Digital signage and Covid-19 – the opportunity nobody wanted

Like those who profit from war, it is almost embarrassing to admit that your company has seized the opportunity presented by Coronavirus to sell appropriate digital signage solutions. And yet, AV suppliers have much to offer in the battle against the virus, be it in staff and visitor management: wayfinding; signage with integrated sanitation, people-counting or public health messaging. Here AV News editor Bryan Denyer with the help of AV News Award Winner and Technical Solutions Architect for NEC Display Solutions, Graham Kirkpatrick look at ways digital signage helps customers fulfil their Covid-19 security obligations.

 

In the corporate world, digital signage solutions have increased in importance as they start to bring employees back to the office. Staff and visitor safety is paramount and digital signage can help in reinforcing safety protocols. No organisation will want to be held accountable for an infection outbreak or for their staff getting sick.

At its very simplest, digital signage is used to convey an organisation’s infection control measures – hand sanitising, social distancing, use of masks, once way systems etc. These reminders should be positioned at all entrances and in any areas where people gather. The messages must be consistent and up to date in accordance with the latest government guidelines. Considering that these can change almost overnight, using digital signage can prove far more cost effective compared to printed posters. Dynamic images are also far more effective at attracting attention with mobile solutions moved to wherever they are needed.

Monitoring

Monitoring throughput of people using counting cameras is a hot topic at present, not only in the corporate space but also in other venues. This helps to limit the number of people gathering in spaces according to an identified maximum capacity. Signage can be used to guide people to other areas of the building or to utilise different routes in order to control numbers.

NEC is currently evaluating, along with key supply chain partners, an integrated system which enables staff to gain access to buildings using facial recognition, but also senses heat which means you are immediately refused access if there is any question of raised body temperature. This information will then be consistent across all points of access to the building.

Many corporate organisations have already invested in room booking systems and this has become of great benefit in managing the number of staff using the building in any one day. Rooms can be pre-booked remotely and sanitisation can take place before the next booking arrives.

Communication

Keith Dutch, MD of Peerless-AV, recognises that. now more than ever, companies understand the importance of keeping a constant flow of communication to their staff and visitors. In cases of emergency, digital signage is a powerful tool for conveying important information in public and staff areas. Displays and digital signage can be especially effective in a crisis for many different uses:

  1. Deliver Accurate & Timely Data

The many different uses of digital signage allow a business to accomplish a variety of goals, and conveying accurate messaging is one of the most essential during a crisis. With the power of digital signage, we have the ability to send out critical updates with information and instructions at any point in time. Having the most current and transparent data not only instructs readers but will ease and comfort them.

  1. Promote Proper Hygiene

Digital signage can be used to send out friendly reminders to the public for maintaining healthy habits. When a health crisis occurs, it’s important to emphasise proper hygiene. By encouraging healthy habits through digital signs, people can remain informed on appropriate precautions.

  1. Minimise Direct Contact

From interactive displays to virtual information desks, digital signage can lessen direct contact. Businesses can display anything from directories, floor maps and answers to common questions on screens in public areas. This implementation of digital signage minimises human interaction among customers and staff, keeping direct contact at minimum and making others feel safer.

  1. Push Out Positivity

In times of uncertainty, it is important to have a forward-looking mindset. Digital signage can be used for more than just a means for information flow. Show appreciation for those on the frontline and essential workers with the help of eye-catching signage. Delivering inspirational messages to the public on screens is one of the ways digital signage can be used for good during a crisis.

Interaction

One of the problems with interactive signage is that that, while it is the most effective means of exchanging data with signage, touch also carries a risk of infection. Personal devices can be key to touchless interaction with signage.  Whilst this is not cutting edge, being able to interact via an app or QR code is on the rise and allows users to remain confident that they are not touching a contaminated display.  It also reduces the cognitive challenge for employees since they can already operate their own devices efficiently and safely.  Personal devices which support Bluetooth could be an alternative to access control systems that have been heavily dependent on ‘keypad touch’.  Banks and retailers have reacted to this by increasing spending limits for contactless payments, with Apple Pay at £100 max per transaction, and QSR outlets now have apps to order in advance and therefore reduce contact times for mixed audiences.

