Digital signage trends for 2020 and 2021

We were late this year in posting our predicted trends for the near future and as a consequence we have changed them somewhat to incorporate the consequences of the Corona pandemic that probably is going to influence the global economy until 2021. The trends we see for the rest of 2020 and 2021 are as follows.

Bang for the buck

Digital signage bang for the buck In general the trent for most orginsations this year will be to get the most out the available budget. The COVID-19 crisis has just started and it is already clear that it is going to have graver financial consequences than the financial crisis of 2008 or the Great Depression of the thirties in the previous century. This means that organisations will have to cut spending which will have the following consequences for their use of digital signage:

  • For organisations new to digital signage price will be a leading factor.
  • Organisations already using digital signage will look to move to cheaper solutions preferably allowing them to keep using their current hardware.
  • Ease of use will be important since it reduces time spent on creating and managing content.
  • The 80-20 rule; organisations will aim to spend 20% for a product that covers 80% of their needs, the focus lies on efficient and effective solutions.
  • Pay for what you use; not paying a lump sum at the start but a small monthly fee for "signage as a service" that can be up or downsized quickly.
  • Re-use; whether enabling re-use of existing hardware or re-use of new hardware when it is no longer needed. Re-use of content and data from other systems also saves money.
  • Flexibility in supported use cases; one solution that can be used to communicate in the workplace to customers and personell but also works when personell works remotely and when interaction with customers changes.

All these smaller trends can be captured by the age old addagio; "more bang for the buck"; in times like these everybody needs to get more done in less time with fewer means.

Screens everywhere

Digital signage screens everywhere The second trend for the coming years has been developing on for a few years and is therefore not difficult to "predict"; a greater variety of screen sizes and shapes. The most notable innovations in this area over the past years that will continue in the years to come are:

  • increasing size of screens with simultaneously increases in screen resolution and brightness
  • a variety of screen technologies that each are finding their own usage, whether as the default for a specific use case or for niche products;
    • OLED, LED, QLED, mLED, QD-LED,
    • translucent, composed and curved screens,
    • using sensors to enable interaction in te form of touch, movement, facial recognition etc. This can be used to enable delightful interactions. Not only using bigger brighter high resolution screens but also small screens - strategically placed - that enable more personal interaction.

For all these screens goes that the best value lies in low maintenance costs (energy consumption) and the possibility to drive them with generic hardware. The last allows for the widest choice in software for use with these screens. That in turn ensures the best integration of the screen in the processes and systems that an organisation uses, enabling highest return on investment.

Interactivity and personalisation

Digital signage interactivity and personalisation The third trend we expect to become more important this year is interaction with and personalisation of signage screen content. The simplest form of this is, of course, the use of touch screens. We expect an increase of touch in big but more importantly small screens since small screens allow for more personal interaction.

In the light of the COVID-19 thread producers of touch signage screens have already started production of screenstands with integrated disinfectant dispensers. We expect that other means of interaction that have been developed and perfected in the last decade will become strong alternatives to touch; mainly gesture- and voice-technologies but also interaction via smartphones will be considered more safe and thus preferred by consumers.

This illustrates again that defaulting to one specific technology (in this case touch) to achieve a goal ie interaction can turn from being an advantage into a challenge or even a liability very quickly. This liability can be reduced by supporting multiple methods of interaction. Which also increases the likelihood of a successful interaction for disabled people.

The added value of interaction and personalisation for both the content creator and its audience are huge:

  • More specific information for the viewer
  • More eyes on the screens
  • Better retention of the message
  • More integrated brand image that best fits the viewer and is consistent over all channels

Meaning that there is a strong motivation to get these two elements added to digital signage screens. The personalisation is not only achieved by interaction with a screen but the most important part comes with integration of data; data of the location where and with whom the interaction takes place (from sensors in and around the screen) combined with for instance product data but also data about the person in front of the screen if he/she is known.

Internal communication

Digital signage internal communication An increasing amount of channels are used to distribute information within an organisation. An increasing amount of organisations use digital signage as a means of distributing information at specific locations with the goal of increasing effectivity.

The above mentioned diversity of screen sizes and capabilities means more and more traditional signage will be replaced by screens. A simple example are touch screens that adorn more and more meeting rooms nowadays; in the past the sign little more than identified the room and possibly had an indicator if the room was occupied, nowadays it also shows the schedule of future meetings and allows reservations to be made.

Another important trend are so called information radiators; screens mounted in areas where personell either works or gathers that show relevant information about an organisation. This information often takes the shape of dashboards or multimedia presentations.

To enable this it is essential that the signage platform supports integration with applications used by the organisation, showing this information in an easy to understand way. This gives more return on the investment in these business applications.

Multi platform

Digital signage multi platform Communication to their target audiences has become more and more diverse for most organisations. This means that they can address their audience with more focus but in most cases it also means that the channels that they use have diversified and have changed through time. Making sure that the brand image and "stories" are consistent over all channels is not trivial.

By making digital signage integrate with other channels of communication that the organisation uses, the burden of adding another communication channel is lifted for the most part. By its nature as a means of collective communication digital signage is very well suited to highlight other communication channels.

Security and privacy

Digital signage security and privacy A number of trends described above point to integration of digital signage with systems already in use by organisations. Not only communication tools but also business applications that contain valuable information that needs to be communicated inside the organisation. This will make both the digital signage systems but also the systems that are used as data sources more valuable. This integration might also lead to higher risks in terms of security and protection of privacy since if one system that is integrated with another is hacked the data of both systems can be stolen.

This is why there will be a growing pressure on information sharing applications such as digital signage systems to have best in class security and policies for privacy protection. Some things to consider when it comes to these subjects:

  • In terms of privacy protection the toughest rules are currently enforced by the European GDPR and the CCPA of California. Compliance with these should be mandatory for applications you use.
  • Authentication of users should comply to current industry standards, user accounts should be easily maintained and rights easily withdrawn.
  • Communication between systems should be done using current industry standards and access rights to systems should be easily withdrawn
  • Data from internal data sources should never leave the local intranet.
  • No firewall changes should be necessary to make digital signage systems work.
  • Preferably playback should be restricted to specific devices or IP addresses and enforced over HTTPS.

What about AI and Bitcoin?

Digital signage what about AI and Bitcoin The internet is abuzz with talk of new technologies such as AI and Bitcoin. The last is not really something that will influence digital signage in the near future. Artificial Intelligence however is making its way in to every industry and creating splashy headlines in the process. We certainly see a role for this technology and it will tune content that is shown in specific circumstances to specific audiences such that it will lead to more effective communication and better sales. The timeframe for this to happen such that it's return on investment is viable for most organisations is still few years out.

Certainly getting back to the current economic situation and the outlook for the next two years it seems that making digital signage more cost efficient by reducing costs and leveraging existing systems will have a far greater impact than trying to wrangle a few more percentage points efficiency out of signage by investing in costly AI solutions. At least for the great majority of companies and organsations.