Sustainable Digital Signage & Why It Matters

EPISODE 138 | Guest: Sean Matthews, president & CEO of Visix

Sustainability is on everyone’s mind, so it’s natural that organizations of all types are looking for ways to reduce power and waste. Modern digital signs have come along way down this road, and innovative new technologies and platforms are getting us ever closer to carbon-neutral solutions.

  • Hear about the green push in facilities management and commercial real estate
  • Understand the challenges, benefits and long-term ROI for eco-friendly organizations
  • Learn how governments, consumers and employees are driving sustainable innovation
  • Explore energy, cost and waste savings from using digital signage compared to printed materials
  • Discover new technologies and products that address environmental goals

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Learn about sustainable space management here.


Derek DeWitt: A crucial focus for businesses today is sustainability, with over 90% of CEOs saying that they recognize its significance for long-term success. So as a result, organizations of all types, and we’re not just talking about companies, we’re talking college campuses, K-12 schools, hospitals, government facilities, you name it, restaurants, everybody; everyone’s investing in more sustainable operations. And, strangely enough, technology is a big part of that, and digital signage is one of those tools.

To talk about that with me today, I’m speaking to Sean Matthews, the CEO and president of Visix. Hi, Sean.

Sean Matthews: Hello, Derek. Glad to be here.

Derek DeWitt: Thanks for coming on.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. I always enjoy these sessions, and I think this is an interesting topic, one that you and I haven’t discussed.

Derek DeWitt: This is true, this is true. I’d like to thank Sean for talking to me today, and, of course, everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. I remind you, you can subscribe, you can review us on IMDb and elsewhere, and you can follow along with a transcript on the Visix website under resources and podcasts, where you will also find a lot of helpful links as well.

I think we understand that we’re talking about technology that uses power, and we’re not trying to greenwash stuff around here. We get it: digital signs and other technological communication methods, they’re not lettuce or carrots, you know, they use electricity. They don’t break down naturally, they’re made out of plastics and glass and things like this. So, we understand that right from the get-go.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, that’s absolutely true, Derek. I’m not gonna sit here and say that digital signage is like the greenest thing possible. That’s just not true. But as you noted, it is certainly an alternative to printing a bunch of paper signs and then throwing them in a landfill, right? I mean, that’s definitely, you know, not the most positive thing. So, you know, what we really wanna talk about is how digital signs can help in communication while lowering the energy consumption footprint when compared to other mediums.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, I know when you’re installing digital signs or room signs or any kind of infrastructure associated with that, usually you’re dealing with facilities managers of some kind. And there’s this new buzzword that showed up a couple of years ago, Sustainable Facilities Management. What is that?

Sean Matthews: We went to a trade event not too long ago, at the end of last year called International Facilities Management Association. Yeah, it was all about facilities managers. These are people that deal with all the physical plant operations. There’s been a significant green push in this discipline. And if you go to job boards, you know, you’ll see this job title and a description associated with it about energy efficiency, resource conservation, running a facility in a way that just minimizes the harmful impact of that facility on the environment.

So, it could be a new building, it could be an overhaul building like the one that we’re in. Or one that, you know, needs continuous maintenance and improvements, like a really old building, like my house that was built in 1904. So, yeah, it’s a real thing.

Derek DeWitt: So, let’s talk about this concept of environmental impact. As you said, like the obvious benefit of sustainable facility management is that you reduce the overall environmental footprint of the facility and overall of the organization. You can lower carbon emissions right from the beginning, from the start of construction through a structure’s entire life cycle.

I know the World Economic Forum did some research that said buildings consume 40% of global energy and contribute about a third to all greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, according to the EPA, 30% of the energy that a building uses gets lost through a number of different ways. It goes out through windows or through bad seals, or just old structures and things like this. So, when you’re looking at, like, a sustainable facility management policy, you look at all of the energy waste, and then you put in measures to try and reduce that energy waste, and thus, hopefully, the amount of energy that you’re actually using.

