An advantage to being in the building automation industry forever is the ability to see technology acceptance and growth patterns repeat themselves. Many years ago, when I first grasped the concept of building-wide sound systems and understood the power they could have in a life-safety communication situation, my mind started to churn with the possibilities of the technology's application.

Later in my career, I encountered a white noise system overlaid on the building sound system to reduce cross talk in a very open, internally landscaped building. Sound systems have greatly matured and are widely accepted integral parts of almost all building automation systems. The networked digital signage industry is now poised to deliver the logical evolution to central sound: central video.

I have been talking about digital signage evolving to building-wide video for several years, but applications and resources to date in North America have been few. The September issue of carried an article that convinced me that a convergence collision is about to occur.

This informative article titled "Electronic Signage for Safer Buildings" by Lyle Bunn, senior partner at Apogee ( is excerpted below.

Electronic signage networks represent the integration of now available technologies, and at a time when public safety needs are higher than ever before.

Electronic signage offers a cost-effective way of communicating public safety and alert information while providing new revenue for property managers and retailers. This need and the growing capabilities of electronic signage in areas of image provisioning, connectivity, display triggering is fueling the installations of signage and kiosk networks. Electronic signage networks (ESN) integrate display (such as LCD, plasma, etc.), input devices, digital storage, and communications technologies (such as WiFi) under the control of a software called "Dynamic Image Provisioning Applications" (DIPA) to support public safety, information and commercial goals.

Providers of key elements, such as the control software, are able to provide information and contacts useful to network planning. Considerable information is available at

Technology breakthroughs in communications, control software, and monitoring and image-triggering devices have been made as display technologies have advanced. ESN offers an important, powerful tool for public safety. Its increasing cost-effectiveness allows for displays in more numerous locations, including, for example, exit stairways.

WiFi (Wide area Fidelity) has seen a fundamental development with WiFi-Plus multi-polarity antennas. The obstruction penetrating capabilities enable communications in urban, retail, and rural environments that has not been possible, and further does so at 3 to 5 times lower cost. This technology is enabling more and larger "hotzones," including citywide areas.

Control software has emerged at a new plateau of functionality as the "Dynamic Image Provisioning Application" (DIPA). The DIPA backoffice system being specified into electronic signage networks can accommodate display screen-splitting, triggered and override messaging, interoperability and file format handling, and scalability to several thousand displays. This allows for "dual use" deployment, displays used for both commerce (retail, advertising, branding, pricing, training, etc.) and public safety and information (alerts, direction, etc.). The new capability of DIPA responds to dual-use ESN.

Display devices offer a location to house monitoring equipment providing input to trigger a human decision or automatic message. Cameras, audio, and infrared or heat sensors can feed directly into a staffed security or response center in a transit systems, retail locations, secure areas, etc. Using the features in DIPA, threat signals could automatically trigger an image display to provide information or instructions, in the same way that traffic counters and motion detectors could trigger traffic routing, arrival, and departure information.

These exciting new convergence pieces of networked video are something you must find out more about. They have inspired me to provide Web-based information in a review in our October issue called, "Web Resources for Networked Signage and Video Services" (

This review provides connection to websites answering questions like, What is digital signage? Answer: It is a display system used to present a dynamic computer-generated message to your audience. It includes full motion video, graphics, sound, and text. Ideal locations are corporate offices, retail stores, malls, hotels, restaurants, schools, and airports. The actual display device can be plasma or LCD monitors, or multiple monitors

These combined resources provide great net surfing and will allow you to quickly get a grasp on the potential of new building-wide applications for this exciting technology. ES