Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
Wayfinding has always been an important part of large workplaces. Picture huge skyscrapers with ornate directories in the atrium or sprawling corporate campuses with “You are Here” signage posted throughout. And while the spirit of wayfinding lives on in workplaces today, the execution has changed. Digital signage and wayfinding kiosks are the high-tech guideposts keeping workplace visitors in the know about where they are and how to get to where they’re going.
What are wayfinding kiosks? What is digital signage? Why are these installations better than classic signs or directories? Like most modern workplace features, it comes down to technology and the benefits it affords.
The age of interactive wayfinding systems
Digital signage and wayfinding kiosks are supplanting static counterparts for many reasons—not least of which is connectivity. Facilities managers can instantly configure digital signage, just as easily as guests can interact with it. Wayfinding devices themselves are assistive technologies for both company and visitors.
Wayfinding signage and information kiosks in the workplace provide instant assistance for those who need help finding their way.
Take a college campus, for example. You wouldn’t walk into the middle of a lecture to get directions to the Student Union. An interactive wayfinding kiosk makes plotting a course easy and instantaneous. Walk up to the kiosk, select “Student Union” from an options list, and voilà! Detailed directions. No anxiety about finding the right person to ask. No landmark-style directions to follow. Just a simple, straightforward point-to-point solution.
Digital wayfinding enables much more than point-to-point directions. It incorporates variables that static signage can’t. For example, digital information kiosks can be combined with company directories to help visitors find people, not just rooms. Menus offer multiple search options, such as company departments, amenities, rest rooms, and exits.
It’s easy to make interactive wayfinding systems part of a larger integration. Connecting them to communication platforms such as Slack enables automatic room booking and meeting reminders, in addition to providing directions or room information. In this way, wayfinding technology blends physical workplace oversight with digital management.
There’s also the inverse to consider. Digitally booking a conference room or private workspace pushes that information to the interactive wayfinding kiosk outside of that room. Anyone checking room availability via its kiosk will immediately be able to see its occupied or vacant.
Managing rooms with unique identifiers is also easier. Room names are programmed into wayfinding signage. Example: CONF A. As employees book rooms and send invitations to others, CONF A becomes the sticking point. Visitors know what room to look for and where to find it when they arrive. And, if the nomenclature ever changes—CONF A becomes CONF B—there’s no need to replace signage. Changing the name centrally pushes it out to all wayfinding devices, making the transition seamless.
The hardware side of digital wayfinding
Digital wayfinding relies on hardware to make it accessible. The interactive wayfinding screens and signs are the modern-day equivalents to lines on the floor or placards outside rooms. Take a look at the physical elements of modern digital wayfinding:
- Room screens: Placed outside rooms, these screens provide information such as room name, bookings, availability, and AV capabilities. They also identify the room.
- Wayfinding kiosks: Best situated in atriums and building entryways, kiosks are the “You are Here” signs of the future. More than telling people where they are, wayfinding kiosks interactively provide information about the building, floor maps, staff directories, and instructions on finding a destination.
- Digital signage: These overhead or wall screens or scrolling strips provide real-time information. Think of them like airport terminal boards, displaying flight information and notifications. The same can be applied for campuses with events that change regularly.
- Smartphones: What would the age of digital wayfinding be without a map and GPS directions in your pocket? From microsites, company-specific apps, and SMS directions, smartphones bring digital wayfinding to the mobile realm. This also extends to tablets and mobile AV carts.
Tying everything together digitally
Wayfinding kiosks and digital signage are the front-facing projection of digital wayfinding. The information and the way it’s displayed are managed in the cloud, part of a networked ecosystem that’s only growing larger.
At its core is a Computer-Assisted Facility Management (CAFM) platform (read more on what is CAFM). It’s a facility manager’s best friend for pushing updates to the wayfinding signage network. A CAFM platform also serves as the integration hub for other collaborative technologies such as messaging platforms, booking software, and facilities automation. And, it’s the central system of record for linking oversight to execution.
Digital wayfinding is an instrumental part of making a workplace more accommodating. The larger the facilities and the more visitors it welcomes, the higher the demand for wayfinding kiosks and signage. With the conveniences it offers, digital wayfinding is an investment well worth making.
Keep reading: what is a digital workplace.