These screens can be put up at various places, but they are always centrally connected to a main computer, which feeds the screens with the information that is shown on them. The information shown on the devices could be either messages containing text and images, or they could be prerecorded videos.
The display devices used for digital signage could be of various kinds. Commonly, LCD and plasma screens are used. However, in some places, LED screens, projection screens, electronic billboards, etc., can also be used.
In this manner, digital signage can be considered as a medium of public advertising in the broadcasting genre. The display screens can be put up in either a closed environment, such as shopping malls, multiplexes, or even on the roads and subways.
The main purpose of digital signage is advertising. They are used to display both in-house as well as sponsored messages on them in a bid to advertise their products. People who see the jazzy graphics, that are commonly used on these display screens, are often quite enchanted by them, and gain a curiosity about the product.
As a means of advertisement, this method works better than static billboards, because the moving messages can cause more intrigue factor about the product, and can also provide more information targeted for the potential customer.
Similarly, they can be used over queuing counters, for informing people about the status of the bookings. In places like the Stock Exchange, they can be used to indicate the exchange rates, among other things.
Sometimes, digital signage is also used for merely improving the overall presentation of an area or to provide some kind of value added services to people. We find good examples of these in shopping malls and multiplexes, where many screens are present just for adding to the overall appeal of the place.
In a CD shop, for example, a signage board might simply ramble on entertainment related topics, without actually promoting anything. The self-help kiosks in public places are examples of value added services that this medium can provide, though these are actually more than just digital signage devices.
In the seventies, when digital signage was first introduced, only a few select stores had this medium, and then too, it was only for in-house presentations. They were first introduced in shops selling electronic equipment, but were later lapped up by malls for their appeal and functionality.
Wal-Mart and Best Buy were the earliest installers of these devices in their stores. They used and still use relentless outputs on the display screens to make people aware of offers on the products they sold. This led to an increase in sales, because people who would not initially have bought the product, also wanted to buy it, after reading on the screens.
One of the main reasons why digital signage has become so popular in today's times is the low costs of display screens. Once, LCD and plasma screens were just an aristocratic luxury, but now their diminishing prices have brought them within reach of small-time business owners. That explains why even small stores have digital signage today.
Also, the introduction of high-speed Internet connectivity, such as the broadband connections, has made it quite easy to operate the screens from a distance and make them more meaningful to the viewers.