Digital communications experience at colleges

What will the digital communications experience look like as colleges reopen? Colleges and universities will reopen their campuses this fall after substantial disruptions to “normal” campus life. As new students begin their university journey and others return, how these institutions communicate will need to evolve to meet new expectations. One medium that colleges have used in the past—digital signage—will again be a tool for messaging. But how will they leverage these solutions, and what will the experience look like in this new era? The desire to seek information digitally hasn’t changed Most students are from generations that are considered digital natives. Technology has been a major player in their lives from day one. Their smartphones are always on, and they expect communications in digital formats. The pandemic didn’t change these feelings, as they adapted to full-scale eLearning, and they may even need to acclimate to being back in the classroom and on campus.  They’ll look to digital communications even more now and have new expectations about how they interact with it. One probable trend is that this will no longer be a one-way communication vehicle. Let’s look at some expected trends that will reshape the use of digital communications in higher ed. Digital signage and mobile app integrations Apps are foundational to how the modern world operates, and it makes sense to empower integrations between apps and digital signage. There are many opportunities in higher ed, specifically in improving communication between their library of apps and digital signage. For example, if a university has a scheduling app for students to keep up with their class schedule, it could sync with a wayfinding sign to figure out the best path to that location, taking into consideration other pieces of data like weather and crowd size.  Another option would be a dining app that sends information both to the foodservice provider and digital signage. Students know when their order is ready, because they see it on the screen. It could also communicate expected wait time to them before they order.  Real-time messaging remains a key part of higher ed digital communications One of the most powerful applications of digital signage on a campus is its ability to share real-time information, including transit schedule, news, weather and emergency alterts. Many times, these emergency alerts act as a secondary communication channel complementing texts or emails. Digital signage can tie into backend systems and alarms that automate this messaging.  It’s been key in alerting to severe weather, active shooters or building outages. Colleges and universities could find it’s a suitable means to communicate health information regarding COVID-19 clusters or other contagious diseases. Campus health organizations have this data, and an alert regarding outbreaks doesn’t break patient confidentiality, as, in this case, it’s a public health concern.  IoT’s impact on digital signage Connecting digital screens with other technology isn’t new, but colleges and universities have adopted it less than other industries. However, it can bring real value to their communications, because the information from IoT (Internet of Things) devices provides context. IoT and digital signage could work together to provide real-time information on availability.  The known use case for this is something like parking or traffic. However, schools could take this a step further and deliver data on wait times to reduce queuing issues or other limited space areas, as social distancing continues to be critical to reducing the spread of illness. No one wants to wait, and the traditional sense of a “line” is in the past. New technology allows for better processes, and using digital communications in this way has proven to be effective.  IoT can also minimize touching for kiosks. Users can use their smartphones to control the screen. Voice activation is also an option. The world went from touching everything to wanting to touch nothing at all, and that’s likely going to linger. Amplification of student voices Decades ago, the way to get the word out on campus about an association or meeting was to tape a sign on a post or pin it to a bulletin board. Digital signage makes sharing information signficantly easier. Digital information screens spread across campuses provide a great way to clubs, faculties, sports teams, and even the administration, to share events and other important information. Integrating these screens with social media enables individual students to share their own messages and get them more involved with school. Digital signage software provides tools for submitting content and approvals workflows. Crowd control and convenience at events The social aspect of being in college is why so many students are eager to return. Cheering for their school on game day, attending productions and other events will look slightly different. Most should be at full capacity, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the need for crowd control and convenience.  On the crowd control front, digital signage can elevate wayfinding by advising where the least congested exits are or where seating is available. For convenience, mobile apps could play a role in ordering food and drinks from seats, reducing congestion in popular areas. How will colleges use digital communications to engage students and manage information? As a decision-maker for any higher ed institution, you face challenges for the 2021-22 school year. Some are new, while others persist. Keeping students informed and engaged is critical, and digital communications are a great tool to have. Explore how Omnivex can help your college or university today. 