So, what I’m thinking of is, like, you’re properly maintaining the facility, use resources only when they’re needed. Like I know where you guys are now in your new building in Visix, you were telling me that, like, the HVAC, it just turns on automatically, and then it turns off at a certain time as well. You don’t really have any control over it. And this is kind of an optimized way to use that energy.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, I mean, there’s lots of little things that you can do. And, you know, as you noted, in a building like ours. What’s interesting is it isn’t necessarily being driven by the building owner itself. In this particular case, at the county level, in order to get a certificate of occupancy, the inspector had to come in and confirm, for example, that all the lights were LED, and they had to be on motion sensors and time out. That’s really a governmental approach at the very local level. And of course, then the building owner did some other things about controlling the HVAC times and ability to manipulate the temperature. In fact, we cannot manipulate the temperature.

So, it’s just one of those things that you can do. And if you think about like a college campus, where there’re entire teams devoted to, you know, sustainability on a college campus. I mean, it’s like having a seasonal menu in the cafeteria, right, or eco-friendly cleaning products. I mean, those are the kinds of things that do make a difference, right? These little things that I was just mentioning. I mean, if you think about it, you know how much Windex is used on a college campus, right?

Derek DeWitt: Oh boy. That’s for sure, huh? Yeah, no kidding.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And you know, one of the big benefits we see in this, and even in our own situation, is we have what’s called Common Area Maintenance built into our lease, which covers our percentage of the energy consumption, water consumption, etc. But, you know, there’s cost savings in what they’ve done to this building here.

And you know, a lot of C-suite people kind of balk at having to pay for these changes. Like as part of our tenant improvement allowance, we had to pay for these LED bulbs, right? Which are much more expensive than traditional bulbs. But in the end, it pays off because our CAM fees are less than our previous building.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, sure, sure. That makes sense. Yeah, I mean, I think we’re seeing this in more and more places all over the place. I see it in airports, shopping centers and so on; much more energy efficient lighting, not just the actual lighting devices, bulbs and so on, that are being used, but, the wiring, HVAC systems.

And now of course, we’re seeing a great increase in smart building technologies, which obviously we’re gonna see much more in the next few years. This is clearly the wave of the future and obviously this helps lower those energy bills. So, like you said, at first you might go, man, this is pricey to put this stuff in, but over time it saves you money.

It’s kind of like a digital signage system, right? An enterprise-wide digital signage system, such as what you guys make and sell can at least sometimes be, ooh, that’s a price tag. But over time it ends up kind of paying for itself, which is quite nice.

So, in that way, it’s really part of these initiatives. You know, on the more personal level, you’ve got things like water reduction, you’ve got recycling initiatives, which means your waste disposal fees get cheaper. And all of this ends up decreasing operational costs.

Green buildings basically give you a 10% savings in the first year. And using renewable energy resources for buildings ends up now being much more efficient than fossil fuel. Maybe 15, 20 years ago that was not the case, but the market has shifted, priorities have shifted, and now we’re seeing that it’s not just possible, but it’s probable that you’re gonna pay back your upfront costs pretty quickly.

Then on top of that, if you own your own building, if your building is green, then it’s actually gonna be valued higher than a more traditional building. So, it’s kind of a great return on investment there as well, should you decide to unload the property at some future date.

Sean Matthews: Well, I mean, of course that is the real backing and purpose behind anybody that’s in commercial development. At some point, they’re gonna want to flip that building, you know, to recover their initial investment after they fill up all the empty suites, etc. I mean, and certainly, you know, LEED- certified buildings are in demand. They are.

And it’s a very strange time in the US market for commercial real estate. Some of these LEED properties and even Energy Star properties are probably moving a little faster than some of the old traditional buildings, I would have to guess. And I think, you know, commercial developers are really paying attention to this subject matter, because people are interested into it. You know, governments are starting to establish some regulations that, you know, control what the output measures should be in new properties and refurbished properties.

And so, you know, I do believe that that’s going to be part of the initiative as the commercial real estate market space, particularly in the States, because of remote work, hybrid work, etc. You know, those changes change what’s attractive in the commercial real estate market.

Derek DeWitt: Sure, yeah. And I think in some places we’re even starting to see, certainly on a local level, sometimes there’re even government grants to help with those initial costs.

Sean Matthews: Those are the types of tools that, unfortunately, it takes government initiative to do that. But it does affect, you know, the private commercial real estate market, which most of it is private.

So, I do think that there are advantages here. Most of the low hanging fruit, I’ll call it, has already been addressed. Things like water, power consumption, for example, and as you noted, energy loss through windows seals and that kind of stuff. But now we’re obviously creeping towards all the other little things that everybody can do. Obviously that’s where we fit in. ‘Cause we’ve really kind of hit on the external benefits of saving the planet.

