Years ago, as a young audio engineer part of a team for Disney, when we were tasked to design an audio system for a new space or feature, we never imagined discussing our plans with the lighting group, or with the newly formed video projection group that spent the majority of its time on lifts aligning red, green and blue lines on a screen. But, today, as my MGM Resorts team prepares to open the new MGM-AEG 20,000-seat arena in less than 60 days, I can’t image anything less than full engagement by those who represent every discipline involved in the design and building of this new Las Vegas arena.
The areas to which I am referring include, but are not limited to, audio, networking, rigging, life-safety systems, environmental controls, several different video production systems (such as a center-hung scoreboard), external LED mesh, VIP suite TVs, concourse displays and digital menu boards. Of course, IT and several software APIs, such as geolocation services through DAS or WiFi, will have to be part of the integration plan, in addition to the marketing and sales folks to coordinate mobile app development. There are so very many elements to be considered and coordinated, that it is amazing to me that this complicated orchestra of digital ecosystems will ever open its doors to the public.
The purpose of this article is to point out the variety of issues with which professional systems integrators must be familiar in order to assist, advise and guide a client through a successful installation, whether designing a large arena or something as small as a local sports bar. Those working with smaller venues may not feel that these smaller projects require the same integration strategy, but in our rapidly changing interconnected world, it’s as important as ever for end users, and their professional systems integrator advisors, to have a total preparation and implementation strategy that encompasses every piece of technology in each unique space.
To make the comparison manageable, let’s focus on four digital screen components to understand how complicated this one vertical can be when it is tied to a larger guest-experience formula. The four display examples will refer to overhead quick-serve food and drink concession menu boards; concourse marketing, program feed and emergency messaging displays; VIP suite displays and 43′Hx210′W LED mesh (that’s not much different from a simple reader board that may appear for a local sports bar on any boulevard in your neighborhood).
By the way, to emphasize how quickly things change in this industry, had this arena been built three years ago, these four systems would have been controlled with three different types of hardware players running four types of software. Today, everything is run on a single hardware/software system.
- Overhead Quick-Serve Menu Boards: Overhead quick-serve food and drink concession menu boards are fairly simple. These displays have to be tied to the point-of-sales system to show current pricing. However, dynamically automating pricing and accommodating the process of discounting items as a sales event draws to a close, or incorporate the capability to push perishable food based on current inventory, begins to make the process more complicated. More so, still, when adding another programming element to provide the ability to switch screens over to show future promotional content, or feature a particular “after event” in real time as the audience begins to file out of your venue.
- Concourse Marketing, Program Feed & Emergency Messaging: The concourse screens—initially programmed as overhead wayfinders to help show visitors navigate their way around the building—at show time must switch over to an event program feed, to accommodate those guests who are not yet seated. As the event draws to an end, these displays must now run promotions for future events, feature a last-minute product sales push or function as exit signs—all tied into the life-safety system in case of an emergency.
- LED Mesh Display: The exterior LED mesh serves two purposes for this particular application, both as a promotional device for upcoming events, as well as an entertainment screen that can be viewed from the adjacent plaza on any given event night.
When designing venues of any size these days, the ability to financially justify and allocate funding for the project using the ever-changing repertory of revenue streams should be part of any client discussion from the very start. As a professional adviser in this example, you have the opportunity and obligation to discuss this with your client and explore things such as seat licenses and sponsorship categories, which have become normal business for stadiums and arenas. There are other revenue options for small venues, if you ask the right questions of your client and work with them to plan the technology accordingly.
In this particular instance, the preliminary conversation you would have with your client would likely reveal that the biggest potential for revenue generation resides on the VIP suite TVs.
The challenge for you as an adviser is to think about the captive audience in that space and recommend how to best drive revenue while also creating a great customer experience. For example, you could recommend that guests have the ability to prearrange specific food and beverage options prior to the event, as well as the ability to see visually presented product upsells on the displays in that space.
Remember, the more you know about that customer’s business, the more opportunity you have to recommend solutions that drive additional revenue through that digital signage communications network. For instance, the ability for the target audience to order retail items and have them delivered to their suite, shipped to their home or waiting in their guestroom is just another example of value added you can bring to the relationship.
Think about how the programming for these suites could play out to include things like pre- and post-marketing content, food and beverage menus, retail purchases, broadcast and closed-circuit programming, emergency messaging, general information and more.
Although this is just a small portion of a large project that we are currently working on, these principles all apply to the smallest applications. Something as simple as using pre-accepted WiFi T&C rules to alert the client when a loyal customer has arrived, or providing the ability to properly identify a customer via BLE, which could also allow that guest to control the nearest display via a personal mobile device as he sits down to eat or enjoy a beverage, is all possible now.
To set your business apart and create meaningful and profitable client relationships, it is important to be willing to redefine your business approach to help create profitable outcomes for your clients. What it takes is the willingness to do your homework, and a little more time and effort than your competitor is willing to spend.
I can tell you that the Digital Signage Federation (DSF) has become an important resource for professional development, education and information for many in our industry. The cross-pollination of ideas founded on years of industry experience has become an invaluable asset for professionals like me. This year, the DSF has introduced a Systems Integrator Committee comprised of organizations that focus on delivering solutions related to digital signage. This committee represents DSF constituents from the traditional reseller, commercial AV, distribution and value-added reseller communities. Each brings a different level of understanding to help the DSF serve the needs of this industry sector.
DSF’s Mission is to support and promote the common business interests of the worldwide digital signage, interactive technologies and digital out-of-home network industries. It promotes professional recognition through certifications, continuing education, conferences, publications and presentations offered by the DSF and affiliate groups. It provides regulatory advocacy to leverage the collective strength of members and represent their interests at the higher levels of government and the community. The DSF provides leadership and networking opportunities focused on building a strong foundation for the advancement of the digital signage industry. For more information, click here.