Digital Sign OverviewDon Cockayne
In some of my past articles, I’ve talked about the importance of moving people through the business as fast and efficiently as possible, but today I’d like to talk for a minute about ways we might slow them down just a bit while we take a little time to inform them. If you haven’t had much experience with Digital Signs in businesses yet, that’s the technology I want to talk about so let’s start off with a very basic “Digital Signs 101” explanation of what these are all about.
At the most basic level, a digital sign is nothing more than a TV set hanging up on the wall (or even sitting on a counter or shelf), showing some content. I’ve seen systems that bill themselves as “Digital Signs” that are nothing more than a cheap TV or a small tablet, running some PowerPoint presentation set on repeat. You might even have a version of this type of thing today that one of your Vendors has brought in and setup near the section of your store that stocks their goods. If you’ve seen this type of thing, you probably have that basic concept down ok, but today I want to introduce you to something that takes a more holistic approach to presenting information and explain what a real Digital Sign System might look like in a business environment.
If you’ve been in a Costco or a Best Buy lately, I’m sure you’ve been overwhelmed by the size range of modern displays and all the buzzwords that manufactures throw at us to try to differentiate their “biggest baddest” model from the “just as big, just as bad” model that they are competing with side by side. It’s not important to know all the latest buzzwords when selecting a Display to be used for Digital Signage, and in some instances, bigger isn’t always necessarily better. But there are a few important things to know.
First, when manufacturers create displays to sell in the residential market, they are banking on those devices being turned off a great deal of the day. When placing Displays in businesses, just the opposite is often true and the devices are powered on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so there are times when we’ll strongly suggest a commercial display as opposed to a slightly cheaper residential model. That said though, there are instances where we think its ok to gamble on the lifespan of a residential unit just to keep the overall initial cost of the display as low as possible. There are other differences that often factor into the equation, with commercial displays being made now that are designed to be placed outdoors in full sunlight and still presenting images that are easy to see. Basically, it’s just important to understand that each environment is a bit different, and there’s not a one size fits all solution so it’s worth spending a little time letting us experts figure out how to get you the best bang for your buck when it comes to the size and quality of the displays.
And when it comes time to decide between the residential model and a commercial model, things like warranty, service and repair factor in just like any other sophisticated equipment you may have in the building.
Mounting the displays is another area where multiple options abound. From simple, fixed mount brackets that mount to a wall, to rough duty enclosures or even free standing stylish enclosures that blend well with retail décor, there is a solution for every need. When possible, we prefer signs wired with a physical network cable, but there are also environments where cabling isn’t easy to accommodate so there are wireless options that can solve the problem.
Behind the scenes, there needs to be some sort of device to make the content display on the TV, and we refer to these as Digital Sign Players. Basically, they are just a PC, in a small, somewhat limited form factor running some software that is responsible for putting the pictures on the screen. And just as with everything else, there’s a range of what we can put in here, from ultra-small single display devices roughly the size of a USB thumb drive, all the way up to devices capable of supporting a high number of high resolution displays in a “Video Wall” configuration.
And finally, there’s a software layer that handles the creation of the sign content along with the delivery and scheduling of that content. Here at Applied, we’re a Scala Certified Developer shop and we use the extremely powerful Scala system as the backend of what we’re delivering today.
Further along in this month’s issue, I’ll drill down a little deeper into the way we make things show up on the Displays, but I wanted to give you a little introduction to the basics of what makes up the physical portion of a Digital Sign solution before I get into how we make stuff show up.