But, you know, now we kind of can change our focus, I think, to the gains for the people who use the facility. These types of sustainable facilities, management, personnel prioritize, you know, people’s health and wellbeing. The buildings are designed with proper, you know, ventilation, natural light access, low emission materials that contribute to a healthier indoor environment.

In fact, we used to employ somebody that when we did some refurbishment, there was some off-gassing, and it adversely impacted this employee. And she had to work remotely before the pandemic for six or seven months, because she was having some respiratory illness. So, you know, we wanna obviously create an environment that enhances, you know, productivity and satisfaction.

Derek DeWitt: Sure. Obviously. And as we know, you know, I say this all the time, happy cows make happy milk; happy employees are just better at their jobs. They’re more productive, they use their time better, you know, and that’s another bottom-line benefit, taken over time.

So, that’s talking about the structure itself and the sort of external forces there. Now, we’ve talked a bit about, sort of for the people working there, but there’s also, there’s another external factor, which is brand reputation. And I know that might seem like, eh, who cares? But I think it is important.

Sean Matthews: You know, you see it all the time. I mean, even in TikTok ads, TikTok shops, whatever, there’s a big sustainability component to a lot of the products that are offered. And of course, I do think a lot of it is very B2C oriented, right? But I do also believe it’s a key to improving your overall organizational brand.

There was a survey out in 2021 by a group called Simon-Kucher, 50% of global consumers consider sustainability as a factor in their purchasing decisions. And some consumers consider sustainability to be a corporate responsibility, a social corporate responsibility, and they don’t mind paying more money for that as long as they’re buying from somebody that is sustainable brand. You know, and sustainability in our case, and in many other cases, starts with the facilities.

You know, younger generations, rising generations, are supporting sustainable businesses over those that are unsustainable. And that’s according to Forbes. 90% of Gen X consumers said they would be willing to spend 10% more for sustainable products. In that same survey, you know, 30% said they wanted to improve the environment. That’s personal. 23% want to reduce production waste. We all know it’s out there. The first time you get a job, you see it. 22% want to reduce their own carbon footprint. And then 7% shop for sustainable products just to be a good citizen.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s the thing. It’s interesting that they specified Gen X, which is me. I’ll say, I myself, maybe because I’m in a position to, yeah, I’ll pay, about 10% is the extra that I’m willing to pay to get something that’s more sustainable, provided it really is more sustainable, and they’re not just greenwashing and saying it’s more sustainable. I think when we look at the generations that come after mine, millennials and GenZers, they really have this top of mind. This is super important to them. They really wanna work for organizations that are socially responsible and have sustainable practices. That’s just it.

More and more places are finding that if they, in addition to good life-work balance and things like this, places that don’t offer or promote, and by that, I mean really do it, walk the talk, sustainable practices, they’re finding it harder to recruit Zoomers as they enter into the workforce.

Or maybe they can get ’em, but since that generation already has this that they’re not looking for a career at the age of 22, they’re looking for a place where they can make ends meet, and then we’ll see what happens, you know? So, they’ll just leave in a year or two if they look around and go, huh, this company’s not doing what I think they should do, because a lot of other companies are doing what they want them to do, so they’ll just jump ship.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. I mean, you know, I think that’s definitely the case, you know. And it’s taken, you know, 20 years. My involvement in Visix, you know, dates back 20 years now, and almost 20 years ago we were, you know, offsetting our shipments using carbon offsets, and we were, you know, donating monies to these offset funds, you know? And, that kind of went away. But I do think, you know, younger generations, with it being reinforced even at the elementary and high school level, right? And then of course, there’s also social influence.

All of this affects investment in businesses and buildings. You know, we’ve written in the past about ESG, which is Environmental, Social and Governance; it’s a set of standards that socially-conscious investors use to screen investments. And so, you know, now you’ve got some groups that are looking at your environmental and sustainability efforts, and they can have a real effect on you attracting, you know, capital.

Derek DeWitt: Right. That’s, I think that’s absolutely the case. So, of course, the question one might ask is, so why isn’t everyone doing this? Why are there still some holdouts? So, let’s talk about some of the challenges that organizations face as they try to become, you know, more sustainable.

