About 18 months ago I put up a post about the handful of options I could find out there for putting little digital displays outside meeting room and conference room drawers.
Traffic just kept building on that one post, and I ultimately decided last fall to develop a dedicated micro-site and directory that listed all the various options out there, which at that point had grown to about 15 different vendors.
That site went live in February. As of today, there are 52 different options out there for digital meeting room signs – and that’s just the software or software/hardware solutions. I don’t even list the different hardware suppliers that have dedicated displays – with red/green halo and indicator lights (room busy/room free) – that have bubbled up.
The attraction is obvious to end-users. Networked signs solve a big room availability issue at just about any organization that has meeting and conference rooms. Getting started is relatively easy and inexpensive, and the CFO doesn’t need an ROI model and five meetings to be talked into it (unlike most aspects of signage jobs in corporate).
The attraction to vendors, as noted in the past and confirmed when I talk to vendors, is these little signs are like gateway drugs for software dealers. A software and solutions company can get in the door, and in the client’s approved vendors/finance system, with something simple, and then sell up into more sophisticated digital signage requirements around that company.
For whatever reason, the directory I’ve been running has no end of visitors who send me notes asking for quotes. I politely reply I’m not selling anything, just listing them all. But now I’ve added an RFQ component – so buyers can lay out what they want and need, plus when and how many, and that gets sent on to those companies with paid listings. Hey, one just came in as I was typing that …
These little digital door signs are pretty simple to develop and execute – which is probably why the number of solutions has grown so rapidly. But any software thinking about also coming into the space should be aware that 1) it’s already crowded and 2) there are companies with millions in venture capital behind them, developing and supporting focused solutions. I’m not sure a basic “we got it to work” kind of app will get a lot of traction as this area gets more and more sophisticated. There are companies working with access controls systems, RFID and beacons, and offering up rich analytics that do a lot more than tell HR and building ops if a room is free.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.