All signs point to a great digital asset

By Colin Farquhar

Colin Farquhar, CEO of Externity discusses what modern technology African business should adopt in order to attract talent and keep up with changes in the work place.

Enterprises across Africa are deploying digital signage to inform, educate and simply communicate

The smartphone is a great digital tool for employees operating in the modern corporate environment, but when organisations need to deliver information to individuals and groups across different audiences – and often incompatible mobile networks – they need something more.

For organisations looking to reach a mixed audience – whether in the company lobby or open offices, in training, meeting and break rooms, or all of the above –  the ability to disseminate shared multimedia content in the same physical location is something that a smartphone, for all it benefits, is not adequately equipped to handle. For these tasks, digital signage has found a perfect role, giving modern offices a new tech-savvy and up-to-date look, feel and functionality. In fact, the market is on pace to reach a global value of more than US$30bn in the next four to five years, with Africa tipped to be one of the regions with the biggest growth.

The adoption of digital signage is evolving alongside other changes in the modern workplace. The rise of hotdesking, informal meeting spaces and shared co-working centres has made easily accessible, group communication a growing requirement for corporates and workspace operators. Unlike the legacy printed notice board, modern digital signage can overcome language and other communication barriers through creative use of video, audio and graphics.

Digital signage is often the first thing to grab visitors’ attention when they enter a reception area. In today’s modern office lobby, large LED screens displaying company branding and information can have a positive impact on guests from the moment they arrive. In certain use cases, such as navigating a large business park or campus, digital signage with touchscreens can double up as interactive kiosks with the option to deliver directions in multiple languages.


Often, within a typical organisation digital signage has had a major impact by providing customised  communications, including welcome information for visitors, staff updates, event agendas and informal training sessions that can employ a mix of video, audio and supporting imagery – even using a carousel approach to display constantly changing messages on multiple topics.

In warehousing and manufacturing environments, digital signage can reinforce health and safety messages in-situ – as is the case for a major South African automotive manufacturer that uses digital signs to ensure employees keep up-to-date on best practice in its plants.

But it’s not just about branding, internal comms and education. A major user of digital signage in professional services and the financial sector could use it for sharing up-to-the-minute news. For instance, an international banking and asset management group has deployed digital signage across its offices in South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana, with real-time feeds showing key financial indicators such as share prices and breaking news.

In another example, a leading multinational professional services and accountancy network has deployed digital signage widely at its South African offices to offer local TV channel distribution and ‘town hall’ meeting presentations, along with internal messaging.

In both instances, digital signage offers three key advantages:

  • Dynamic content that can be updated from a live feed: Whether it’s share price fluctuations or breaking news stories, the content can be instantly displayed on any connected screen.

  • Flexibility: As the digital signage is connected via any IP network, the ability to quickly deploy or reposition screens is incredibly easy. Although most screens use fixed networks, the option to connect via Wi-Fi makes it easy to setup signs in places that are harder to reach.

  • Reduction in management complexity: Even in large organisations with multiple branches or largescale multi-building sites, most advanced digital signage solutions can be controlled with a single piece of software that can assign content to different groups of screens based on a predefined schedule or audience. The management software can also offer devolved access rights allowing local teams to update only their local screens – to further streamline the process.

Digital signage need not be considered a standalone technology. Increasingly, it is being integrated into other corporate and building systems. For example, one large university campus has integrated its digital signs within its fire and evacuation alert system to provide guidance in an emergency.  Another office uses digital signage to display local bus, train times and traffic alerts in the lobby to help departing staff better plan their journey home. 

Technology continues to transform the modern workplace and digital signage is a tool that play an critical role in transforming the workplace today, as it taps into IP-powered communications that  boost both staff and visitor relationships as well as efficiency and effectiveness in the physical spaces organisations inhabit. And the technology will only evolve further as organisations continue to find new and better ways to make use of it.


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