Cybersecurity is a challenge that must be addressed

Technology continues to change, but now more rapidly than ever. As companies adopt new digital technologies––Internet of Things (IoT), big data, blockchain, cloud computing, and mobile computing––security must be a primary consideration. In the past, securing network perimeters from threats was enough. Now, data spreads across systems, devices, and the cloud, all of which require a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. The Digital World Needs Security Just Like the Non-Digital World From decision making to customer service, digital technology continues to reinvent the way companies operate. The automation of business processes and increasing digital connectedness of technology have significantly raised cybersecurity risks and threat levels. Any vulnerabilities can be exploited to quickly proliferate a cyberattack throughout the entire supply chain. This costs an organization not only money but also the trust of its customers. To properly address these concerns, it is essential to take a proactive approach and build security directly into storage, applications, and interconnected devices. This ensures organizations can maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data wherever it resides, whether on premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid environments. IoT is Reinventing How Companies Conduct Business The Internet of Things makes cybersecurity essential, but also more challenging. Through IoT, billions of devices are connected and interacting to a degree that the world has not seen before. As IoT becomes more prevalent, malicious cyberattacks are growing in frequency and sophistication. With these devices deployed in potentially vulnerable environments, such as vehicles, banks, hospitals, factories, and power grids, the risks to human welfare grows more serious. The message is clear. Failing to secure these devices could have devastating real-world consequences. In Connected Environments, Security Must Exist Across All Applications IT personnel regularly secure outside access to their networks and applications. However, the transformation of digital communication has created a vast network of interconnected environments, so perimeter protection is no longer adequate. Once a cyber-attacker compromises a weak link, they have access to the company’s networks, systems, and data. Security must be proactively embedded into all applications as a first line of defense. In addition, security controls should default to the highest levels of protection. Encryption of data in transit and two-factor authentication are additional measures that can dramatically increase the security of communications. It is essential that the cybersecurity and IT professionals find a common understanding, a shared terminology, and a unified approach to securing applications and data.  

Improving customer experience with IOT devices and edge computing

Information is a critical element in creating a personalized experience and the more information you have, the better the experience you can create. Using IoT devices we can now collect more information than ever before and can deliver it intelligently on digital signage screens, providing contextual messaging that improves the visitor experience in public venues such as airports, sports arenas, and conference spaces. From cameras, to sensors, RFID tags, and many others, we are awash in devices that collect data. Sensors are used in spaces such as airports to automate changes to wayfinding and enable gesture based control in a touchless environment making people comfortable interacting with kiosks. Edge computing collects data from local devices and uses it to determine the content shown on an individual digital screen. In the webinar recording below Chris Devlin, President of Omnivex and Cheol Kim, General Manager of Global Retail/Gaming/Entertainment Business Unit at Intel, discuss: How IoT devices can help people better navigate spaces Opportunities for incorporating IoT devices to create a seamless experiences for visitors in facilities such as airports Progress organizations have made at implementing IoT devices The ROI on implementing an IoT connected communications solution    

Digital Signage with Intelligence

Digital signage has long been recognized for its power to communicate messages and influence behavior, and the reasons are clear. According to research published on, as much as 80 percent of all the sensory data we receive from the environment is visual. Other information indicates that digital signage has an 83 percent recall rate, and people retain 65 percent of visually presented information after three days. While the incorporation of Internet-of-Things devices such as timers and temperature sensors has for years allowed deployers to refine the messages displayed on digital displays based on changes to their environment, new technologies have added another dimension to digital signage content: intelligence. Combining digital displays with IoT devices and artificial intelligence tools allows content to be elevated from simple, prescheduled video clips to real-time messaging based on the conditions of their surroundings. And in these turbulent times, these devices provide value because the customer experience in airports, sports stadiums, restaurants or other space where people gather is going to be paramount as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and the world reopens. People want to feel safe, they want a seamless experience, and they want a more personalized experience. Providing a great customer experience is going to be a requirement to attract people back into public spaces, otherwise they’ll go elsewhere or stay home. Read our joint whitepaper with Digital Signage Today and Intel to learn more about: Making smart decisions Reacting to the environment How signage strengthens intelligence The path to recovery

Are You Disruptive or a Dinosaur?

