Digital Signage – Part 2 Planning
Digital Signage – Part 2 Planning
In part 1 I talked provided an overview of digital signage, beginning with a simple definition and some examples. In this post I will be discussing some of the key points of the system in an effort to help with your initial planning.
What type of system?
In the first part, I covered some of the applications that digital signage solutions can cover. I also briefly mentioned what type of system you may be considering. To expand on this thought, answer the following questions:
- What kind of content are you going to display?
Are you going to have basic content like news feeds, current weather statistics, announcements, or are you planning on having a map and/or a menu?
- Will it be interactive?
Most digital signs are going to be non-interactive, BUT there are some solutions that can allow limited interaction with the user; for example, having a directory with wayfinding.
- Where will your signs be located?
This is one of the most important aspects since it will also greatly affect budget. Are you going to have displays in high traffic areas or behind reception desk? If interactive, will they be ADA compliant?
- How much are you willing to spend?
This is going to be your biggest question. Not a lot of people want to spend TONS of money on what some see as a glorified PowerPoint. But, if you have the right plan and mindset, it shouldn’t be too bad.
With these answers, we now have a rough idea of what to look at when we start evaluating vendors.
Open Source vs. Closed Source
Digital signage solutions can be very expensive or not very expensive at all. It all depends on what you want, and what you have at your disposal. It also depends upon how in-depth and or hands off you want to go. If you have a spare computer and monitor running Windows with Microsoft PowerPoint you can have a digital sign. You can even go a step farther and use linux with open/libra office. So all the cost would be time. BUT we want more than a simple PowerPoint.
When it comes to choosing the software to host your signage, you have a few options. Do we go Open Source (community developed) or Closed Source (proprietary software). Open Source software is software that is typically developed and released under the GNU General Public Licenses or other free software licenses. Closed Source is software that is licensed by companies that grant you the right to use their products. There are typically restrictions on what you can and can’t do with their products. Most of the time Open Source is free as well. Some Open Source software must be purchased, but what you are actually paying for is not the software but support. On Closed Source solutions you pay for the software and sometimes a yearly fee for support.
So what are some pros and cons of choosing one over the other? Well when it comes to Open Source the pros and the cons are very similar. The biggest thing about Open Source is that it is free but it comes with no warranty or guarantee. However, a lot of the open source solutions have a strong community that you can call upon to help troubleshoot or solve issues. Open source software is typically under constant and ongoing development. While this can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing. Bugs and issues can pop up where there were none before and upgrade cycles are at the hands of the developers. So if the developers are working on the software in their free time, they may not be able to get new versions of the software out right away. On the plus side new features can be added, and IF you have the knowledge you can even program/debug the code to help add features and solve problems.
Closed Source solutions on the other hand typically are problem free. While there may be some issues here and there, most of the software goes through a level of quality control to ensure that the programs work just fine. However, due to this, most closed source software will come at a price. Some companies will even have yearly maintenance fees you can buy. These typically give you access to phone-support and software updates for that cycle. Some companies require you to buy their hardware as well, which can add to the cost. However, closed source solutions are typically loaded with features, some you may have not thought of using until now. I will discuss this a little more in Part 3.
Hardware and installation of said hardware will be another cost. Many signage solutions can run on fairly light hardware requirements which makes using surplus old machines an added benefit and a cost mitigation factor. However, buying new hardware also can come with warranties that help eliminate any replacement costs in the case of sudden equipment failure. Other costs can include hardware for mounting tvs/monitors, cables, security, and cosmetics. I know from my own experience something as simple as forgetting cables can delay rolling out a system by a few days.
So, now that you have a general idea of what you may be looking for and what your budget is we will start looking at some vendors in part 3.