Digital signage is increasingly finding its way into new, more value-driven applications. One of the most frequent of those is wayfinding, where digital signage serves as a convenient medium to deliver visual and audio messaging, updatable in real-time, and transferable to user-devices.
Digital signage wayfinding undoubtedly adds value in that it shifts demand on customer service, allows individuals to simply check kiosks or signs, and provides better, more-relevant directions even as destinations or route information change, especially as the capabilities of mapping technology increase.
But, how do you go about setting digital signage wayfinding up across your organization?
Whether your organization is in a single building, spread across a campus or grounds, or distributed across thousands of miles of stations or offices, there are options. Most importantly, those options will heavily depend on your setup, what you want to achieve, and how you want to help visitors find their way.
Screens and Displays
Screens for wayfinding can range from simple and relatively small boards to complex touchscreens. Each has its own advantages.
Touchscreens are ideal for most wayfinding applications because they allow interaction. Here, visitors can interact with digital maps, directories, and buttons to choose a destination, look at walking directions, or request information. Your digital signage software should support native touchscreen interaction as should your mapping program.
LCD displays are thin, lightweight and can often function in much the same way as a poster or door sign. These signs can be very useful for wayfinding in that they can be updated to offer directions based on the needs of a crowd, for emergency directions, or to offer follow-up wayfinding directions based on a request at a kiosk.
Sharing digital directions is relatively simple if you’re sharing outdoor locations. Solutions like Google Maps offer free, accessible, and easy-to-integrate mapping and directions, accurate to within a few feet in most countries. Sharing indoor wayfinding can be significantly more difficult, in that you’ll often have to create maps yourself.
Here, most organizations turn to 3D mapping partners or software programs. 3D mapping is the process of mapping the inside of a building including room size, room volume, exits and entries, items or resources in each room, accessibility (such as stairs, elevators, ramps, etc.), and so on. Basic programs allow you to do this with simple wireframes and measurements. Stronger solutions will measure and program everything for you to ensure maps are completely accurate.
Digital directories are also important. Directories simply list every asset, room, or space in your location and link them to searchable tags. So, visitors can search gate numbers, retail stores, retail food type, and so on to find a list of options, which they can then click and get directions to.
Any wayfinding software you choose should be compatible with the software powering your digital signage network and should meet the needs of your displays (for example, if you need touchscreen compatibility).
Automation and Updates
Digital mapping tools are only as valuable as they are relevant, which means that any wayfinding solution should be built around automation and updates.
Simple wayfinding solutions will show basic directions through buildings or across campus. More complex solutions predict travel time, calculate fastest routes based on traffic, take broken escalators or elevators into account, and otherwise update in real-time to share new data.
Tools like pre-allocation allow you to assign resources to an object or scenario.
For example, you could pre-allocate a baggage checkout to a plane, so that wayfinding directions update accordingly even if the gate changes.
Many digital signage software programs enable data integration and context-driven rule setup. This allows you to create better wayfinding solutions.
For example, you could set up scenarios that do not direct people through a shortcut outdoors when the weather is bad. You could also create scenarios that direct people around events or large groups of people that could cause delays.
Most organizations have changing needs throughout the day, week, or month. Programming or scheduling allows you to keep digital maps and information relevant, even as stores, offerings, and residents change.
For example, hospitals can schedule residency in operating rooms, so wayfinding directions reflect the doctor in office. Similarly, event halls and hotels can schedule wayfinding based on events, clients renting conference halls, and so on, so that wayfinding directions are always relevant.
Mobile Integration and Sensors
The more data you have to power your wayfinding, the smarter and more valuable it will be. Here, organizations increasingly use tools such as motion and traffic sensors, Bluetooth integration, and integration into maintenance or management tools for this data.
Motion sensors allow you to see where and how traffic is moving. Algorithms can use this data to update wayfinding directions to avoid very busy areas. For example, malls could connect motion sensors to hallways and then attempt to steer passengers around very crowded areas. Similarly, entertainment venues can measure queue lines and use data to recommend routes helping guests to make the most of their time.
While not everyone appreciates being able to hand wayfinding directions off to their mobile phone, many will. Integrating Bluetooth allows you to ask visitors if they want mobile directions or if you can track their progress and offer continued guidance through the store.
Both options require significantly more investment on your part, as they typically require developing a mobile interface for your 3D maps. This can pay off for very large airports, malls, and theme parks, but does not typically pay off for smaller organizations.
Chances are, your organization already owns a great deal of relevant and useful information. From travel timetables to booking information to queueing systems, organizations own data that can and will improve wayfinding. If your digital signage software can link data and power automatic updates, it will improve the quality of wayfinding.
Digital signage wayfinding can be as simple or as smart as you want. Simple digital maps spread across signage can guide visitors. Smarter wayfinding can help visitors navigate complex and changing environments like airports, train stations, malls, and theme-parks, with wayfinding advice updated as traveling advice, destinations, and routes change.