"Digital signage is delivering the correct information at the correct time while being unobtrusive, relevant and helpful to the audience," says Kevin McGlasson. As the European business development manager for transportation at Samsung, he appreciates that the purpose of an airport screen inevitably boils down to navigation: getting the passenger to wherever they want to be, whether that is their gate, the duty-free section or simply reassuring them that they're not lost. Now, however, operators are looking for more from their digital signage. "When it first came out, running pretty pictures and videos was fine," he explains. "But now, people are looking for a bit more intelligence in the data behind it."
For McGlasson and his colleagues at Samsung, this means leading the way with innovative solutions to help with the automation that has gripped the sector in recent years. As automated bag-drop services have increased in popularity, so too has smarter digital signage. Screens have had to become more responsive, not only for passengers, but also for airport operators. And Samsung has an elegant solution for both.
"Our screens have remote management capabilities," says McGlasson. "They have a secure platform called Tizen SOC, which allows our customers to make use of our business-side screens and run whatever kind of application they want on it. It's powerful enough to run touch applications, wayfinding, and - potentially - payment kiosk solutions, too."
SOC stands for system on chip, and concentrates all the normal PC components onto a single microchip. It's a regular addition to Samsung's consumer televisions, and has changed the way people consume content on TV's and Netlfix, for example. "We put that in our B2B models, large format displays and, instead of having an external media player for each screen (which requires installation, extra cabling and power), we just hang a screen where it's needed, plug the power in and connect via Wi-Fi or a LAN cable," he explains.
By allowing airport operators to connect with their digital signage in this way, any problems can be analysed remotely and more information gathered. This allows an engineer to be prepared should they have to physically visit the screen."We can see what the temperature of the screen is, we can update the firmware remotely and we can change any setting on the screen," says McGlasson. "You can also have email alerts. So, if the screen is disconnected from the network for whatever reason, or if it comes up with a 'no-signal' message, we can have a defined email address on the server that automatically alerts the correct person."
It's a solution that, in the end, leads to better service and a more reliable delivery of the content and messages that the airport wishes to convey to its passengers. And for a company of which the research and development arm comprises a quarter of its workforce, it's only the beginning. The internet of things (IoT) is just one area where Samsung is researching new ways in which it can radically improve digital signage for passengers and its airport operator clients alike.
"Improving indoor GPS is one example," explains McGlasson. "That will then feed back into people moving around inside buildings, potentially being able to track baggage through the airport, as well as trolleys and passengers. That's all there in the future for IoT."
For the moment, however, Samsung is heavily invested in providing the most efficient and elegant solutions it can in the area of airport digital signage. After all, airports can be strange places to be. "It's a very bizarre environment to walk through," says McGlasson. "I think anything that can help people feel a bit more relaxed is an improvement, but that relies on the delivery of information through digital screens that is dynamic and real time."