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Maintaining local relevance in a national or global network

It is very easy to get swept away by digital signage technology and lose sight of the fact that the success of our industry rests on content.

We’re about presenting the viewer with relevant and exciting content that engages with what they are doing or thinking at that precise moment. Digital is taking over from fixed signage because it is so much better at doing that job, but as digital signage networks scale in size, content management becomes an increasing challenge.

Five years ago, I’d have seen a 100-screen network as large. Today, we have customers managing thousands or even tens of thousands of screens. How can you deliver content across networks of this size without losing local relevance? How can you avoid promoting ice-cream on a cold day in Alaska because it happens to be hot in Arizona, or pushing umbrellas in Nevada because New England is having a rainy day.

To achieve this, tagging is being taken to a very sophisticated level. The idea of tagging content and building playlists based on those tags has been well established, and is successfully implemented by many in the industry. Our CMS partners offer a variety of specialized tagging features to enable customers to manage content. Industry Weapon, Inc., for example, leverages media-tagging to support many of its larger deployments, particularly in the education field. Using their attribute-based module, Global Cast, Industry Weapon is able to first target an entire campus and then narrow down to individual buildings, rooms and screens. This allows joint customers like Ball State University to tailor updates from class changes to emergency alerts in an extremely granular manner. Large-scale networks like Best Buy, running BrightSign players on Reflect Systems CMS, use ReflectView to manage large, complex networks every day. Features like content tagging and intelligent player software systems combine to make it easy and fast to manage thousands of unique locations from a single system.

Some of the biggest networks I’m seeing at the moment are in retail and hospitality, and it is these industries that are in need of unique approaches to content filtering. These customers are now hugely sophisticated in their marketing, for example adjusting pricing policies locally in real time to reflect weather, demand and demographics. They expect similarly smart content management. Another specialized method of tagging is the use of ‘player tags’. A different level of precision can be achieved with player tags matched to media tags enabling the end-point players to identify and pull down content that is relevant to them automatically.

The area of the store in which each player is located, its street address and the demographics of the store environment are all known. Tagging the players to reflect this knowledge is an obvious step, providing many different capabilities that can be accessed automatically. At once, it takes the hard work out of managing large networks and allows content to be distributed intelligently.
Digital signage is growing rapidly. As well as advancing the diversity and presentation of content, and adding new ways of interacting, we need to provide our customers the tools that they need to manage their networks to the best advantage. Tagging players is a key step forward in helping them maintain local relevance for networks on a national, regional or global scale.

Jeff Hastings

Jeff Hastings

Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign as CEO in August 2009. He brings a wealth of experience in digital media and technology. Prior to BrightSign, he served as Corel’s president and general manager of digital media, responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the company’s digital media strategy. Prior to joining Corel, he served as general manager at Pinnacle Systems, the consumer division of Avid, where he was responsible for all aspects of the company’s global operations. Prior to joining Pinnacle, Jeff Hastings was COO of M-Audio, another Avid company. He was responsible for taking M-Audio’s highly regarded tools for computer-centric musicians and professionals and expanding their reach into the consumer market. Before this, he served as president of Rio, the company that pioneered the MP3 space by introducing the industry’s first MP3 player. Jeff Hastings holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Purdue University and holds eight U.S. patents.

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