Doug Bannister's blog

The Evolution of Data and Digital Signage

Since the mid 1990s organizations have been leveraging their data to drive value by making it visible to their employees and customers on devices like digital signs. The way this data has been viewed has dramatically changed over the last 20 years. In the mid 1990s data was primarily displayed as text on LED boards with no graphics. One of the best examples of this is the LED board on a stock trading floor. The information typically came from two sources, a text entry system and a news feed, and has some basic rules to drive the colour of the data. By 2003 LCD screens were popular and the visuals had some graphics with the data, but the sources for data were still limited. Fast forward to 2010 the sources of information have increased significantly and the graphics have improved. Today organizations have a multitude of display technology available to them and are using it to transform their data into dynamic visual communications and experiences. They are leveraging real-time information to empower employees and enhance customer experience. From Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to production statuses to schedule changes to daily specials, digital signage is enabling businesses to deliver real-time targeted information across their entire organization. Take for example an electronics store where there are an assortment of tablets on display. When a potential customer picks up a tablet to look at it that action sets off a series of different actions – for the customer they receive customized information on the screen in front of them about the features of the tablet, for the store clerk they are notified on their tablet of the inventory levels/pricing of the models the customer is interested in and for the head office they are updated in real-time on screens in their office of inventory levels and product sales. Often the data we need to see already exists but it isn’t easily accessible or is what some call “dark data”. Imagine the business benefits and productivity improvements that can be derived from turning the light on this data. For one hospital in California the information on operating room status was contained in a scheduling system and that information was available at the nurses station. Caretakers, doctors and orderlies were constantly coming by the nurses station asking for updates on the status of operating room. By taking this room status information and making it available on digital screens in the hallways by the operating rooms the hospital was able to gain significant productivity improvements for all the employees in the area.

What is Big Data?

Fueling the move to leverage data to improve business processes is the wide spread interest and discussion around the term “Big Data”. This popular term is often used to describe the huge growth and availability of both structured and unstructured data. Generally, there are 5 V's highlighted when talking about big data – Volume, Variety, Veracity, Velocity and Value. There has been an exponential growth in the availability and volume of data. Virtually all devices are now generating data, in some way, shape, or form. Think of the volume of data being generated by your mobile phone today versus your home phone 5-10 years ago. Back then your phone led to a simple entry of name, address, and phone number in a printed phone book. Now the device, the apps on it and the technology in it like the GPS and Bluetooth all generate data. Other more unexpected things like rail cars and jet engines also generate huge volumes of data. Rail cars can have upwards of 200 sensors on them that analyse things such as speed, velocity, temperature, pressure across a whole trip. Jet engines are packed with sensors and one engine can generate half a terabyte of data an hour. So what do you do with all of this data? How do you leverage this in your organization? Of the 5 Vs, Value is perhaps the most important. If you can use your data to drive action, improve behaviour, enhance culture, breakdown silos, and increase sales you will be able gain competitive edge and leap frog your competition by innovating with information.

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