Deconstructing Technology as a Building Material—Digital Display Basics

Deconstructing Technology as a Building Material

By Jacqueline Hoffmann,Mvix solutions consultant

Traditional designers are accustomed to using materials like fabric, wood, metal, and glass to create interiors that bring buildings to life and convey narratives. Of late, however, technology has established itself as an essential component of any space, and it must be considered as necessary as any other building material. For designers to utilize technology to its fullest potential, they need to understand the makeup and application of the material.

 

Interactive Technology Platforms

As with any other design material, the uses for technology are limited only by your imagination. There are an infinite number of ways to incorporate technology, such as digital signage, into the architecture and design of a room. Here are just a few ways that technology is being integrated into design today:

  • Video walls  These large-scale displays can come in all shapes and sizes and can be installed on the sides of buildings or interior walls. Creating a large display will provide a focal point and a compelling visual that is sure to catch the attention of any passerby.
  • Interactive Kiosks  Today's customers are tech-savvy and have high expectations when it comes to quickly locating information and solving problems on their own. Interactive kiosks help meet these expectations while also freeing up time for employees to work on tasks other than customer service.
  • Tablets   Perhaps the most versatile technology material is a tablet. These smaller screens allow for a high level of interaction and empower visitors to self-check into their hotel room, schedule an appointment, view a mobile museum guide and much more. Custom apps and a portable setup allow for a wide range of uses that encourage high levels of engagement.

 

Providing interactive technology also creates a more engaging customer experience. By inviting visitors to interact with these devices, you are providing a memorable experience that will leave an impression. Kiosks are especially useful for wayfinding in outdoor areas and large buildings, such as hospitals.

 

How Does This Technology Work?

While the specific components of a technology platform will vary based on the needs of the project, three elements should always be considered:

Media Player  

Regardless of the technology platform, it all begins with the hardware. First and foremost, you will need to choose the right media player, which connects to a digital display and delivers content. Most players are about the size of an AppleTV device and operate similarly. Typically, the player is connected to the display via an HDMI cord and manages content through the cloud-based management system (CMS). This means that you will need an internet connection to access the cloud.

Displays

The second most important component of the hardware is the actual display screen. It’s important to choose a screen that can effectively carry out the necessary functions and fit the space you are designing. Traditional tablets, computer screens, and TV screens can be used, but you will want to make sure there is an available HDMI port. If you choose to go with an LED screen, it’s important to consider the difference between commercial and consumer grade. Consumer displays are meant to watch your favorite binge-worthy shows but are not recommended for the office.

Commercial grade displays come with a higher price tag, but they have also been engineered to perform in commercial settings. They can be used continuously without the risk of overheating and they offer brightness levels of up to 1,000 nits, which makes them more legible than consumer displays. Commercial models also tend to come with an extended warranty to help protect your investment. It’s always better to invest in a commercial grade display upfront than worry about continually replacing a consumer grade screen every few years.

Operating System

The media player and the entire digital signage setup will need an operating system (OS) to function. Some of the most popular options include Chrome, Android, Windows, Linux and iOS platforms. Many users opt for Chrome because they are already familiar with the system, which significantly reduces any learning curve and allows projects to get off the ground faster. That being said, the Android OS for digital signage is quickly gaining in popularity for its ease of use and stable performance. Choosing the right OS will ultimately depend on the budget and scale of the project.

 

Cloud-based Software

A CMS will allow you to easily edit and publish content on your displays from virtually anywhere. One main selling point of cloud-based digital signage software platforms is that it can provide real-time updates and information that is relevant to users. Choosing the right CMS can be a daunting task, but here are some factors you will want to keep in mind:

  • Ease of use  You will want a user-friendly CMS that comes with all the features you want and need. It’s likely you will also want a CMS that requires as little training as possible so that you can quickly onboard new users.
  • Customer service  Not tech-savvy? No worries! Some vendors will help you setup the software for you. However, keep in mind that you are also going to want easy access to technical support along the way if problems were to arise.
  • Cost   Some software offerings are completely free, while others require a subscription or licensing fee. However, the price point of the software does not necessarily reflect the quality of the product, as there are plenty of excellent free software offerings. Don’t let the cost of a software solution influence your opinion of its quality--if the desired software can accomplish all of your goals, then it is worthwhile.

 

Immersive Content

All of the best interior design techniques, hardware and software won't make a difference if you aren't using digital signage to publish valuable content. When building a strategy for your content creation, it often helps to ask these questions:

  • Does the content address a pain point of my audience?
  • Does the content solve a problem my audience faces?
  • Does my content meet a need for my audience?

 

Take the time to understand your audience better so you can promote and deliver high quality, useful content. For example, if you are designing a hotel lobby interior, you can expect your audience to be hotel guests visiting from out of town. By providing content that highlights local attractions, advertises hotel amenities, or displays local Uber and Lyft rates, you can tackle multiple concerns and interests of the hotel guests.

Incorporating technology into interior design in a way that encourages user engagement while also making a stunning visual statement represents the future of design.

 

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