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Synect Day Revealed: 5 Must-Know Strategies for Airports & Partners

Synect CEO Yahav Ran with GOAA retired COO Stan Thornton and retired Director of Engineering Mark Birkebak, AIA Emeritus, present envisioning sketches of the content-first approach used at MCO

Last month, we hosted the first-ever Synect Day in Orlando, bringing together leading airport experience makers, content creators, and industry consultants. The event featured informational sessions, a behind-the-scenes look at our studio, and an exclusive tour of Orlando International Airport's stunning new Terminal C. Together, we explored:


●   Creating an effective, engaging airport content strategy

●   Upgrading legacy digital signage

●   Implementing smart automation

●   Enabling airports to react and respond to their hyper-dynamic operations

●   Where to start and how to build for scale


Below are five essential strategies from Synect Day 2024 that any airport or partner can use to position their visual communication or signage project for success.


1. Control Your Airport's Content Strategy


Intentional or not, every project has a content strategy.


Before and after images of an airport that took control of its content strategy
Before and after images of an airport that took control of its content strategy

Some signage projects have a clear content strategy to enhance the experience, achieve specific effects, and deliver impactful content. Unfortunately, others consider content last, leading to subpar content delivered by expensive systems. Content strategy always exists. It's either deliberate, optimizing the airport environment and passenger behavior, or haphazard, risking confusion and disappointment for passengers, partners, and staff.


The winners are airports that control content strategy and use it to their best advantage.


Airport content strategy should be grounded in the following questions:


●   What are the passengers' needs, and how can we meet them?

●   How do we capture their attention to address their needs with our solution?

●   How can we leverage their attention for meaningful engagement?

●   How can that engagement optimize behavior and support organizational goals?

 

2. Put Content First


A content-first strategy is a north star for hardware, software, and other decisions.



In any visual communication solution, the system and infrastructure exist to deliver engaging, effective content. Engaging content captures attention, while effective content serves a purpose. Delaying content discussions threatens the solution, leading to wasteful hardware spending, costly replacements, and limited capabilities. Prioritizing content strategy informs decisions about hardware and software, enabling cost savings and maximizing ROI.


Additionally, creating successful content takes time. Crafting media for millions of airport passengers at different touchpoints along their journey, with varying messages at each touchpoint, requires focus and planning. For example, combining high-impact video with layers of dynamic data is a balancing act with many levels of design, production, integration, and more. Other examples include ADA compliance, government regulations, and the needs of many airport stakeholders, like customer experience, operations, marketing, IT, and more.


3. Enhance Operations and Increase Responsiveness


Enable quick reaction and automated response to the hyper-dynamic airport environment.


Many legacy digital signage providers serve retail, education, health, offices, and other industries, but airports present unique challenges. Synect started in retail, believing we had built the world's most complex video wall architecture. It spanned three continents, 18,000 displays, 100 locations, and five time zones. Our execution and delivery of content were ironclad. It balanced Microsoft's many brands, products, and partners in one immersive, inspiring environment. But aviation demands far exceed those of retail and other sectors.


Halo experience on the Microsoft Store video walls
Halo experience on the Microsoft Store video walls

In retail, schedules and playlists were predictable. Airports, unlike retail, don't have predictable schedules or playlists. For example, airports require quick adjustments and relocations of airline displays at check-in, with reaction times in minutes. This is easy when it's just airline logos on single screens. Need more airline counters? Put another logo on another screen. Need less airline counters? Replace the airline logo with an airport logo. It's functional but hardly beautiful.


Before and After an airport upgrades their legacy digital signage to an immersive, smart video wall
Before and after an airport upgrades their legacy digital signage to an immersive, smart video wall

Things get complicated when an airport wants to transform from a functional facility into a top-rated destination. This demands visual communication on par with retail, an industry well-versed in enriching its environments with high-end experiences. It breaks visual communication out of the 16:9 box and ushers in an era of video walls, seamless LEDs, and other immersive display technology.


Managing airport and airline branding on large-scale unified canvases is uniquely challenging. One airline's schedule change, staffing challenges, or similar variables can—and do—affect all the other brands and content on the video wall. The old way is changing logos on a single screen, while the new way means all the other airlines and airport branding playing on the massive canvas must also shift and respond to that change.


