Tech Trends: Digital signage advances bring cost, energy savings
METRO | Werner Malcherek, CTO
Transit agencies and city officials are paying close attention to today’s innovators who are building technology solutions to increase efficiency, reduce waste, encourage sustainability, and save money. While electric buses are known to have made a significant positive impact on our environment, additional transit technologies exist that have a similar capability to save resources and reduce energy consumption, while improving the rider experience.
Agencies across the country are turning to networked digital signage solutions that are cost-effective and energy efficient. These solutions deliver real-time updates that are important to a rider’s journey, including rider alerts, next bus information, and route maps.
By choosing digital signs that use alternative energy, such as solar power, transit agencies can save on the operational costs needed to power the system’s display. Eliminating reliance on existing power grids can also save time and money on installation and allows for signage to be installed in remote locations where power is not readily available.
The power consumption of a signage system depends on its operating parameters and the display technology itself. New “e-Paper” solar-powered signs, for example, can remain fully operational under the open sky and off the grid even during cloudy conditions. These durable signs feature an easy-to-read front-lit design that provides a multi-page display not impacted by competing sunlight or glare.
Networked digital signage over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection provides transit agencies the ability to post real-time content updates simultaneously across the entire transportation network. Managed from agency headquarters, it also enables monitoring of the signage system’s health, including indicators of a properly working sign or if the technology at a specific location experiences an outage.
Benefits to transit, ridership
The benefits of digital signage connectivity are two-fold: it eliminates the need for transit agencies to rely on the manual and hands-on approach to posting updates at stops and stations with paper signage (physical posters), bringing down labor costs; and a cloud-based network allows the system to scale up for future growth. An efficient digital signage system can have a profound impact on a city and its transit agency by implementing modular components that can be adapted over time to meet the needs of the agency and its passengers.
As one of the largest transit systems in the country, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in Washington, D.C., understands that real-time information communication is vital for its 120 million transit customers. The transit authority’s ridership has come to expect system enhancements, such as easy access to departure and arrival information and bus route planning. WMATA recently sought a solution that would enhance these system efficiencies and keep its millions of riders informed. To do so, the agency installed bus shelter signs across its service area. By utilizing the digital signs’ cloud-hosting technology, WMATA was able to transfer all IT responsibility and maintenance to a datacenter, centralizing support and realizing cost-savings.
WMATA and other transit agencies across the country are also benefiting from digital signage technologies equipped with ADA compliance features including text-to-speech voice announcements and support for multiple languages. This was a critically important feature for the agency to support its diverse and global-minded passengers and the city.
As major metropolitan areas look for sustainable solutions within the transit space, more and more cities will look to innovators such as WMATA and its investment in digital signs that are energy efficient, or autonomous, and connect seamlessly to the transit network. Introducing digital signage to a transit network is a critical enhancement toward better serving mass transit passengers on their journey. When the passenger is put first, vital considerations like these will follow and lead to a brighter future for the transit agency and its city.