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How Public Agencies Use Digital Wayfinding And Signage

by James McDonald on August 24, 2021
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Digital wayfinding and signage offer many benefits in the private sector, but it’s also valuable for public agencies, especially as they welcome more people back and continue to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols.

As part of the new American Rescue Plan, the administration set aside approximately $350 billion of the $1.9 trillion included in the package for state and local fiscal recovery. That includes funding to upgrade technology or add new solutions, such as digital wayfinding software and other technology that supports a healthier workplace.

Here are five ways agencies are using it to improve safety and public service.

5 benefits of digital wayfinding and signage for public agencies

Improving the visitor experience

Navigating a 2.3 million-square-foot convention center owned and operated by Washington D.C. requires a map and a strong sense of direction — at least, it did before the facility implemented voice-based digital wayfinding technology.

With 77 meeting rooms, 198,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and 703,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center can be daunting for visitors trying to find their way around. In 2019, administrators found a solution by installing more than 50 kiosks that use software in partnership with Amazon’s Alexa to create voice-centric digital wayfinding kiosks. The kiosks give visitors a way to ask about finding meeting spaces in the convention center and get turn-by-turn directions to nearby attractions.

Maintaining safety

The convention center also offers 360-degree, 3D imagery that allows prospective visitors to see the space before arriving. Coupled with complimentary Wi-Fi access, this allows attendees to engage with real-time information. They can plan the most direct route to their destination and avoid unnecessary foot traffic that can lead to increased exposure to potential health and safety dangers.

Though guidelines for social distancing and face-to-face contact continue to change, the D.C. convention center provides an example of using digital wayfinding to create a user-friendly, touchless experience, providing information, and enhancing safety and wellness. Other benefits include avoiding overcrowding in high-traffic areas such as entrances and exits, stairways, or hallways.

Interactive maps help enforce COVID-19 safety protocols by showing where people can find restrooms, masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies for personal safety and wellness. They also free up employees’ time, which is important as both the private and public sectors return to a hybrid work environment.

Educating employees and visitors

The conference center has the largest digital signage network of its kind in any conference facility in the United States, with more than 200 digital signage displays located throughout the facility.

The set-up includes 12 LED video walls, a two-story curved video wall at the Concourse Rotunda, video walls above the exhibit halls and digital flags in front of the salons. Large displays provide a striking and immediate way to provide clear, consistent information at a moment’s notice. This transparent communication improves the visitor experience as well as employee productivity and morale.

The large wall displays provide a place to recognize top-performing employees and share frequent messages that reinforce the center’s values and culture on a large-as-life scale.

The Department of Defense is another government agency that uses digital signage and free-standing information kiosks. A wayfinding kiosk manufacturer installed kiosks for Patrick Air Force Base, a United States Air Force station in Florida that serves the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Prior to using the kiosks and digital signage software, the base staff used static images, such as tripod posters, for base tours and information displays. This made it difficult to keep them up to date.

Replacing the static poster signs with large, flat-screen digital displays gave the base an opportunity to share real-time information. It also saved staff time since they no longer have to assemble and disassemble the posters and tripods after tours and created a more interactive environment for visitors.

Tour iOFFICE's Interactive Wayfinding Solution

Improving hybrid learning in public schools

The Government Finance Officers Association called the government-specific funding in the American Rescue Plan substantial and potentially transformative for states and local governments in pandemic rescue and recovery efforts. In its recommended spending guidelines for states, cities, and municipalities, the GFOA encouraged focusing on enhancing regional projects or collaborations, and group entities such as schools. The American Rescue Plan includes an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and additional funding for IT-related expenses. It also includes a $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund for states, territories, and tribal governments “to support capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring” in response to COVID-19. Each entity will receive at least $100 million with additional amounts allocated based on population.

Remote learning is here to stay, despite many public school districts and universities returning to the physical classroom.  In an Echelon Insights survey of 1,000 parents of K-12 students, 45% said they would opt to keep their children fully online given the chance, and 22% would choose a hybrid model for their children.

Streamlining communication and connectivity between educators, students, administrators, and parents who are located in different places will require a significant investment in screens, monitors, and connectivity software. School buildings or districts can use digital signage in several ways, including:

  • Improving navigation in their buildings
  • Providing daily updated information for students, teachers, and visitors
  • Live streaming classes, assemblies, or commencement ceremonies to smaller groups
  • Highlighting student work to showcase the student body and build emotional connection and a sense of school pride

Digital wayfinding displays in schools can also reinforce educational initiatives. As students learn about different parts of the world, chapters in history, or scientific discoveries, educators can easily change digital signage for students to explore as they walk through the halls. These displays can make schools feel more like museums.

Improving public transportation efficiency

Transportation is another key sector that continues to implement digital signage. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority began using large, flat-screen digital signs – called The Metro Channel – throughout the Metrobus and Metrorail systems more than a decade ago.  Placed in trains, buses, station platforms, bus shelters and at street level station entrances to reach the greatest number of people, these screens display essential information — such as train arrival times, current location, time, and weather, as well as urgent information during major service disruption.

Connect people and places with interactive wayfinding software

The need for technology-based information sharing extends beyond an office space and reaches various places in the public sector. With the help of the American Rescue Plan, government agencies, schools, and municipalities will be able to invest in technology that keeps the public safe and helps them find what they need faster.

iOFFICE’s digital wayfinding system is easy to implement and integrate with your existing digital signage solutions. It also connects with HR directories, reservation software, and the Hummingbird mobile app so employees and visitors can find people, book rooms or desks, request service, and receive important announcements right from your interactive displays.

To learn more about our digital wayfinding solutions, schedule a demo today.

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