Disruption in an industry leads to innovation. Uber and Airbnb are two examples of companies that are disruptive and have turned an industry on its head. They created a peer-to-peer model that combines technology and business. Previously, these industries had cobwebs in their innovation labs. They had established markets dominated by a few main players. By companies such as Uber creating a sharing economy, consumers have greater access to goods and services that may have once been unavailable. The result is an expectation for other companies in that industry to adapt and evolve. While consumers are not necessarily demanding digital transformation, they will gravitate to those organizations that offer the best customer experience. Creating disruption By leveraging a digital communications platform, you can create a unique and engaging customer experience that sets your business apart from your competitors. Perhaps it is getting rid of a point of friction, such as the lines and checkouts, like Amazon Go did with their new retail concept store. No matter what it is, digital communications enable you to create meaningful connections between technology and your stakeholders. Technology has changed how people see various industries and they expect choices. Innovators have developed platforms that enable businesses to easily collect, process and deliver targeted information across the organization on any screen; enhancing your business’s two most valuable assets, people and data. Think outside the box Uber and Airbnb are disruptive because they don’t actually own any cars or hotel rooms. What they have done is transform the entire experience, not just create an app. Consider Airbnb for a second, they disrupted the entire travel industry in 2008. Before its existence, boutique hotels were providing guests with a more intimate stay than the large, mainstream hotels. Travelers began to expect even more choice, they craved a new type of hospitality that provided a personalized experience; the ability to live like a local and immerse one’s self in the culture. Airbnb used technology to be disruptive and create a “marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world” and at the same time created a new normal in the travel industry with their peer-to-peer business model. Previously, consumers weren’t aware what they wanted because the choice wasn’t there. Now, they expect options that grant them more control of their experience. They value increased technological capabilities that are user friendly. If you don't have a digital transformation strategy in place, you will be left behind in the ever-changing business economy. You risk competitors providing better and more robust innovation. And, worst of all, you risk losing your customers. According to Forbes, “for a successful digital transformation in any business organization, digital maturity and a modern organization culture are of paramount importance.”

A Day in the Digital Life

From the moment you wake up until you lie down at night, your day is remarkably more digital today than a decade ago – or even a few years ago. With the new digital age comes unprecedented access to information. Let’s take a peek at an average day in the life of a working professional and examine how digital information impacts just about every decision we make: You start your day at home where you wake up to your cell phone alarm. You immediately open your weather app, which tells you that it will be sunny where you live, but raining in Lisbon, Portugal, where you are headed later that morning for meetings. With this in mind, you pack an umbrella into your carry-on bag. On your way to the airport, you pop into the office. As you pull up to the parking garage, the digital sign at the entrance tells you Levels 1 and 2 are full. Luckily there are spots available on Level 3. You drive straight there and scan the coloured lights over the parking spaces for a green one so you can park your car. At the office, you take the elevator up to the 10th floor while watching an ad for flowers on a mounted display screen. That reminds you Mother’s Day is coming up, so you make a note in your phone’s calendar to send mom a gift. As you enter your office, you see some great news: the KPI screen indicates that sales numbers are up, but there seems to be a spike in support calls; you make a mental note to chat with the support manager about potential causes. You have a quick round of meetings in the conference room, some via Skype as many of your co-workers are located in different cities around the world. While you are printing out hard copies of the report for your prospective client in Lisbon, a notification on your phone tells you it’s time to head to the airport. You hop in your car to head to the airport and your GPS routes you around construction to save you time on the road. As you park at the airport, you realize you forgot to check in online. It’s no problem, though, because you can print out your boarding pass at one of the many kiosks inside. After the ritual security check, you find your gate number on a bank of video screens. It says you have 45 minutes before your flight boards, so you pop into the executive lounge to return a few emails. Once you’ve boarded and settled in, a safety video appears on the monitor in front of you relaying vital instructions to follow in the unlikely event of an emergency. Then, it’s wheels up. You reach cruising altitude when you realize you haven’t eaten all day. You pull up the in-flight menu on the touchscreen monitor and order a hearty meal that the attendant brings right to your seat. After eating, reviewing documents on your tablet, and taking in a movie or two, you decide to get some shut eye. When you wake up, you’ve arrived at Lisbon Portela Airport. Digital wayfinding tools help you find your way to the taxi stand, where you show the driver the name of your hotel on your phone. Within 30 minutes, you’ve checked into a room with an incredible view. Energized and ready to go, you visit your client and make an excellent presentation using your laptop and the projector in the conference room. Excitingly, you close the deal! After emailing your team back home with the good news, you check your social media accounts and message an old college roommate who also happens to be in town. You meet for dinner at a restaurant that has complimentary reviews about online. With the help of a mobile translation app, you order and enjoy an amazing dinner. After that, it is back to the hotel for some sleep before you head home in the morning. Digital technologies touch our lives at multiple points throughout the day. It may be in ways we expect, like on our mobile phones, but is often present in less obvious ways, like in the sensors at airport security or on the electronic signs we read during our commutes. Ultimately, however, digital technology enables us to make more informed, and thus far better decisions at just about every turn.