Sean Matthews: Implementing some sort of sustainable facilities management practice, it could require significant upfront investment, right? And retrofitting existing buildings. And we’re not talking, you know, a small 18,000 square foot building, you know, we’re talking about buildings that are starting at 50, 80,000 square feet, right? And so, that’s not a small building. And, you know, if you want to retrofit these existing buildings and upgrade the infrastructure, adopting all the energy efficient technologies that you want can be costly. You know, it just makes it a challenge for some organizations, you know, particularly smaller ones, to embrace these practices.

And I’m not talking about, “SMB”s, small-to-medium-businesses in the United States. I’m talking about companies that are owners, oftentimes, in real estate investment trusts or whatever, and they buy these buildings. Like the one that we’re in, I mean, this is a great example. Built in the late 80s, it was a distressed property because it’s been sold twice. We’re with the third owner. The second owner put nothing into the building. Nothing. I don’t know this person, but apparently what he was trying to do was just basically live off the leases from the initial owner who sold it to him, and then just let it fall apart. These guys came in and bought a distressed property and, you know, really put money into it. But I can just see from, you know, looking at the building itself, that was not a cheap endeavor.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. And, you know, I think this speaks to something that is, kind of in many ways, the main thing in my mind, which is mindset. Changing the way that you consider these things, the way that you think about these things, you know? And we’re starting to see organizational cultures are starting to shift.

The staff, which is, you know, let’s face it, they’re staff and they’re also consumers. So, in their non-work life, they’re also thinking about this stuff. Maybe they start recycling at home, maybe if they have property, they’re composting, who knows what they’re doing. They’re donating to carbon offset funds, they’re getting a hybrid car, an electric car, etc. So of course, they’re gonna bring that into the workplace.

And now it’s starting to, starting to trickle into management. And I think encouraging those kinds of behavioral changes, they can be, it can be quite challenging. I mean, it requires, you gotta educate people, you need to train them, and you need to really reinforce it continuously until it becomes rote.

Sean Matthews: You know, obviously changing mindsets makes it easier to cope with the financial constraints, right? Because you’re gonna see a buy-in that you might not see if you just go dump a bunch of money in something.

But I will say that probably the second thing that maybe prevents everyone from doing this, as we started with, is there’s this complex unknown regulatory landscape that exists out there, an evolving landscape of sustainability regulations. There’s building codes at the local level. That is certification programs, like anything, can be overwhelming.

And so, you know, compliance with these environmental standards and certifications, like things like LEED, which is Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design. BREEAM is another one, Building Research Establishment and Environmental Assessment Method. You know, and it requires knowledge and expertise.

And like even take a company like Visix or any digital signage technology company like us, which is basically an SMB in America, right? There’s no Fortune 500 digital signage companies out there, right? And so, we don’t have that kind of knowledge, right? We’re dependent on somebody else. And, you know, if we were to hire an expert through our own building, you know, would be just another financial barrier. So, you know, we’re just dependent on this other regulatory expense, which could add to the other financial constraints.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Yes. This is absolutely the case. Yeah. That’s the thing. It’s like, oh, okay, in order to do all this, I gotta spend money on this, money on this, money on this. And also, I gotta make sure that I’m following all the new rules. So I gotta hire someone to do that. Aaaahh! You know? I can imagine it would be very frustrating.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, for sure. And, you know, there’s no easy way around that piece of the puzzle.

Derek DeWitt: Basically, until everybody’s doing it, essentially. We know this in the consumer marketplace, the more people that get interested in something, the lower the cost becomes.

Sean Matthews: You know, digital signage isn’t completely free of environmental costs. I mean, it does have an ecological impact. It’s relatively small by comparison, particularly when you look at, you know, traditional signage. This type of signage, digital signage does not require paper to work. You know, the whole process from the content creation to development of the campaigns, it’s all done digitally, often, you know, through content management software.

It requires one person to run various digital signage endpoints across locations, which significantly reduces, you know, waste and carbon emissions, unlike traditional signage. Unlike traditional signage that uses several tons of paper, it’s toxic ink, every time a new campaign starts. Digital signage can be changed and updated as many times as necessary with no real additional impact on the environment.

I mean, this doesn’t only reduce environmental costs, but it helps your business become more economical. And so, you know, by ending the need to overhaul your traditional signage, to suit your changes in business, like menus and promotions and that kind of stuff, you’re saving time and money and resources.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I don’t know how many people know that paper production, not just are you cutting down a carbon sink, which is the tree, often with, yes, gas powered chainsaws, which emit emissions, and then you’re sticking this stuff through machines, which also emit things, and then you’re hauling it with giant trucks, which also use diesel gas and all the rest of this stuff.

