What’s the first thing that catches your eye as you enter a school or university? It’s probably a digital signage display, quite likely playing content created by the students. All institutions are keen to brand themselves and demonstrate what they can do, and the latest signage technology is a great way to do it.
“In its infancy, signage was mostly used in education for wayfinding or waiting area advertising and information. Today, it’s become the most visible communications tool on most campuses, with many establishments investing in their own recording studios and broadcasting content they’ve created in-house. In addition, wayfinding kiosks at larger campuses are essential for students and visitors.”
- Lee Harris, Divisional Director at Midwich
Large format displays have been widely adopted, and in higher and further education, videowalls are popular in large spaces and visitor areas to create that extra wow factor.
“Now the trend is moving towards student devices,” says Harris. “That may mean simple interactive features that allow students to capture details from ads and university communications on their mobiles, or IPTV streaming solutions delivering the campus’s own channels directly to students’ devices via a browser or app.”
FE and HE are the major education markets for signage, with large campuses requiring high numbers of displays. “Most HE has already adopted signage and is now predominantly a refresh opportunity,” says Harris.
Schools were slower off the mark, initially often relying on a spare PC playing a rolling PowerPoint on a TV set. However, says Harris, recent years have seen an increasing demand for technologies that enable schools to play student-created content.
“From easy-to-use graphics design software to full green-screen studios, many schools now have home-grown content to show off to staff, students and visitors,” says Harris. “This means they’ll need more end-point displays and more capable software solutions, so I expect our highest growth opportunity will be in this market sector for now.”
The challenges of selling signage into education mirror those for signage everywhere, says Harris. “If institutions have a talented marketing or design team and a number of spare small PCs, they can struggle to see what signage platforms can offer them. Unlike corporate and retail customers who often benefit from cloud-based solutions, educational establishments are usually updating content over the LAN and rarely from off-site, so they assume they can create their own solutions. Only once they’ve experienced the failures, lengthy power-up and content updating restrictions will they reconsider.”
Midwich believes it’s the only UK distributor offering true end-to-end signage solutions, ranging from content creation technologies through its broadcast company Holdan, content management and media player solutions, to LED displays and video walls.
“Our greatest USP is our ideas bank and experiences,” says Harris. “We’ve designed and supported a huge range of signage solutions, so for users lacking inspiration on how to get the most from a solution we have a catalogue of concepts for them to peruse.
“In September we were named as the sole distribution partner for all Tripleplay services in the UK and Ireland. This is really exciting as Tripleplay offers signage and IPTV managed in one CMS ready to accommodate the trend towards student-generated content.”