Podcast - The ABCs of Emerging Digital Communication Technologies

Doug Bannister, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Omnivex Corporation, started his company in 1991. There’s been a considerable transformation of technology in those near 30 years, and Bannister’s got a great handle on looking down the road, assessing the future of technology and determining which technologies work and which ones don’t. Host Tyler Kern sat down with Bannister to explore some emerging digital communication technologies that have people excited.   A few hot emerging technology topics Bannister dove into were blockchain, machine learning, Artificial intelligence, IoT and edge computing. With blockchain, companies are partnering together to put health records online using this secure method. Kern noted there is a lot of misunderstanding about the differences between blockchain and bitcoin. “The same way email is an application, and the internet is the underlying technology, so too is the relationship between bitcoin and blockchain,” Bannister said. “Bitcoin is the application, and blockchain is the underlying technology that makes it possible.”   What about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning? Are these two interchangeable terms? Bannister believes they’re two distinct things. Artificial intelligence is the technology that makes machines look like they’re doing something and appearing smart, while machine learning, algorithms and systems improve machine performance over time with experience. Bannister said machine learning capabilities get pretty advanced.   With the internet of things, or IoT, Bannister said people might think of IoT as controlling a light switch or thermostat, but it is much more. “IoT can control your environment, but it can also collect information from your environment.” A great example is today’s sensor-filled automobiles that provide essential data to both the owner of the car and the manufacturer who can use this data to improve future vehicles and quickly run diagnostics when something isn’t working in the car.        

Creating an Integrated Digital Experience

Creating an integrated digital experience is easier than you think. First let's breakdown what we mean by "integrated". Integration can take many different shapes and forms. One of the most common approaches is integrating information from various sources such as news and weather feeds, scheduling systems, and technologies such as sensors and alarms or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Here we have an example of what an integrated digital experience might look like for someone in an airport terminal or train station. The Omnivex solution provides a powerful software platform to drive a variety of screens and applications ranging from advertising to interactive wayfinding to real-time scheduling. While the applications of digital signage vary in this transportation example what is constant is the Omnivex platform driving each screen. Another aspect of integration when thinking about digital experience is how it translates across different devices. It is important to create a cohesive digital experience across all of the digital devices and platforms your organization works with ranging from your website to mobile devices to digital screens. For the individual the digital experience should be seamless and personalized. While for the organization it provides an opportunity to leverage creative content and information across multiple digital platforms which has a number of business benefits.

