Cisco Touts New Wrinkle That Turns Webex Displays Into Part-Time Digital Signage

January 31, 2019 by Dave Haynes

Networking hardware giant Cisco appears to be slipping back, a little, into digital signage, touting a new capability that lets Cisco Webex video devices show digital signage messaging instead of what it calls the “default half-wake state.”

The capability, says Cisco on its company blog, is a response to longtime requests from customers to be able to show other content and signage on connected Cisco video screens when they are not being used for screensharing, whiteboarding or conferencing.

Signage mode uses the web engine in Room OS, the software that runs on cloud-registered Cisco video devices. “This means,” says Cisco, “that you can show any web page when the device goes into idle mode. For example, that could be a signage app or a dashboard showing relevant stats for teams sitting close to that particular system. No extra servers or HDMI cables required; just configure a URL and watch the magic happen.”

The bar here for “magic” is pretty low, but whatever …

Cisco is making the argument to customers that workplaces may have a double deployment of screens – one set for meeting spaces and another for signage. “Talk about wasting resources and doubling the amount of maintenance. When you invest in our devices across all meeting spaces, it’s only natural that you also want to use them for displaying relevant information when they’re not being used for collaboration and conferencing. The only thing we want you to double is the value in your investment.”

“Imagine all of the open office spaces emerging through workplace transformations everywhere. What if your Webex Boards could be useful all day – in and out of conferences. It could be a digital whiteboard in the morning, followed by a team scrum board in the afternoon, and when not actively being used, it could display HR messages or KPIs for relevant teams.”

Using signage mode would require content to be developed and scheduled into it. That could be web pages, or get more sophisticated by tying into a digital signage CMS. The software company Appspace, which was for many years kinda joined at the hip with Cisco, is integrating signage mode with its software, and showing the concept at a Cisco Live event in Barcelona this week and at ISE next week.

“The new signage mode feature on the Webex video devices allowed us to integrate the Appspace progressive web app with minimum to no code changes,” says Stan Stephens, Chief Product Officer and company co-founder. “The performance and compatibility of the signage mode is great – equaling and, in some cases, exceeding the capabilities of dedicated media players. This means we can offer the full UX experience without compromising content transitions or playback.”

I always struggle to tell whether Cisco is in or out of signage. I think they are out, but then I hear or see things. As far as I can tell, Cisco sold its interactive experience tech to another company, and end-of-lifed that stuff a couple of years ago.

Cisco says signage mode will be available in Q2.

It’s interesting, in a limited way. A Cisco 55-inch Webex display can be insanely expensive, so there’s that, to start.

But perhaps more to the point, I’m not sure saving money by dropping the idea of dedicated digital signage displays for multi-tasking Webex screens will work out. Screens in meeting rooms are in meeting rooms with doors and walls – at least usually. Well-designed workplace digital signage is out where the staff are – like the common areas.

I’d also worry about messaging on screens, during meetings, being a distraction. You could imagine them being turned off by a meeting leader who wants focus.

That said, there have been several software companies, through the years, that have extended their signage capabilities to desktops as pseudo screensavers, so this is, in most respects, another version of that.

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