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Making the Leap into Electronic Digital Signage

(December 2012) posted on Tue Dec 13, 2011

Is this dynamic medium the next horizon for print service providers? Here are four print shops that have experienced varying degrees of success with electronic digital signage and display work.

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By Michael Antoniak

It’s a welcome return on the “substantial capital investment” the company made in this venture. “We invested well over half a million dollars in R&D to launch the product,” reports Osborne, a figure that also includes servers and software. “This could be a barrier for entry into the market by those who may think it’s easy to begin offering digital signage.”

With its commitment, the company is certainly doing its part to seed new business and explore new applications for digital signage. This past summer, Visual Impressions ran an experiment at New York’s City Field, using countertop digital photo frames as the window for point-of-sale promotions that fans simply couldn’t ignore. Another test in the field demonstrated the effectiveness of interactive kiosks with touch-screen LCD panels to allow patrons in fast-food restaurants to easily retrieve nutrition information for any items on the menu.

To date, though, most of Visual Impressions’ sales have been in digital signage’s established norms: networked panels driven by media-players or servers and content creation/management software. “So far, our niche with the digital signage has been in the fast and casual restaurant and cafeteria market,” says Osborne. “They have an existing need for this kind of solution.”

Four years ago, she says, Visual Impressions was primarily known as a large-format print operation when owners John Forgach and Brian McKenna first began discussing growing their business in a new direction, on the advice of a friend. “They had brought in a colleague who had a technology background rather than a printing background,” she explains. “He was very forward thinking and suggested it might be good to diversify in this direction.”

Good timing: About that time, one of the company’s established clients, Compass Group – Charlotte-based specialists in food service management – posed initial inquiries about introducing digital menu boards in some locations.

Soon, Visual Impressions was also in the digital signage business. Ward Wentzel, who first suggested the venture, assumed responsibility for designing the software to run the system, and art director Doug Elliott focused on the visual content that drives the systems.

“All our solutions are turnkey and completely self-contained,” says Osborne. “We do everything from building the computers and servers to run the system to developing custom software and installing the monitors.”