As we begin 2014, there is always the temptation to write about predictions for the industry. I think that has been done very well by others, so I won’t take that route. Rather, I want to take a moment and think about how we prepare for the future. While is fun to think about the some of the exciting new, not quite developed technology, there is technology right in front of our noses that we need to start dealing with.
For me, and many of my colleagues at colleges and universities around the country, the most pressing of these technologies is the touch interface for digital signage. I think we will find more and more, than the new generations don’t want to be told what they need to know. They want to be told what they WANT to know. Get the distinction? That is to say, they are not a culture who tends to read a bulletin board full of posted notes and brochures. Seriously, think about it. When was the last time you saw a 15 to 30 year old standing in front of bulletin board reading to see where they can do a summer study, or get a summer job or even find a ride home for break. You don’t. We still put the boards and papers up because, well… because we always have and it is just what we do.
If they are going to use boards of some sort, those are going to be digital for sure. So, we may see them using Facebook, Craigslist or another technology to find their answers. Why, because it is a direct way to the information they need, without having to wade through all kinds of stuff they don’t.
I think we need to start applying this same mindset to our digital signs. Think about this: How often do you see a 15 to 30 year old standing in front of a digital sign for more than 10 seconds? Again, you don’t see it. Why? Because no one wants to stand in one spot for some undefined amount of time waiting until all the bulletins pass by to see if perhaps, one of those may pertain to them.
Rather, if they are going up to the sign it is because they have a need, a desire, a question. The quickest way for them to get that answered is to interact with the sign. A student or visitor may very well walk into a building and interact with a monitor to find a room that a lecture is occurring in. Perhaps, including directions on how to get to that room. If they are interested in local places to eat that weekend, they could interact with the sign to suggestions to restaurants. Oh, and by the way, you may even be able to make some cash by having restaurants “sponsor” themselves on your sign.
I mentioned previously that we have all seen these types of interactions in hotels, but they are still pretty rare in higher ed. I believe that is soon coming to an end. So, what do you need to do to prepare for this? I don’t think you need to start putting interactive monitors in locations for where they are not yet needed. They are still too expensive and too heavy for that type of roll out. Yet, you should start making yourself aware of what exists for touch monitors. Does your favorite vendor make a touch monitor? Can you get a demo of it? How about your digital sign provider, do they provide interactive capabilities. Whether you are a tech manager, or an integrator this is the type of information you need to be prepared with when you get the question for the first time. If you are an integrator, you want to be careful that you are not selling a system that will need to be completely ripped out in a few years, because it does not support touch. If you are a tech manager, you don’t want to be the one that made the “mistake” not to be aware of this.
What are your thoughts on this? What are the trends we need to know about now, so we can prepare for six months from now? What things on the horizon should we notice now so we don’t have to say, “I should have seen that coming”? I look forward to hearing from you.