Monday, December 16, 2013

If you haven't seen this one already... it's worth a look!

The marketing folks at WestJet are a crafty bunch.  They keep coming up with these amazing ideas and this year was no exception. The resulting video has once again gone viral which isn't surprising given their track record.

The WestJet Christmas Miracle video shows a great example of what you can build using basic interactive tools.  I am talking about the "Santa kiosk" that lets passengers chat with jolly old St. Nick.

There is nothing earth shattering here.  A large flat panel display, a couple of speakers, a webcam, etc... not much more than what you'll find in your average kiosk. The lesson here?  It's not about the technology...  It's all about the story.

When designing your next kiosk or interactive installation, take a step back and think of the narrative.  Think of the story.  Think of opportunities to engage your audience and involve them in the story.

Otherwise you risk ending up with nothing more than a "dumb" terminal.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seenspire now offers single Holiday clips

Seenspire is now offering their professionally designed Holiday animations as individual clips.    You no longer have to purchase an entire subscription.  Just pick and choose the clips that are relevant to your location and Seenspire will customize the content for you. This is great news if you're in a country that doesn't celebrate major US or EU Holidays.

Pricing has been set at $149 US per individual clip.  You get the same quality and customized content without the commitment.  Professionally rendered content personalized and delivered onlime.

Interested parties should contact Seenspire.

Check out this link for more details.

*Disclaimer: Seenspire is a client and partner.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Say goodbye to FRED!

Seems one of the early digital signage software platforms is about to disappear.   3M is shutting down it's digital signage division but I hear only the software group will be affected.

There have been no official announcements from 3M yet but the DailyDOOH posted a recent article about it.

The 3M digital signage platform originated with Fred Systems of Waterloo, Canada way back in '97.  The FRED software platform was sold to Mercury Online Solutions in 2003 and 3M acquired the company in 2008.

I remember running into FRED quite often when I started out in the business.  They were very successful but things changed after the 3M acquisition.  Since then, I haven't heard much about them. In fact, I haven't heard about 3M digital signage in years.

It doesn't look good when your web site is stuck in time (a Flash based web site that features a 3 year old press release).  I don't think 3M invested much in the platform so it's not surprising to see it go.

It's sad to see one a digital signage pioneer fade out like this.

Goodbye FRED!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seenspire launches custom digital signage content service

The folks at Seenspire are launching a new customized content service that is sure to be a hit this Holiday season.

Seenspire motion artists will take your custom message and logo and insert them into one of their high quality video clips.  The final product is rendered and delivered in 48 hours.  You just download the file and use it in the CMS of your choice. The content is delivered as a full HD, MP4 video.

The videos are really top-notch and the quality is miles above what you will find in your typical stock footage site. Best of all, you don't need to hire a graphic artist to get personalized content and there are no usage restrictions.  You can play this content on one or a thousand screens and you just pay a flat fee.

Customers in the US can select between three options: Bundles of 8, 16 or 24 custom video clips (you get to pick 2 videos per Holiday). Since some of the Holidays are US Specific, customers in Canada should pick either the 8 or 16 clip bundles.

All major Holidays are presently covered and I am told more content will be added over time.

This content is ideal for corporate installations, public spaces, retail and many other applications.

Disclaimer: Seenspire is both a client and partner. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Font licensing for digital signage

Fonts are one of the many things we take for granted.  We see them everywhere yet we hardly give them a second thought.

Without fonts there would be no print media... no digital signage.  It's hard to think of a world without fonts.

In the days before computers and desktop publishing, type foundries manufactured and sold metal and wood typefaces for printing presses.  Modern type foundries now produce and distribute digital typefaces which we commonly refer to as "fonts".  Font usage is governed by a license that is granted by the type foundry (EULA or End User License Agreement).

Every PC operating system comes with a standard set of fonts and by now, everyone is familiar with Arial and Times Roman.  As computer usage has grown, so has the need for new typefaces and there are now literally thousands of type foundries that cater to every possible style.  Some fonts have even been optimized for viewing on e-book readers and tablets as type foundries keep up with new technologies.

It's important to understand how digital font licensing works, especially in the context of digital signage.
(***Disclaimer! - You must read the license agreement that governs the use of the fonts that you buy.  Each type foundry has its own rules so you must be aware of any restrictions in the font's usage policy.)

Generally speaking, fonts are licensed for use on the computer on which they are installed.  Seems pretty straightforward, right?  Let's see how this works...

