Four Winds Interactive: Business through visual communication
Look around you. Regardless of location, there’s every chance that in the last 24 hours, you have received information from visual communications technology. Today, digital signage makes an impact wherever people work, shop, travel and learn – the technology, from high-impact video walls to innovative wayfinding touchscreens, is at the forefront of the digital-first world.
Few companies are as pioneering in their respective fields as Four Winds Interactive (FWI), the world’s leading software provider for enterprise-grade digital signage networks. The organisation’s cloud-based software platform, recognised as the most advanced and flexible digital signage solution available on the market, powers hundreds of thousands of screens worldwide. FWI’s digital signage platform powers the majority of the hotels on the Las Vegas strip; they are behind every deal screen used by Visa and the digital communications on Royal Caribbean Cruise ships; and, last but not least, they are being used to drive the digital workplace transformation of leading businesses worldwide.
“We have the most powerful digital signage platform available,” says Sebastian Gnagnarella, Chief Technology Officer of FWI. Having joined the business a little over a year ago, Gnagnarella has overseen its growth as part of his wider focus on FWI’s overall technology and design strategy. Since development of the company’s cloud platform began in 2012, Gnagnarella states, “Our focus is on ‘pure cloud’. We use the latest cloud technology to help us scale and to ensure that we offer the very best customer user experience, taking digital signage to the next level. The way in which we use technology really is a huge differentiator in the sector – there’s no other company that’s innovating in the same way.”
FWI Cloud is a collaborative data management solution providing a multi-channel interface, displaying any type of content on any screen within a customer’s digital signage network. It is, says the company, “Built with an obsession for the user experience and an unyielding passion to make content contribution and management easy”. For Gnagnarella, this is the overriding factor in every decision. “Our UX and product teams are deeply involved with our customers, looking at how they engage with and use software, analysing trends in digital signage, understanding their feedback and working on several iterations of new features just to be sure they are the very best they can be. In addition, our professional services team is adept at really understanding what the customer needs. And all of that combined gives us a platform that absolutely delivers for our customers, and for our customers’ customers.”
Unlike many competitors, which tailor bespoke solutions to specific customer needs, FWI provides all customers with every feature of its software. It is, says Gnagnarella, a testament to FWI Cloud. “It’s the difference between offering a product and a platform. I believe we have the most powerful digital signage authoring tool available, which allows us to use the same software to build a specific application for a cruise ship, a flight information board, a wayfinder or an employee engagement sign. A quick search on Google will bring up plenty of companies that say they offer digital signage, but there are only a few, if any, that offer a platform like ours that can be scaled as easily across application types as it is across locations.”
As part of his role, Gnagnarella has overseen the growth of FWI’s development team, which has doubled from around 40 to 80 under his leadership. This team takes on everything in house, he says, working across engineering, product and UX work. Development is ongoing, with new features “that every customer will benefit from,” released as often as every two weeks. Alongside this, come larger updates and launches every quarter.
A recent area of focus for the business is workplace digital transformation, which involves the use of digital signage to better engage employees, increase productivity and decrease common workplace challenges. Gnagnarella explains that the company is particularly strong in these areas, with three solutions available to the market. These include FWI® ENGAGE™, a suite of solutions aimed at employee engagement, digital meeting room management solution FWI® BOOKED, and FWI® DIRECT, which offers a flexible wayfinding and directory solution. “When a workforce is engaged, companies are more profitable, people are happier and work is carried out more effectively,” he explains. And FWI practices what it preaches, too. A project commenced in 2010 to create an internal visual communications network for FWI’s employees led to an employee engagement rate 133% higher than the national average.
A further mark of the company’s success was its addition to Vista Equity Partners’ portfolio in early 2019. FWI is the only digital signage provider in the portfolio, which hosts more than 60 of the world’s leading SaaS companies. Vista only focuses on high-growth, market leading companies and Gnagnarella describes the investment as a great differentiator for the business that will allow it to “invest even more in our technology development, but also to continue our upward trajectory of market domination in the fields in which we wish to lead.”
To achieve this, Gnagnarella says that the key aim for the coming years is to continue developing the FWI Cloud platform, while simultaneously creating tools that are intuitive to use, breaking down barriers for collaboration on enterprise-wide digital signage networks and “evolving with the technology ecosystem” that already exists. “New technologies such as AI and machine learning are being considered for future development,” he adds. “However, in the meantime, we will continue to ensure that every feature we add to the platform goes towards ensuring we remain the strongest in the market.”