Since the COVID pandemic first accelerated in March 2020, there have been a lot of lessons learned and adaptations made. Every component of our lives, from work to school to healthcare and restaurants, must be reshaped to fit “the new normal,” while also keeping the public safe and proactively mitigating health risks in order to ensure economic and business fluidity.
Leadership teams faced with developing plans to re-open businesses, re-configure building flow and design, and bring employees back into the office must focus on two priorities: safety and agility.
Digital signage and wayfinding technologies bring people together, communicate changes and important messages, streamline operational costs and resources, and support productivity. They are at the heart of the way we navigate today’s world and an important part of our critical infrastructure. Now, in a post-pandemic world, this technology is even more important and relevant for managing communications and striking the right note in terms of safety needs as well as messaging tone. Due to the dynamic nature of such content, many businesses are opting for customizable digital signs or kiosks, as they do not require physical contact to navigate.
Below, I discuss a few examples of how digital signage and wayfinding technology is being used to support post-pandemic needs across a range of industries:
Employees appreciate the collaboration and communication benefits that come from working together in person, but many are hesitant about their safety with the COVID-19 pandemic still being a global threat. It is likely that, for the foreseeable future, many companies will need to maintain at least a mixed model, with select employees working in the office while others work remote. Management teams across the enterprise and corporate market are now tasked with finding ways to bring employees back to the office, even if it is in a limited capacity.
Wayfinding and digital signage technology can be leveraged to support the logistical challenges of enterprise workspaces, such as social-distancing regulations, employee screening, office floorplan restructuring, and changes to technology use that come with keeping employees safe, well-informed, and confident. This can have a longstanding impact on their ability to be focused and productive.
For example, with the implementation of Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), wayfinding applications can leverage usage data gleaned from sensors or voice commands to auto-generate routes based on a user’s shortest personalized path and ease of accessibility, with smart detour scheduling that allows for safe movement in the office. These same applications also allow for hot-desking – a technique that blocks the use of certain desks within a certain proximity to others (i.e. closer than six feet apart) by labeling them as “red-desks.” A safe “green desk” is then marked to instantly show employees the approved workspaces that comply with social distancing guidelines to use in real-time.
Outside of the corporate market, digital signage can also be leveraged in higher education settings to support wayfinding and communication needs as some schools opt to send portions of their students, faculty, or staff back to campus. Digital signage has experienced growing popularity in the higher education market over the last few years, and it’s one of the fastest-growing verticals for digital signage due largely to the medium’s ability to communicate campus-wide emergency content or other alerts. In addition, however, many college campuses have turned to digital signage to communicate more pedestrian community-type messaging and/or seasonal reminders across lobbies, study areas, dorms and other spaces. Now, as some schools opt to bring some students or faculty back to campus, enhanced software solutions bring new functionality to existing or new displays.
Georgia Tech University, for example, has more than 300 digital signs across its entire campus. As the campus needs to implement pandemic-related changes, the displays can be easily updated to further enhance the student and visitor experience. New features can support communicating important updates around COVID or support health and hygiene. These include touch-free navigation and display control through voice commands or QR code scans to personal devices for navigating destinations on campus or finding information, including dynamic wayfinding arrows and one-way traffic flow directions throughout the campus digital displays. Georgia Tech’s digital signage department’s limitless digital options transform its displays into a one-of-a-kind system that sets the standard other universities can aspire to.
The transient, fast-changing nature of resorts and venue spaces, with hundreds of people coming and going each day, make the need for increased sanitary practices and social distancing incredibly important. Digital signage and wayfinding can support that need.
For example, new thermal screening technology, available in a kiosk or sign, could be set up at a property’s front door and open points of entry to provide a temperature screening before a guest, attendee or visitor even made their way to the front desk. The built-in ability for a customer services rep to voice chat with an individual remotely to provide the next steps and instructions would make the entire pre-screening process seamless. Then, instead of having to interact face-to-face with a staff member, visitors could approach a display or kiosk to check-in by voice control or through a QR scan on their app.
The solution could also use the same voice command and QR scan functionality throughout their visit and receive notifications on essential updates from management via displays around the property. This includes signage around the building, reminding guests of masks and social distancing rules. The screens can also be programmed and configured to communicate important notices, such as maintaining a six-foot distance, face-covering requirements, handwashing reminders, updated operational hours, and more.