  • If you use a PC or Mac to create graphics, videos or animations that includes text you will need a license for the fonts used to create the content.
    • There is no need to buy additional font licenses if your content uses the standard fonts delivered with your computer's operating system. You already paid for those.
    • Any additional font you purchase and use to create your content needs to be licensed.  Each type foundry has its own usage policy so it's important to read the fine print.  Be careful when using "free" or Open Source fonts in your content as some free fonts are licensed for non-commercial use only.  You may need to purchase a commercial license for digital signage use (if available).
  • If your CMS lets you create and render content on remote devices (PC players, Android devices and tablets...), you will need a license for each font used on each device.  If your CMS requires the font to also be installed on the Server PC, you will need a license for that font as well.

    It's important to know where the content is rendered.  If your CMS has a feature that lets you generate an image, video or Flash SWF that gets pushed to your players, the content is rendered on your local PC.  This means the font is embedded in the content and you don't need additional font licenses.

    You only need to purchase additional font licenses when the text is rendered on the playback device itself.  A good example of this would be a CMS with content authoring capabilities that requires fonts to be installed on every remote PC or Android device in order for the fonts to display properly.

    It is a subtle distinction but it is an important one.
  • In some cases, type foundries may have very precise restrictions on how fonts can be used.  For example, some may mention digital signage use specifically.  With so many type foundries, it is very important to read the license before you start publishing your work. 
Fonts are necessary to our work and if we want type foundries to continue to create innovative products, we need to support them and that means licensing their products.

Here are a couple of useful resources:

photo credit: jm3 via photopin cc

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What does the future hold for PC manufacturers?

Things are looking kind of grim for PCs now that Android is firmly entrenched in the digital signage marketplace.  And things won't get better any time soon.  Think of the transition from Flash based animation to HTML5 and Android devices catching up to Apple's new 64 bit processors.

Lets face it... Android devices will become more powerful and content will be optimized for the web.  So what can PC makers do to stay relevant?

Working your strengths

I was reading an announcement about a new partnership between AOPEN and Axis, a major webcam manufacturer. The companies are combining their resources to pair webcams typically used for video surveillance with PCs that can perform dual functions (essentially play content and record video at the same time).  It's a neat idea that is sure to create new opportunities for AOPEN and Axis.  This will be a compelling reason for retailers and banking customers to consider AOPEN PCs for their next digital signage deployments.

It's a great example of working your strengths.  I think PC manufacturers must find innovative ways to use and promote their hardware because there are many areas where Android cannot compete. 

Here are a few examples...

Your typical PC offers way more storage space than any Android device that I have seen, making them ideal for applications where data needs to be stored locally.  This makes PCs less prone to content playback disruptions when Internet access is intermittent.

PC components can be upgraded making them a good choice for long term use.  For example, RAM or data storage can be increased and in some instances video cards can be upgraded to respond to changing needs.

Multi-screen installations and videowalls are other applications where PCs excel.  Android devices simply cannot offer the same flexibility due to limitations of their onboard video processors.  This may change in the future but I can't see it happening anytime soon.

Another point where PCs have an advantage: Remote management tools.  PCs are relatively easy to service and manage remotely.  There are many software applications and online services that provide full remote access to PCs from any location.  This is not the case with Android devices (at least, not yet...).

Is there more to it than cost?

The main advantages of Android devices over PCs remain the same:  Lower acquisition costs and ease of deployment. But it's important to evaluate these statements in the right context.

As we all know, Android devices are essentially tablets and smartphones without a screen.  Major components are repurposed and packaged in a small form factor which helps keep costs low.

By digging a bit further, we discover that many of the Android devices sold as "digital signage players" are simply repurposed consumer grade devices.  To personalize their devices, vendors often install a custom Android OS image and the Adobe Flash player before shipping them out but this doesn't change the fact many of these devices are meant for consumers. They are not designed for the demands of your typical digital signage application.  They haven't been tested for long tem, 24/7 operation.  Their WiFi capabilities can often be marginal and you will find some of them lacking important features like network adapters.

There are purpose built Android devices on the market that have been tested and optimized for digital signage use.  These devices usually include all of the necessary bits and pieces so they tend to be priced higher than consumer grade units.  These devices are recommended for most digital signage applications but the pricing gap with PCs gets narrower.

Pricing will always be a factor but are you really getting your money's worth?  Industrial grade PCs are designed for the harsh environments that we often encounter in many retail and QSR applications.  Industrial PCs are far more reliable than your average consumer device.  They use solid state hard drives, they are often fanless and they can be customized for virtually any application.

