When it comes to digital signage solutions that can enhance your market exposure, there are several pieces that make up the puzzle and can be grouped as follows:
- Hardware – includes the physical constituents such as screens, network components, media players, mounts etc.
- Software – constitutes the content, device management systems, and the media players’ playback software.
- Connectivity – the path through which the digital signs get connected back to the CMS/CDS. (Can be hard line, mobile technologies or Wi-Fi
- Installation – this is the whole set up process from the site surveys to the last step of installation.
- Content – the continuous creation and innovation of new content to keep the network updated and relevant.
- Procurement – the final part of the whole process where customers buy the various components of the digital signage network.
As noted above, digital signage network creation is not an easy job. The process is quite complex and time-consuming. Whether you need it for branding, revenue generation, information-sharing or even educational purposes, you need to be fully aware of what is required for a complete digital signage network.
What is a digital signage system?
Ideally, several suggestions regarding its definition have been made. The fact that you can’t drive some distance without seeing a digital signage sign nowadays doesn’t mean that everyone knows everything about it.
It is a sub-segment of what comprises the signage. Digital signs make use of the common technologies like LCD, projection, and LED to display videos, images, streamed media and any other relevant information. They can be found in virtually everywhere; places like museums, public spaces, transport facilities, stadiums, hotels, retail stores, corporate buildings, restaurants, etc. They are used to provide exhibitions, way-finding, outdoor advertising, and general marketing.
In summary, any size of the screen that displays any digital content for whatever reason can be termed as a digital sign. Such a broad definition is quite confusing though. In fact, an average individual looking to install the digital sign may not only have problems with this but also while choosing the ideal vendor. There is quite a number of digital signage vendors present in the market these days.
How do you choose the best signage solution for displaying digital content?
Know your needs. This is the first thing to note. Perhaps, you should first ask yourself, “what do I expect from deploying a digital signage network?” This is the first way you can identify your goals, only that it has to be a little refined by the following questions:
- How many screens do I need to deploy?
- For how long will the deployment period be?
- How about your strategy for your content?
- And, at what budget do you need to operate in?
After we lead you through this exploration process, it’s now time we demonstrate our capabilities and the customer decides. When we are sure you understand the intent and the resources required, screen selection and everything else follows. In case you have a challenge deciding, we advice stepping back and thinking it through without making rash decisions.
Know how to select the criteria for signage technology
Now that you’ve got a plan, a budget, and the resources, we now need to select the technology that meets your requirements and budget.
The best part here is that the procurement and installation costs have decreased remarkably in the recent years. You probably have an idea as to your fixed costs, but the soft costs will not be that easy to determine initially due to the variety of services offered and the corresponding business models. The better way to go about this is to analyze the two biggest ongoing costs which are network management and content creation.
The costs of content creation vary broadly depending on the purpose of the network, the frequency of change and the quality required. Below are some of the categories of deployment, arranged from simple to complex:
- Single-screen with automated content – news, weather, sports, FIDS, etc.
- Boards facing the public in a corporation
- Menu boards
- Wayfinding screens
- Video walls
What software is used digital signs?
Digital signage is a huge industry with several vendors each trying to sell their solution. At the highest level, though, the components of almost every digital signage solution are similar. It is only until you can tell the details of the technologies used that you can differentiate from one vendor to another.
For any solution, there are four main software constituents:
- Digital signage software solutions contained in a media player
- Device management software
- Distribution software or content management
- Content creation software
Let’s dive in a little into the details of each component:
Media player software
Every media player is created to support the different types of media through codecs. They decode any digital files like videos, images, IPTV screens, web pages, and make them displayed on the digital signs. Every media player playback various media files through the use of the CPU and GPU where the software resides.
Some advanced software can even save the media files to the internal storage, hence can still playback in case of interrupted network connectivity. This is contrary to the streaming solutions which basically rely on internet connectivity. Some of the advanced features include:
- Giving reports on the individual media through the use of proof of play
- Giving reports on the status and health of the media player
- Ability to interrupt the screenplay for reasons like mobile interactivity, emergency messaging, etc
- Synchronizing content that can be used on different media players
The digital signage industry trend is taking a different direction as it moves from the conventional windows PC to smaller, more sophisticated and less expensive solutions. This is due to the presence of two gearing trends that create better products with cheaper prices. They are:
- Non-PC solutions like the Android, Linux, and Chrome
- NoPC solutions (System on Chip (SOC)). They are screens that need no external media player.
Distribution software and content management
Most software companies operating in the digital signage space are often known as content management systems (CMS). Typically, the CMS provides a user interface that allows the user to organize content for playback after uploading content. You can also set the rules and conditions for the playback and distribute content to a group of media players with the CMS.
In as much as most standard features are common across the industry, some key differences exist in the way the vendors manage their content. A significant distinction occurs with where they install the software and the general management – which directly affect the security, functionality and the business model.
Cloud versus on-premise CMS
The introduction of the modern cloud to the world in 2007 along with the first iPhone was a revolutionary step in the technology trends. For the first time, people could take their pictures, share them and even store them in the most secure place, the “cloud”. Before, in 2006, the Amazon Web Services only offered the first real cloud platform to businesses who were seeking to cut their IT costs and create more value.
Over the years, the cloud services have been on a rising scale. They have recorded an exceptional upward curve for the past few years. For instance, Amazon Web Services, the industry leader, was on the pace to generate about $10B by 2016. Moreover, public cloud infrastructure service expenditure was projected to be at $38B by 2016 and a hike of up to $173B by 2026. This comes as a result of comparing the cross-sectional costs for use of the cloud service against costs of operating on servers.
Device management software
Uploading content, managing, and distribution is just one section of the digital signage network. For instance, if you want to deploy several screens on different locations, it makes lots of sense to be able to manage them remotely. The ideal device management platform should be very powerful, can collect data on the device, report and be in a position to take action:
- It should successfully download and be able to playback media assets. Access the media player and gather playback data.
- Check the health status of the player: memory usage, disk space, temperature, the network status etc.
- Check the screen status where the media player is attached or embedded.
- Checking and executing component updates; firmware updates as for the screen and software updates for the media player.
- Generate alerts on the information in the network using email or through third party consoles (APIs)
If your organization needs custom signage or a way to harness the capabilities of digital signage, then contact us today. Metroclick’s signage experts can help you identify the best options for your industry and budget.