British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BC Ferries) has launched a digital signage network on three of its newest vessels, the Coastal Renaissance, Coastal Inspiration and Coastal Celebration. It partnered with Vancouver Island-based digital signage company The Data Works to develop a Scala software-based digital menu board system for the Coastal Cafe, the main food service area on each ship.

The Coastal Cafe is a popular destination, especially during the first 20 minutes of the ferry ride. Inspired by successful digital menu boards on the mainland, BC Ferries realized a digital signage network would allow for passengers to preview food options while they were waiting to enter the cafe, and it could be easily updated to reflect menu changes. It would also allow for cross-promotion of other ship amenities.

The Data Works helped develop a digital signage program that could be installed outside of the cafes on the new vessels. When the BC Ferries team wasn’t satisfied with its first software trial, The Data Works suggested they test Scala digital signage software instead. Richard Hyde, President of The Data Works, felt that Scala would give them the flexibility they were seeking, and that the interface would be more user-friendly.

“Scala gave us an amazing system in the sense that we can pre-program everything from our computers at our desks,” said Andrea Timlick, BC Ferries’ Marketing Manager for Food and Retail Operations. “From a marketing perspective, it gives us the ability to be much more creative and flexible with content.”

Currently, there are six 40-inch menu board screens on the three Coastal ships. Eventually, Timlick hopes to minimize paper signage in the main cafeterias of ships featuring digital menu boards. Another vessel, the Northern Expedition, will eventually feature both digital menu boards and passenger information screens, including local and destination-specific content. BC Ferries plans on extending the digital menu boards to its other ships, beginning with those on its highest-volume routes.

“Aboard the ferries, you have a captive audience,” said Hyde. “BC Ferries has several opportunities to use digital media, and with Scala they can control their content easily.”

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