But what about the ease of deployment?  While its true Android devices can be powered by any available USB port, you need to have a screen with a free USB port to begin with.  Otherwise you are dealing with power adapters and cables, much like a traditional PC.

Android devices are essentially "plug and play" and this has been a big selling feature and for the most part, this has been the case.  But the same can be said of any PC that has been properly pre-configured by the vendor.  There is little to do when a PCs OS has been optimized for digital signage use and when the player software has been preinstalled.  It's basically the same "plug and play" experience that you would get from any single purpose device.

So, is there hope for the PC?  You bet!  But if I were in the PC business, I would make a real effort to lower the cost of acquisition and I would provide a well engineered, completely turn-key solution.  I see PC installations fail where the vendor didn't spend enough time sweating the details.

In the end, Android may yet win the war but there are still plenty of battles to be fought.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is there a Microsoft mega-tablet in your future?

Fox News recently introduced a new set that includes what can only be described as "mega-tablets".  These are some of the largest touch enabled screens on the market running on Windows 8, making for an interesting wayfinding/interactive kiosk support.
These devices are the result of Microsoft's acquisition of an outfit called Perceptive Pixel back in July 2012.

Cost is bound to be an issue in the near term but as these screens become more popular we may start seeing some of these show up in high-end applications.  Think museums and trade shows. 

Introducing MYOOH. An interactive and creative agency based in Lyon, France

I have recently had the opportunity to collaborate with the team at MYOOH based in Lyon, France and I wanted to share my experience.

I have found the folks at MYOOH to be highly skilled in the development of digital signage, interactive kiosks and wayfinding applications.  They are experts at integrating web and multimedia technologies to achieve results that consistently exceed their client's expectations.

I highly recommend the MYOOH team for your next project.

Google releases HTML5 authoring tool

Google recently launched a free HTML5 authoring tool called Google Web Designer.  The idea is to help promote HTML5 as the new standard for developing ad content on the web.  Nothing better than to provide content designers with a free tool to kick around.
The software looks pretty slick and I'm sure you could use it to create some pretty decent digital signage content.  Since more and more CRMs support the format, it will be interesting to see if this will get more digital signage networks interested in HTML5.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Innovation is knocking. Are you ready for it?

I was reading a recent post by David Haynes about the lack of innovation in our industry and must I say I partly agree.

I see a lot of digital signage installations that are kind of cookie cutter.  Most people are sticking with the tried and true but there are good reasons for this. Most well established commercial products just plain work.

There is innovation in the digital signage sector but it's tempered with a need for stability and reliability.

Digital signage software publishers aren't sitting on their hands.  You just need to look at the speed at which most of them embraced the Android platform.  Android first rolled out in smartphones and tablets then spilled over to smart TVs, car navigation systems and is now found in many other devices we use every day. As the hardware capabilities increased, Android became a natural alternative the traditional PC so software publishers began embracing the technology.

There is innovation but changes don't appear overnight.

Take motion controllers.  For all the talk about the Leap Motion controller and other cool interactive tech, I haven't seen anything replacing touchscreens anytime soon.  The reason is you don't want to learn a new way to interact with a kiosk, you just want to touch the screen just like you do on your smartphone or tablet.  Before motion sensors take over the kiosk and interactive signage markets, they will need to become more mainstream.  I'm sure there are people working on Leap solutions for kiosks, but we're nowhere close to seeing this technology used at the corner ATM anytime soon.

Innovation is a good thing but not at the expense of reliability because there is nothing more frustrating than having to look at a dead kiosk/screen/projector/...(insert display technology of your choice)...

This is why we don't see more browser based content delivery systems.  It's why HTML5 hasn't replaced Adobe Flash for digital signage.  These technologies need to prove themselves out in the field and by the time they do, they will have become mainstream.

There will always be one-off, mind-blowing installations that win awards and get featured in industry publications.  Unless the underlying tech is proven to be reliable, scalable and cost-effective it's just fluff because no one wants to bet their bottom line on someone else's "homebrew" CMS.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Content news (and a survey)

The folks at Seenspire have been busy working on new content feeds over the summer.  Expect to see more news and infotainment content tailored specifically for North-American audiences.  Canadian news feeds are now available for download with US specific content to be released soon.

The studio has also collaborated on an online survey about customized content and I encourage everyone to participate.  It will only take a few minutes of your time and the results will help shape how this type of content gets created.