Our mission evolved to enhance airports' ability to react swiftly and efficiently, eliminating dependency on numerous variables. We developed content that could shapeshift—adjusting in size and appearance as needed—and a self-driven playback system for swift communication updates.


This approach meets the industry's need for flexibility, delivering high-end, responsive content without extensive staff or complex setups. Successful visual communication ecosystems must embrace the demands of the modern passenger and the speed of airports—they must be ready for anything.


4. Implement Shapeshifting Content and Self-Driving Ecosystems


The system should be capable of responding intelligently to thousands of changes—immediately and automatically.


58 unique configurations of airport content to enable a common use check-in video wall
58 unique configurations of airport content to enable a common use check-in video wall

Being ready for anything means that the content must be flexible. The visual communication ecosystem system, not an operator, should react to changes and automatically manage playlist programming and updates. Shapeshifting content refers to the ability of the display systems to adjust dynamically to different spaces and requirements within the airport.


If, for example, an airline needs to move to a different check-in area or change the number of counters they use, the airline content can automatically adjust to fit the new configuration. But that's not the only thing that changes. One big, unified canvas means everything is connected—and one change to an airline creates a domino effect of required changes to adjacent airline and airport content.


We made the system smart enough to:


●   Recognize when content needs to shift

●   Do all the shifting automatically


12 screens of Alaska Airlines content sharing the video wall with other common-use airlines and airport branding
12 screens of Alaska Airlines content sharing the video wall with other common-use airlines and airport branding

Self-driven ecosystems enable rapid communication updates based on real-time data. In emergencies or schedule changes, the system instantly updates the content shown, reducing the need for human intervention. This allows a single person to manage tasks traditionally requiring a significant team. The Passenger360® system integrates various inputs, such as customizable business rules, data like the flight schedule, and user interactions, to determine the most appropriate content.


Content can shift, expand, retract, activate, or turn off without human intervention. And it's not just video—it is layers of live data and complex media, all changing to accommodate the hyper-dynamic airport environment.


Layers of smart, dynamic content including airline branding and FIDS
Layers of smart, dynamic content including airline branding and FIDS

The goal is to enable the airport to immediately and automatically react to changes even on a large-format, immersive canvas rich with dynamic data. The result is more than just functional. It's hyper-functional and stunningly beautiful—a leap from legacy digital signage content and capabilities.


5. Start Where You Are and Build to Scale


It's always the right time to embrace content strategy and smart solutions.


We often get asked where to start a visual communication project. We typically recommend beginning at the security checkpoint, where passenger anxiety spikes, for a quick and impactful solution. Our TSA-approved solution enhances throughput and efficiency and reduces anxiety and perceived wait times. It's an affordable and effective way to address one of the airport's most challenging areas.


A beautiful security checkpoint that prioritizes content and features Synect content and solutions
A beautiful security checkpoint that prioritizes content, featuring Synect work and solutions

When the discussion is more open-ended, we ask: Where do you need to enhance passenger communication, drive engagement, optimize behavior, or streamline operations? It could be after security to highlight your food court, at frequent stops for directions, at the gates to inform and manage boarding, or anywhere else where operations can be improved.


Airports and projects come in all shapes and sizes. Your project may be a specific area like the checkpoint, a renovation or update, or an entirely new terminal. Wherever you are, it's the right time and place to consider content.


Synect CEO Yahav Ran with GOAA retired COO Stan Thornton and retired Director of Engineering Mark Birkebak, AIA Emeritus, present envisioning sketches of the content-first approach used at MCO
Synect CEO Yahav Ran with GOAA retired COO Stan Thornton and retired Director of Engineering Mark Birkebak, AIA Emeritus, present envisioning sketches of the content-first approach used at MCO

Contact us to learn about self-driven visual ecosystems and shapeshifting content tailored to your project's scope and timing. Synect offers foundational, progressive, and signature builds for airports of every size. Whether you need implementation at one location or full coverage, Synect's content services scale, as does Passenger360.


We were grateful to our partners, guest speakers, team, and vendors for joining us at our inaugural Synect Day. If you missed the event, express your interest in next year's event by contacting us or reach out for more information from this year's event.


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