reap the benefits of digital signage,” explains Per Wahrolén. “You’re buying a digital billboard – yesterday you had an analogue billboard, and you didn’t need to speak to your IT department for that and you don’t need to now, either.

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We are selling solutions, not signs or boxes or connectivity. DVS is the provider and orchestrator of the entire solution and will make sure it works. We are selling the service, the package, so our customers don’t need to worry about anything because we take care of it.

IoT is changing business models, and the service model is often the best for the customer. The monthly set cost allows customers to plan their annual budget and keep their company’s economy stable, with no hidden surprises. It becomes the cost of running the business, not an investment.

IoT & connectivity

Tele2 IoT SIM cards and connectivity are at the heart of the DVS solution, and if there is a problem, Tele2 IoT takes care of it. The SIM cards are managed through Cisco IoT Control Center (2CONTROL), which allows DVS to see if a SIM isn’t working or if it has been removed or address any other troubleshooting challenges. But IoT SIMs aren’t always fully understood by the average businessperson.

“With Tele2 IoT we can provide a stable and safe internet-connection to our customers. If a router or SIM-card is stolen and then someone starts using your data,  you will also probably face a security issue if you have a non-professional solution. You don’t have those challenges when it comes to premium industrial SIMs like you have in IoT. Basically, if you aren’t using the right SIM, you may not be able to show any content at all, because you won’t have the reliability and stability you need.”

The future

DVS currently operates in Sweden and the Nordics, with customers in a wide variety of sectors and segments, including real estate, retail, shopping malls, corporate, sports stadiums etc. But even though DVS got in early, digital signage remains a competitive business.

“We are keeping one step ahead of the competition by offering things like IoT, along with services and quality,” says Per Wahrolén. “You need to meet a particular level to be a real player in the market, so services are really important, as is providing a stable and reliable installation.

“The screen is not a screen, really – it’s just a way to show content or information or advertising. It’s a portal. What we do is provide our customers with the latest technology while also preparing for what is coming and ensuring our customers have safe, secure, and reliable connectivity that they can count on. Our future is all about continuing with this promise to our customers as we continue to evolve our offering.”

If you would like to learn more about how IoT can enable your business, please get in touch.

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