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Digital signage: the right information in all the right places

ITU-T Technology Watch Report, November 2011

The global advertising landscape has seen a dramatic transformation over the past decade. While traditional print advertisements in newspapers and magazines have witnessed a decline that threatens the existence of some print news media outlets, market share and interest in interactive advertisement on web, mobile and other innovative media has skyrocketed.

The advent of affordable, interconnected, high-definition flat digital displays has enabled content providers, including advertisers, to replace static screens by timely targeted content delivered to the audience. Digital signage, the topic of this report, “is a network of digital displays that are centrally managed and addressable for targeted information, entertainment, merchandising and advertisement”.

Digital signage is now found in many different scenarios (e.g. traveller information at airports, pedestrian guidance in buildings, cafeteria menus), the highest revenue comes from, and hence the major focus of the industry is on, digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising. Digital signage is not to be confused with television, broadcasting or a PC running a PowerPoint presentation in an infinite loop.

The content either follows a pre-arranged linear playlist with clearly defined time slots for different content elements, or a dynamic playlist evolving according to many criteria including user (inter-)action. Content changes can also be triggered by location information or environmental sensors.

Digital signage incorporates different technologies relying on a set of standards: displays, network infrastructure for content delivery, communication protocols, and software and hardware for management and playback of content. Propelled by advances in the field of display technologies (e.g. touch-screen), radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC), personalization of content and user interaction become increasingly relevant. Other trends include customized application programming interfaces (APIs) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models that allow digital signage network operators to set up their networks and control and monitor campaigns via a remote location or the web.

The fact that most digital signage solutions are proprietary systems impedes the integration of various applications across different networks or vendors. As long as products from different vendors do not interoperate, it will remain challenging and costly to build and expand large-scale digital signage networks.

This Technology Watch Report gives an overview of digital signage technologies and their major applications, assesses the latest trends in DOOH and outlines the need for interoperable standards for digital signage products. 

7 December 2011