TECHNOLOGY PRIMER: entry-level digital signage

Digital signage used to be complex, expensive and really only suitable for expert installation. Now that digital signage is almost universal, a number of suppliers offer products for entry-level and smaller scale installations for independent retail, pub and hotel signs, leisure centres, smaller company reception areas and many other environments where you might have found printed sign signs in the past.

The market for digital signage has grown 20% annually for the last three years and will continue to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future. Intel says that there will be 22 million digital signs in operation by the end of next year, and The Economist puts the value of the market at $5.2 billion. Why is the technology of digital signage spreading so rapidly?

Just think about the alternatives: A professionally designed and printed poster is expensive and slow to produce. Once the poster is designed its content is fixed, and so any changes to prices, dates or availability invariably mean replacing the poster with another. A handwritten notice? Yes it’s quick and cheap to produce, but doesn’t do much for your company or organisation’s status.

visual_magicinfo_01Digital signage is now surprisingly affordable and has very little ongoing cost – and yet provides a premium quality image that can be updated quickly, and even remotely, from a smartphone, tablet or a laptop. Last minute changes to a message, such as a price change, can be made in real time, and without disturbing the rest of the design. Digital signage software uses pre-designed templates, for example a takeaway restaurant menu, which you can adapt with your own text and images.

Integrated solutions

novods-plug-n-play-demoIn the early days, professional systems integrators would often source all the elements of their digital signage systems from separate suppliers. The screens, or ‘displays’ from one; the brackets or ‘mounts’ to hold them up from another; the software from a third; the ‘media player’ – a form of specialist computer to host the software; and the ‘content’ (text, images and video) from a specialist agency.

For larger digital signage networks, such as the advertising-funded systems installed, for example, in shopping malls and sports stadia, this model still applies, but the last five years has seen a complete turnaround as digital signage has migrated to the entry-level.

To set up a simple digital signage system with a single screen or perhaps a couple of screens in different zones of a building is a now a straightforward process, producing excellent and professional results. You will need a good eye for layout, or perhaps the assistance of a graphic artist to configure images and text, and some basic knowledge of consumer technology; if you can operate a Sky box or stream BT TV using Chromecast you should have no problems.

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