(Disclaimer: Seenspire is both a partner and a client).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is anyone watching?

I tend to do a lot of driving on Highway 401 between Toronto and Kingston (Ontario) during the summer months and I often stop at the new OnRoute rest areas that are scattered along 400 series highways across the province.  Each location features video walls, pylon signage and an interactive kiosk with travel information.

Since I am in the digital signage business, I make it a point to look at what's playing and I have always enjoyed the content shown on the OnRoute signage network.  The loops are made up of weather information, news feeds, entertainment trivia and a few ads.  The content is professional and the design really fits the venue.

However, I recently noticed some content misbehaving on the OnRoute screens which really got me intrigued.  The issue affected all of the pylon mounted screens across the facility. It looked like much of the video content was stuttering and at some point the screens went dark for a several seconds.  The issue was only affecting some of the content and the worse clip was an ad for a Lady Antebellum album that skipped most of its frames and blacked out the rest of the time.  There was another video that was affected with the stuttering issue but to a lesser extent.  The result was very noticeable, especially when repeated across all of the pylon mounted screens.

To be fair, it's difficult to know when content misbehaves like this.  It's not like when the player hardware is down, which most digital signage platform will detect.  My guess is this was caused by a video encoding issue which is hard to catch unless you test your content prior to distribution.

So you'll say, "stuff happens"... Right?  Well I stopped in another OnRoute location 10 days later and saw the same Lady Antebellum video stuttering across the screens.  It's 10 days later and no one caught this glitch and I'm seeing it in a different location.  Who knows if this is still going on and how many locations are affected. 

Perhaps it's time network operators start publishing a slide that reads... 
"Seen anything wrong with this screen?  Call 1-800-FIX-SCRN"!

I don't know about you but nothing burns me more than seeing content misbehave and not being able to do anything about it.

We should do a better job of catching these problems before they affect entire networks.  By then it's too late unless someone actually goes on site and looks at the screens.

Is anyone watching?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Staples goes digital

Staples announced this week it's launching a major digital signage and kiosk initiative for their smaller urban store locations.   If this pilot project proves to be successful, there is no doubt Staples will probably consider rolling this out across their entire store network.

This is a really smart move from a top tier retailer that is sure to have repercussions across the industry.  We keep hearing about retailers trying to cope with the "showrooming" phenomenon.  Well this is a step in the right direction.

Multiple in-store kiosks will let shoppers browse Staple's entire product catalog and even place orders for office furniture.  Digital signage screens located at the store's entrance will inform shoppers of current promotions and in-store delivery services.

The goal is to increase sales per square foot using mainstream technologies.  I haven't read anything online about RFID, NFC or anything along those lines.  Sticking with reliable, time tested technologies simply means this project has a better chance of success.

There is a place for pushing the envelope and this is not it.  I wish the folks at Staples all the best with this and am looking forward to seeing the program implemented at my local store.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Intel enters the digital signage software market...So what?

Intel just announced it is entering the digital signage software market, launching a SaaS (software as a service) platform that will compete with a lot of their clients.  Everyone was expecting this following the announcement that Intel had purchased some intellectual property from Ryarc earlier this year.  So what's the big deal?

Well for one thing, digital signage software publishers now have a new competitor. Up until now, Intel was seen as an ally since the company offered PC hardware, audience measurement solutions and remote control technologies. By launching their own SaaS offering, Intel can potentially compete with everyone else in this space by providing a top to bottom solution.

We now know this is a pure SaaS play priced at the lower end of the scale, which will probably not impact the high-end digital signage market.  Still, the Intel name carries a lot of weight so this announcement is sure to make some people nervous.  These would be the folks who create and sell software solutions that run on Intel's hardware.

Before we jump to any conclusions, let's pause for a moment and reflect on what typically happens when  a large technology company acquires a smaller organisation.

  1. Acquisition is announced with great fanfare.
  2. Acquired product/company gets integrated into the new organisation.
  3. Core members of the original development and management teams leave.
  4. Development of the product is suspended or severely curtailed.
  5. Product stagnates.  Gets shut down or sold after a few years.
Here are a few notable digital signage software acquisitions that haven't really made a big impact:

  • 3M acquired Mercury Online Solutions in 2005 with their FRED digital signage software platform and created 3M Digital Signage.
  • Cisco acquired Tivella in 2006 and launched Cisco Digital Signage.
  • NCR acquired NetKey in 2009.
What do these 3 acquisitions have in common?  In each case, a well known digital signage software company was purchased by a large corporation whose focus was elsewhere. For 3M, Cisco, NCR and now Intel, digital signage is a side-business. It is not a core activity so there is less tendency to innovate and lead.