But paper actually is a really water intensive process to make. 20 liters of water are used for every A4 pulp of paper. So, you think about that, you know, oh, I made a slight mistake, lemme just make another photocopy. Hey, I’m gonna photocopy my face. You’re using a lot of water on photocopying your face, right?

According to a website called The World Counts, 26% of all landfill waste is paper, which as it degrades, emits other gases, which are not so great. And, like I think you mentioned earlier, there’s ink on those, which is toxic, and it leeches into the soil and it’s just a whole problem.

So absolutely, the paperless aspect of digital signage is certainly the most obvious sustainable thing there. What else? I think it’s also just more efficient in many ways.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. I mean, it is definitely more efficient. But, you know, Derek, first, we have to address the American audience in this podcast as well, right? Because they won’t know liters. So, it’s just over five gallons, right?

Derek DeWitt: Oh, yes, sorry, sorry! Yeah.

Sean Matthews: And, and so everybody else, A4 is basically 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper, pretty much. So….

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. Sorry, I completely forgot who my audience was when making notes. Yes.

Sean Matthews: So you, you know, you brought up, you know, some of the efficiencies, you know. So, a lot of people believe that digital signage isn’t really eco-friendly because it uses electricity, right? It has some sort of impact on the environment. But a lot of what we use in the business world, right, in the economic drivers of the world, consume power and/or energy. So, obviously we wanna minimize what that consumption is.

And so, you know, it’s true that we do consume power over this technology, but displays have come like night and day. When I first got involved in this industry, you know, CRT tubes and televisions were still out there, right? It still existed in college campuses, at the student union. That’s only, it’s only 20 years ago, right?

Since then, you know, we’ve had evolution through LCD and LED, right? Which are more cost effective to manufacture, they require less energy. So, modern displays are designed to consume far less power. And they certainly don’t cost $10,000 for a, you know, a 55-inch display. Now, you can get for several hundred dollars, and it’s Energy Star rated.

Derek DeWitt: And then of course, the next thing that came out after things started going LCD and LED, is epaper. Epaper is becoming quite the thing. The costs are coming down, with lots of different sizes for different purposes. There’s even full color now that looks pretty good. So, I think we’re seeing an increase in epaper as well.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And I want to tell you, man, this is a crazy, you know, life experience as a professional. I was first exposed to electronic paper from E Ink about 24 years ago. Xerox actually owned that technology, which is, think about it, is quite weird. Xerox owned E ink’s technology, right? But it’s taken a really long time for E Ink technology to really resonate in any market.

And it wasn’t really until the advent of the Kindle and similar devices that this technology really started taking off. And it wasn’t because the technology was subpar or inefficient or anything like that, but there was not a real demand for manufacturing the housings in the communication technologies that change the imagery on the signs, right?

So, the sign by itself has to speak to something, and it does consume energy when it communicates with something that gives it updates or refreshes it or whatever. But epaper displays run on 99% less energy than traditional LCDs. They can last months or years on a single charge. And in our case, we use those little, small disc CR batteries, and 10,000 updates, which is approximately three years.

The materials to make these displays are more durable. They have a longer lifespan. They don’t have the image retention problems that you see in other technologies. Epaper signs, they run on battery power for months, maybe years, depending on how often you update them. They can be installed on, like, almost any surface. It can be concrete, drywall, you name it, glass, without drilling, wiring. Companies have saved thousands and thousands of dollars compared to the cost of, you know, installing onsite LCDs or LEDs. I mean, it’s just a significant cost savings.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. And say, as opposed to other kinds of displays, which are essentially like TVs or kinda like very large computer screens, you know, when they’re on all the time, they’re drawing power constantly.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And so, epaper signs are a little bit different. They only consume power, and it’s most often battery power, most of the people that are producing these technologies, they’re either using batteries and/or they might be using some sort of chargeable system, which does typically require you to remove it from a mount and go charge it and put it back, so it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish there. But in any case, it only consumes power when it is being updated. So, whatever communication medium you’re using to update these devices, it only consumes power when it’s refreshing the image that’s on its paper surface.