Voice control has obvious challenges, with regional dialects, speed of speech, depth of voice, and maturity of voice. Gesture control may be something that could be widely deployed, but platforms are not common.

Facial recognition has an obvious opportunity here, or anywhere there is a camera.  Video conferencing can be contactless, just by simply walking into the room, sitting down and the camera launching the call because it can sense your presence. In corporate buildings, facial recognition is often already used to allow access to staff, it can equally deny access according to other available data such as staff in quarantine or demonstrating a raised temperature.

But supposing that you want to grant direct access to the touchscreen? Some vendors are supplying sanitation kits with touch screens or at least directions for keeping touch screens virus free. NEC has produced cleaning guidelines and a video to support safe cleaning practices https://youtu.be/GeWpogOMMUg. Gregg Ringer, Head of UK Market Development for CTOUCH has announced that: “In a time where surface cleaning is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we want to ensure we are doing our bit to help our customers. As a company, we have launched a series of initiatives which ensure we are as environmentally and socially aware as we can be, and this is another example of many more to come. We want to provide peace of mind for our users, so they are as comfortable as possible when using our new Riva touchscreen.” Branded ‘Wipe & Shine’ kits will ship with all the new CTOUCH Riva touchscreens. For customers who have already purchased, they can also claim theirs through the CTOUCH website.

Integration

EDBAK have repurposed their factory to manufacture products to enhance safety in public spaces. Their latest solution is a series of ProClean products for hand sanitation. The timeless design and robust construction allow it to blend into any commercial environment including offices, schools, shopping centres and hotels. ProClean is available in two versions: free-standing and wall-mounted, and in two colours: metallic and white.

Giant iTab contends that there is no better way to provide hand-sanitiser equipment in high traffic areas, than to use a ‘contactless’ self-dispensing kiosk. Presenting messages using Digital Signage screens will also encourage employees and customers to follow social distancing rules and other guidelines as well as offering the additional benefit of presenting key sales and marketing campaign messages on a daily basis. The company’s latest solution integrates signage with a free-standing sanitation station.

Detection

Perhaps the ultimate in Covid security is to detect infection comes with solutions designed to detect infected individuals before they enter premises. Facial recognition is effective for detecting those individuals authorised to enter premises where a database of permitted individuals is available, but for less controlled environments other means must be employed. Glory Star is helping businesses and organizations reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic with its popular self-service solution, the patent-pending TAURI Temperature Check Tablet. Designed to screen people noninvasively when entering healthcare, manufacturing or government facilities, hotels, restaurants, conference centres, retail stores, schools, and gyms, TAURI is a touch-free, highly accurate, quick, and private temperature check and messaging system in one tablet.

For those looking for a temperature sensing solution integrated with the signage solution, BrightSign has announced that EonDigital has incorporated the BrightSign HD1024 media player in its new temperature screening product, ExoMetrics Wrist. This innovative new solution quickly achieves highly accurate temperature measurements by taking hundreds of temperature readings in just a matter of seconds. This hands-free solution all but eliminates false positive readings and enables businesses to safely screen patrons with minimal disruption.

“EonDigital’s unique approach to touch-free temperature screening is precisely the sort of forward thinking we need to squarely address the challenges associated with safe business operation during this pandemic,” said BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings. “It’s gratifying to see the many ways companies like EonDigital are adapting BrightSign’s technology to bring their innovative solutions to market.”

Temperature checks have become an essential part of businesses re-opening in the wake of COVID-19. Common temperature-screening methods either rely on hand-held devices that pose a viral transmission risk, or hands-free solutions that work effectively only when used properly by the patron or customer.

 

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