This probably explains why digital signage products from these large corporations tend to be more complex and less intuitive than many competing products.  For them, digital signage is one part of a much larger ecosystem that involves networking products, kiosks and other products.

Meanwhile, smaller dedicated software publishers continue to innovate and grow.  Think of all the recent Android product announcements since the beginning of the year.  Digital signage software publishers aren't afraid of reinvesting in their business and continuously improve their products.

So will Intel become a big player in the digital signage space?  Only time will tell but I wouldn't loose too much sleep over it.  The odds are not in Intel's favor.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do more with digital signage

I felt compelled to write this article after reading David Hayne's posting about a Danish company that lets users display fine art images on their screens.  Folks in the digital signage industry tend to get focused on the information and advertising business but there are a lot of other interesting opportunities to consider.

For example, digital signage can be used in architecture or as an interior design element using Christie Micro Tiles, video walls or projectors. 

Back in 2009 I wrote about a Winnipeg, Alberta company called "Skycandy" that specialized in environmental content for ceilings.  They offered various products like back-lit photographs and video content that depicted a view of the sky to convey the feeling of being outdoors.  The content was captured from the vantage point of someone looking straight up to the sky while walking in a forest and other locations.  They also offered night sky views which looked quite stunning.

The company's web site is gone now and I never got the details on the technology so I don't know how they displayed the video content from the ceiling.  The cost and security issues may have made this a bit of a hard sell (think big plasma screens hanging above your head).

On the other hand,  Skycandy offered an interesting solution that could be used in medical clinics and public venues.  I can almost imagine sitting in a dentist's chair, looking up at the sky with clouds floating by...  Makes the whole experience seem a bit more tolerable.

It's easy to look at digital signage from a purely advertising perspective but a whole range of new opportunities emerge when you consider architectural and interior design applications.

Here are some examples:
  • Restaurants.
  • Professional offices (lawyer, accountant, etc...)
  • Medical centers and clinics.
  • Museums.
  • Gyms, spas and fitness centers.
  • Car dealerships.
  • And even retail stores!
Say you want to throw a Monet, van Gogh or Warhol on your wall.

Perhaps show a panning view of the Grand Canyon...

Fine art or environmental content can help enhance your decor and even transport your audience to a whole different place.

Here are a few tips that will help you get started:
  • Quality is key. Use high resolution content and high-end hardware to deliver your content.
  • Think big... Big-screen, multi-screen or projection.
  • Make the hardware fit your decor.  Hire a professional interior designer who knows A/V.
  • Content can be abstract motion graphics, fine art or photo-realistic depending on the venue.  Creativity is essential.     
  • Make sure you have budgeted for quality hardware and high-end creative.  This is all about creating a big impact and conveying a "premium" image.
Used in this way, digital signage can create a special mood or enhance a brand's image without the need for advertising, live news or weather feeds.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Are SSDs really better than traditional hard drives?

More and more PC hardware vendors are swapping out traditional hard drives and replacing them with solid state drives (SSD) which use flash memory.  The logic behind this being traditional electro-mechanical hard drives are more prone to failure than solid state devices.

It makes sense to expect SSD drives will be more reliable since they have no moving parts. They are certainly going to be more tolerant to shocks and vibration.

We also know that  SSD drives can transfer data much quicker than traditional hard drives.

The only real downside is the higher cost of SSD storage over traditional hard drives.  Or is it?

Here are a couple of interesting blog postings that debunk some popular misconceptions about flash memory and its use in SSD drives.

SSD Reliability lower than discs?

How does flash storage fail?

The SSD reliability article dates back to December 2010 and it is true that 3 years is a long time when you are talking about technology.  While I am sure that SSD storage has been getting more reliable over time, there is still a place in digital signage for traditional hard drives, especially when your project has limited budgets or has high data storage requirements.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Introducing Seenspire!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Samuel Mekonen of Seenspire about the current state of digital signage content services.  Like many entrepreneurs, Samuel is very motivated and enthusiastic about his company’s products.

For those who haven’t heard about them, Seenspire offers high-quality rights-protected content to an ever expanding list of global customers.  Seenspire started out as a content creation firm but they quickly discovered there was growing demand for high-quality, rights-protected content for digital signage applications.