The Next Generation of Emergency Notifications Has Arrived

Why do we continue to rely on the old siren-based system of sending emergency notifications? Advances in technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) provide numerous ways to enhance the traditional siren. When an emergency happens, people need to be informed as soon as possible, but also understand clearly what the emergency is. Sirens simply do not provide anything other than an alert that there is a possibility of danger. Real-time data can make all the difference between panic and rational action whenever an emergency occurs. Why Digital Communications are So Important A digital communications platform can ensure people get the information they need whenever there is an emergency. Sirens, in many instances, have become more of an annoyance than a true sign of a life-threatening situation. A frightening aspect of siren-based systems is that they can easily be hacked, raising the possibility of mass chaos. In April 2017, all 156 tornado warning sirens in Dallas, Texas, activated simultaneously during the middle of severe weather season. Thousands of residents panicked as the sirens continued to go off on a night when skies were clear. According to The Dallas Morning News, officials with the city’s Office of Emergency Management blamed the activations on a computer hack. Not only are sirens antiquated and vulnerable to attack, they provide no information about the nature of an emergency. Digital communications on devices like digital signage and mobile phones, on the other hand, deliver real-time data that adds context to an alert, allowing people to quickly take whatever actions are needed to stay safe. Calm Instead of Chaos There are several different scenarios where an advanced, data-driven emergency notification system can be a major benefit. When severe weather is approaching, facility operators can send informative messages directly to staff members as well as building occupants. These messages, delivered directly to mobile devices, can tell people exactly how to take cover so they can be secure. If an area needs to be quickly evacuated, such as a large office building or a retail store, real-time information will detail exactly where exits are located, and which exits are safe to use so people can leave in an orderly manner. If an office or campus lockdown occurs due to a threat of violence, a digital communications system will let them know when it is safe to leave the area. There are many factors that go into determining how someone will react to traditional alarms. According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, someone hearing a fire alarm at home will react a great deal faster than someone in a public building. If they are in a shopping mall, and don’t have additional information providing context to the alarm, they will very likely continue with their activities. Perhaps even more important is that according to Security Magazine, a crucial component of security notification systems is bidirectional abilities; it’s critical that messages aren’t just sent, but actually received as well. By using real-time digital communications, facility operators will greatly improve the chances that emergency messages will truly resonate with their intended recipients. It’s Time to Implement a Digital Communications System for Your Facility The safety of everyone inside your facility must be your top priority – it is not only a moral responsibility, it could also be a matter of liability. By going beyond the traditional alarm or siren system, you will be in a much more favorable position to minimize any potential harm and create a safer environment.

How IOT is impacting manufacturing

Today the way information is shared across organizations and between individuals is dramatically different than a decade ago. People expect to have real-time information available where and when they need it on a variety of devices. This evolution has been fueled by the internet and the devices that are connecting to it. Various market research studies estimate by 2025 more than 75B devices (machines, sensors, etc.) will be connected to the cloud. This explosion of networked devices is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). It should come as no suprise that IoT is transforming the manufacturing industry. According to PwC, 35% of manufacturers already use smart sensors, 10% plan to implement them within a year, and 8% plan to implement them within three years.  Smart manufacturing is about creating an environment where all available information—from within the plant floor and from along the supply chain—is captured in real-time and turned into actionable insights by making this information visible to all who need to see it. It comprises all aspects of business, blurring the boundaries among plant operations, supply chain, product design and demand management. Enabling virtual tracking of processes, resources and products, smart manufacturing gives enterprises full visibility which in turn supports streamlining business processes and optimizing supply and demand. Perhaps one of the best examples of this efficient real-time environment is Lean Manufacturing.  Smart manufacturing requires a healthy dose of technology to ensure machines work together and  information flows in real-time. The Internet of Things provides the environment that makes this possible, and having a digital signage platform allows you to collect, process, and deliver targeted real-time information such as KPI dashboards and inventory levels on a variety of devices including digital signs, interactive kiosks, and tablets. With the Internet of Things and the right digital signage platform, manufacturers can give each of their physical assets a digital identity that enables them to know the exact location and condition of those assets in real-time throughout the entire supply chain. By implementing IOT  and the right visual communications software platform a manufacturing organization will see a lower total cost of ownership, increased worker efficiency, and decreased safety hazards.   


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