Derek DeWitt: Right, exactly. It changes to the next message or whatever, that’s when it uses energy.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. And I mean, the reality is that most operations, you know, when I go around to client sites, around the world really, a lot of businesses, you know, make the mistake of leaving their digital displays on 24/7, even while their office is closed.

Certainly, it’s important to look at, you know, if you’re going with this traditional digital signage route versus epaper, for example, that you look for solutions that offer automated power on and off features. There’s third-party products like Crestron, Extron, others. Most of the display manufacturers have built-in timers, so that you can even set using onscreen display controls. That way you help reduce consumption and lower the power bill.

And, you know, some displays come with energy-saving features like smart brightness controls that adjust for what the light levels are, in daytime, etc., at night. And the worst case scenario, the last out of the building just turns that last display off in the lobby before they walk out the door.

Derek DeWitt: Right, right. It’s interesting that so much of that is becoming automated or can be controlled remotely, because of course, if you have a web-based CMS especially, I mean, you could even control the content remotely.

Sean Matthews: Oh yeah, yeah. Almost all digital signage content is being controlled using a CMS, a Content Management System, pretty much can be accessed from anywhere in the world. And you can provide these updates to signs instantaneously from, you know, wherever, it doesn’t matter. Nobody has to be on site to make these changes. So, it works in the hybrid, you know, work environment as well.

You know, compare this to traditional signs where posters have to be printed, they have to be proofed, and they have to be, you know, removed and changed every time you’re gonna, you know, make a change to this week’s campaign. The internal campaign for employee communications and motivation, for example, all these things help to reduce the carbon footprint.

Derek DeWitt: Speaking of content, one of the things obviously you can put up on the screens is, hey, these are our sustainability efforts, including, frankly, Hey, we’re using digital signage, and this is what it’s saving us, you know, carbon-wise.

Sean Matthews: Educating and motivating people are really key to any of this, right? So, if you use a sustainable technology like this, and it can really help prove our commitment to sustainability, because what you might be incorporating are KPIs and metrics about how much energy a building is consuming, right? So, you’re passing by it in the lobby or in a hallway intersection, or you name it, right?

And not only can you incorporate these KPIs, but you can incorporate little tool tips for what it is that I can do to personally even help consume less energy or water in that environment. And so, you know, we’re using digital signs to help convey, you know, sustainability, educate, motivate employees and even customers and visitors, so they can be more responsible themselves.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And of course, if it’s hosted in the cloud, then you, you don’t have to have as many machines onsite. As we know servers, like they get hot, so they have to be cooled. And that’s a whole thing. But with this, we’re seeing more and more cloud-hosting businesses out there. That’s already a sunk cost. You’re at least not contributing anymore with a cloud-based system.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, I mean, and honestly, Derek, you know, in our corporate environment, we have a small, you know, network room, a dmarc closet. And I think there might be maybe 8 to 10 servers in this really small room, because everything that we do is in the cloud as well. But we do have some legacy servers in our facility, right? And what is interesting is that space requires its own separate HVAC system, that we have to pay for separately. And, you know, it costs more and it’s not nearly as efficient as the vast amount of stuff that we have in the cloud. But I just use that as a reference that, you know, we know that less hardware means a better environment.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. And obviously, we’re trying to find ways to not only reduce redundancy, but we wanna sort of prolong the life of these devices for as long as possible. Now, of course, eventually, you know, everything falls apart. Sooner or later, that device, that screen, that server, whatever it is, it’s gonna just stop working. But more and more often now, we’re seeing that some of this stuff can be recycled.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. Typically, when digital signage has reached its lifespan, it doesn’t need to be disposed in landfills. In fact, we have our own recycling campaign for electronics here in our building. You know, most digital signs themselves now are made out of acrylic and some sort of polycarbonate, which can all be chemically recycled and reused. And so, when these things are all chemically broken down, these components are relatively non-toxic and environmentally safe. They can go on to create furniture, coasters, pipes, you know, other merchandise. Epaper signs fall into the same thing, and they’re almost absolutely accepted at electronic recycling facilities around the world.

Derek DeWitt: I was gonna ask, I wondered if epaper signs were recyclable. I would imagine they are.