To fill this gap, Samuel and his partner Richard Buhn launched an on-demand content service which can be accessed from their e-commerce portal at

The site offers content for a wide range of applications.  From news items to sport scores and financial information.  Content is available in multiple languages making this a true global offering.  The company still offers custom content services but they put a lot of effort developing a true self-serve option for digital signage users who need good content right now.

Samual says, “Clients sometimes ask why they should pay for content that is readily available through RSS feeds.  The answer is simple.  Most RSS feeds are licensed for personal use only.  Meaning the content will be viewed on your own PC and not redistributed through a digital signage network.  Commercial content redistribution falls under a commercial license which must be negotiated with the content owner.  In many cases, re-distribution rights may not be available for your intended purpose so that’s where we come in.”

In order to bring you the rights protected content that you need, companies like Seenspire enter into distribution agreements with content owners, ensuring all available content has been cleared for digital signage use.  Seenspire goes even further than traditional RSS feeds by “wrapping” the content in a professionally designed full screen Flash presentation. You can choose between different graphical treatments like rotating 3D cubes or flowing ribbons and the content updates itself automatically.

Here are ten reasons why you should rely on Seenspire for your live content needs:

  1. The rights to the content has already been negotiated for you.  You pay a monthly fee per player (max. 4 screens per player) and nothing more.
  2. The content is easy to use.  Seenspire provides you with a URL or Flash SWF that you download and schedule in your content management system.
  3. There are no long term commitments.  Just buy what you need for as long as you need it.
  4. The content is visually stunning.  It grabs your audience’s attention and retains it.
  5. You have lots of topics to choose from, like daily news, weather and infotainment.
  6. The content refreshes automatically and works with most digital signage solutions.
  7. Global news content is available in many languages such as English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.  More languages will be added in the future.
  8. Localised weather content is available so customers in any geographic area will receive relevant news and information.  If your location isn’t currently supported, Seenspire will try to source and license content.
  9. RSS feeds can sometimes go offline without any warning.  Seenspire content will be there for as long as the subscription is valid.
  10. Purchasing content from the Seenspire web site couldn’t be easier.  Select the type of content and style then add your selection to your basket.  Check out when you are finished then download your content.

It doesn’t matter if you are running a single screen or a hundred screen network.  Seenspire content will help enhance your image and entertain your viewers.  Best of all, the content updates itself automatically for as long as you maintain your subscription.

In my opinion, this is the easiest way to add professional, attention-grabbing content to any digital signage project.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It pays to work with a professional

When thinking of a new digital signage installation, it's always tempting to consider doing the work yourself.  After all... How hard can it be?

Perhaps you should consider some of the many implications.

Liability and safety

A professional installer should have the required insurance and certification so you're covered in case there is a problem.  Beware of fly-by-night operators or craigslist ads promoting cheap installation services.

By now you've probably heard about the tragic accident that occurred in March when an airport digital signage installation fell on a family, killing a 10 year old boy.  I don't know if there was an investigation following this incident but this should be a real eye opener for anyone considering "going it alone" or relying on unqualified help for any screen installation.

Professional installations look and perform better

Digital signage installations require network cabling and close access to a 110v power source.  In many cases you will also need a sturdy bracket mounted to wall studs. Should you use WiFi or cables?  So many decisions...

It's one thing to install a flat screen TV in basement, but try hanging a digital signage screen from a restaurant's ceiling and see the complexity level rise.

A good installer can help.  They will know the proper way to mount your screen in a safe and secure way.  They will know which networking technology is best according the site's physical characteristics.

Unless you have the experience, the right equipment and the right tools, you're better off leaving it to the pros.

You get access to the best technologies

Good installers keep up with the latest technologies.  They can help you select the best video distribution system or the newest bracket for your video wall installation.  They know the difference between consumer grade equipment and more robust commercial products.  Here again, safety is job one so it doesn't pay to go cheap.

While it's true the new Android Players and Smart Screens simplify digital signage installations, it's important not to skimp on mounting hardware and installation.

What should you look for?

Qualified installers and integrators can be found through professional organisations like the Digital Signage Federation or the Digital Screenmedia Association.

It does pay to work with a professional.

photo credit: pni via photopin cc

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Digital Signage News

Navori launches Android Player

Following a successful launch in Amsterdam and Las Vegas earlier this spring, Navori SA announces their new Android Player and upcoming Navori QL software update.

I have had the opportunity to try Navori's new Android player so here are my observations.

I really liked the fact there is no difference when managing content between Android and Windows players.  Anyone familiar with the Navori QL Manager web based interface will feel right at home pushing content to both platforms.  It makes the product really attractive to shops that aren't familiar with Android and they benefit from lower hardware costs.

The company's goal was to offer the same visual experience on Android as they were already offering on Windows and from what I have seen, the goal was met.  I think this new product will be quite successful.

With so many software developers launching new Android players, Navori had it's work cut out but I am quite pleased with the result and I'm looking forward to spending more time with the product.

Flypaper releases new version with support for QR codes, charting and more...

Flypaper Studio Inc. has also released a new version of their flagship content development tool.  Flypaper 3.9 adds a bunch of new features...

  • New QR Code component.
  • New Charting component.
  • Improvements to many existing components like the Image Cube, Image Gallery, Clock, Weather and CSV connector.
  • The application's built-in library (called "Flybrary") now lets you scan the contents in a list view.
  • New digital signage templates have been added to the Flybrary.
  • A "safe image search" feature has been implemented. With this feature enabled, only appropriate content will be shown when you perform a search.
Flypaper never ceases to amaze me with every new update.  You still get professional results with no coding required.  If you haven't already done so, check out Flypaper.  You will be surprised by the quality of the content you will create with this tool.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I am always amazed by all the creative resources we have available on the web.  It's easy to find inspiration and online apps that make your life easier.  In many cases these resources are free or available at very little cost.

Here are a few examples ...

Graphics Tools

Not everyone can afford professional software applications unless it's part of their daily work.  In many cases I find online photo editors can be just as useful, especially if you're only re-sizing or cropping an image before uploading it to your digital signage app.

I have found EDITOR by Pixlr  and Photoshop Express Online Apps which are great for quick image edits.  Note that Adobe is phasing out their Photoshop image storage plans in favor of a new service called Adobe Revel but you can still use the Photoshop Express Apps to edit your images and store them on your local PC.

I also use online web design resources for some of my digital signage content work. Sites like Subtle Patterns or Patternizer are a great place to start when designing a template background or other visual element.

Colourlovers is another great source of inspiration for anything related to colours.  It's easy to get lost on this site but it's worth a visit if you want to discover new colour palettes or are simply looking for new ideas to incorporate into your next digital signage project.

Video Tools

If you are an Adobe After Effects user, you must check out this blog article.  It lists 28 best motion graphics blogs and resources.  It's a bit technical for novices but still offers a lot of neat information and inspiration.

A lot of digital signage pros use After Effects so it's worth checking out if you are serious about your content.

I also found an online video bitrate calculator.  It's quite technical but worth a read if you want to learn more about video file optimization.

photo credit: Aristocrats-hat via photopin cc

Monday, March 25, 2013

Intel's entry-level audience measurement service is now free

Intel's AIM Suite (Silver Edition) is now available for free.  This software-as-a-service (SaaS) audience measurement platform can provide basic information such as:

  • Face detection and number of people who saw a message.
  • How long each detected viewer looked at a message
  • HTTP API: The data collected by the AIM Suite can be retrieved and stored in your own database for further analysis
  • 3 Months of data storage on Intel's servers
  • 24 AIM Analytics Reports

This is a great way to become familiar with this great audience analysis tool at no cost or you can order a free trial of the full featured AIM Suite Gold Edition for 90 days.

So what will you need to get started?

Your digital signage player PC should run on a Intel Core i3, 2.4 GHz or faster processor (3.2 GHz is preferred), any version of Microsoft Windows up to Windows 7, Ubuntu 11 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2, 4 Gb of RAM for Windows Vista or Windows 7 (2 Gb for all other operating systems), 20 Gb of free hard drive space.

You will also need a USB webcam to capture the data.  Recommended models are Logitech C910, C920 or QuickCam Pro 9000.  Other cameras from Axis and Panasonic are also supported.

A camera set to a resolution of 640x480 can detect faces at a distance of 25 feet.  The distance can be increased via the camera's resolution settings.  Obviously, proper lighting is a must to ensure adequate audience detection.  The AIM Suite works best under a brightly lit and evenly illuminated indoor environment such as what you would find in a typical supermarket.

It's important to note the AIM Suite does not record any personal information.  It uses anonymous sensors to record broad parameters such as gender and age range, viewing times and duration.  No faces are recorded or archived.

The AIM Suite is supported by many digital signage software vendors, including the Flypaper content development platform.  For example, Flypaper users can integrate their content with AIM Suite and trigger content based on the audience's gender.