Sean Matthews: Yes. Even the batteries that are used can be recycled.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. That’s crazy. Now, like you said, epaper’s been a big growth area for Visix in recent months and years. And you have an even less hardware-heavy system now, this AR space booking platform called Choros, which is your new thing. So, let’s talk a little bit about Choros, and the things that you’re pairing it with and the ePaper signs as kind of this commitment to sustainability.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, so actually with the invention of Choros, which is an augmented-reality-based space booking solution, and what that really means is it doesn’t require an app or any additional hardware. You bring your own device, you open your camera, you scan a QR code or some other NFC-type technology, and it launches an entire space booking interface.

You can pick a room, you can see if it’s available, you can book it there for some period of time. You can add some information about what’s gonna take place in that room. You can actually look at what the room looks like in an augmented reality view. And then once you book it, it writes back to the calendaring platform, and everyone then becomes aware of the fact that that space has been booked at the door from a mobile device. So, you know, not only have we eliminated any additional power consumption at the door, we’ve really created an entire platform.

Because the reality is, is that these traditional digital signs, mounted outside of conference rooms and classrooms, and there are more than 50 manufacturers in the world of these types of signs, but they all require a low voltage run, and they require to be mounted on the walls and they consume power. Most of them consume 30 watts of power. And the one advantage that technology has, which we’ve been producing as well, is it has LED lights on the outside of it, right? And you can see the event schedule.

So, we have paired Choros, our augmented reality product, with electronic paper, and then super-low-voltage availability lights to create an entire platform. Not only that extends to classrooms and conference rooms, but it can go out to desks that are used in hotdesking environments or hybrid environments. We can go all the way down to desk in the forms of desk signs or even just electronic paper name plates, which are very small. So, this entire offering, if you think about what I just said, was bring your own device, an electronic paper sign, which only consumes energy when its image changes, and then third, using LoRaWAN® technology, ultra-low-voltage availability lights. An entire platform that is very sustainable.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, it’s funny, it’s almost like you sat around and looked at a room sign and went, okay, what if we tore this apart into its various components and made each one of those components more energy efficient and then said, okay, here we go; it’s Choros. And people use their phones.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. I mean, and Derek, just to be honest with you, we’ve wanted to solve that problem for a really long time. Because for us, you know, selling a majority of the room signs in North America that we’ve produced, there are several states, and I’ll pick on New York and North Carolina in particular, that have incredibly stringent fire codes. And these fire codes related to recess mounting these electronic signs, for example, made it almost not even possible for some clients to recess these electronic signs because of these electrical power codes and the enforcement by the fire marshals in those areas. So, for us to be able to eliminate that problem for our integration partners and our facility partners, like that’s a big deal.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. And it’s, you know, let’s face it, it’s just using a heck of a lot less power. And room signs were already kind of low power.

Sean Matthews: Yeah, they were. But they still were, in most cases, consuming 30 watts per sign, right? And you start to multiply that, and your wattage starts to add up pretty quickly.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. So, I think it’s safe to say that technological innovations such as these are the way forward. And as I sort of hinted at the beginning, it may seem counterintuitive that technology, which in fact is one of the sources of the issues that we’re dealing with when it comes to the environment and environmental safety and environmental savings and so on, and yet, technology is gonna be the thing that kind of gets us through it. Which, you know, I think it’s kind of poetic, almost, in some ways.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I think that, you know, in the end, technology’s not going to go away. And it’s important for all of us to understand that we need to further pursue technologies that can be recycled, that are sustainable, and those that consume the least amount of energy in their production process and their useful life, and also in their recycled lives.

So, I’m excited about what we’re doing and what we contribute to that type of sustainability initiative, and, you know, and look forward to even making further advances in the future.

Derek DeWitt: We’ll have to have a whole ‘nother conversation about, sort of where the future is going with all this stuff and maybe also some advice on helping facility managers get started in this direction. But for now, I’ll say that it’s been quite exciting to have a conversation about sustainability and digital signage and just kind of the lay of the land.

I’d like to thank my guest today, Sean Matthews, president and CEO of Visix for talking to me. Thanks, Sean. Interesting stuff.

Sean Matthews: Yeah. Thank you, Derek. I appreciate it and, always glad to be here. And, I look forward to the next conversation about maybe guiding people towards what to do to really embrace these initiatives.

Derek DeWitt: You know, I’m on board. I’m a hundred percent sold, and hopefully after listening to this, all of you are out there as well.

Again, I remind you that you can follow along with a transcript on the Visix website under resources and podcasts, and you can subscribe and review us as well. Thank you again for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right.