Audience measurement tools like Intel's AIM Suite are becoming increasingly important for advertising firms and brand owners as media playback data is not the most accurate measure of campaign effectiveness.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will social networking kill corporate digital signage?

I recently read a commentary on that asked the question "Are corporate digital signage networks dead?" and it got me thinking...  Are we missing the point?

The fact is, many organisations rely on more than one channel to communicate with their employees.  We already have intranets, bulletin boards and digital signage.  Social media is just one more tool.  It's not a replacement for existing tools, it's one more piece of the puzzle.

It's important to note one of the biggest headache when launching a digital signage network is where to find good content and how to keep the information relevant and fresh.

One easy solution: Display content from the company's own intranet.  This way existing content is re-purposed and made available to folks who may not have easy access to the corporate network (factory workers for example).

Adding a live data feed from the company's social media network is another excellent way to keep your staff informed on the latest news from co-workers and management.  Social media is nothing more than a continuous source of current information.  This is why smart digital signage operators should rely on it to feed their screens.

photo credit: occhiovivo via photopin cc

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thinking of designing interactive kiosk applications? Read on...

One of my first multimedia project was designing an interactive information kiosk for a big Canadian retail chain.  This was back in 2001 and there were few really good multimedia authoring tools.  You had your pick of Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash and Designer.  In those days you had no choice but to learn the application's native scripting language and forge ahead.  Flash had ActionScript and Designer had Lingo.  This was before Java and Web 2.0 tools took off.

I designed my kiosk in Flash and learned the application's the scripting language but I wished I could spend more time designing and less time coding.  I didn't really want to become a programmer.

Seems each new release of Flash brought in more coding options and with it more complexity for people who just want to focus on their application's design and usability.   Flash was becoming an online media delivery system and Director became a game development tool.

So what could a designer to do?  They could learn the necessary programming languages or partner up with  programmers.  Partnering is not always a good option.  Programmers aren't designers so there is a lot of time wasted just in communicating back and forth.  This can often lead to higher development costs and project delays.

There had to be a more efficient way.

I tried many software applications that let you create Flash content without (much) coding but none was really geared towards interactive content development.  They were mostly good for creating web sites and scrolling text banners.  I needed something "commercial grade" so I kept looking and eventually I found Flypaper.

Flypaper lets designers create high quality interactive applications quickly and efficiently.  There is no coding involved which means designers can concentrate on the look and feel of their applications.  The content can also be modified and re-published very easily and the results is exported as either Flash or video.

If your project requirements exceed the built-in capabilities of Flypaper, you can simply import third-party Flash content.  Designers can also connect their applications to external data sources like Google Docs, Google Calendar, CSV files, PHP and .NET with no coding.

Flypaper is a really useful tool for any digital signage and interactive kiosk project.  Flypaper's built-in components lets designers focus on the end-product while the software handles all the back-end programming.  Adding buttons, clocks and weather forecasts is as simple as drag and drop.

This is not my first article about Flypaper but I really believe it's one of the best all-around multimedia/interactive content development tool on the market.

It's part of my content development toolkit and I highly recommend it.

 photo credit: jessleecuizon via photopin cc

Monday, March 4, 2013

2013 Digital Signage Expo Review

I attended the DSE in Las Vegas last week and here are some observations...

Is the PC dead?

Lots of software folks were showing Android based solutions.  There was also a lot of activity around the Samsung Smart TV hardware that will be supported initially by Broadsign, signagelive, Four Winds Interactive and Wireless Ronin.  There was also some buzz about the Raspberry Pi hardware being used in digital signage.

So what does this mean for the traditional PC player?

Well, there have been many non-PC based hardware solutions on the market for a while and that hasn't stopped PCs from powering most digital signage screens.

Android is probably going to take the lead in non-traditional PC hardware since it is so popular in smartphones and tablets.  The hardware keeps getting more powerful to the point it now rivals PCs in multimedia playback capabilities.

The biggest issue with Android will be finding hardware manufacturers that can deliver highly reliable commercial grade units.  The current crop of cheap, consumer grade Android players is probably not suitable for true 24/7, year-round use.

The Raspberry Pi is mostly aimed at hobbyists and students.  I am not aware of any commercial grade versions but this will probably change very soon.  I expect to see some type of commercial Raspberry Pi based DS solution before year's end.

What did the show tell us about the industry?

In previous DSE's you would find the big software vendor booths right at the entrance.  These were custom built affairs with elaborate layouts and lots of staff. The hardware guys would occupy smaller booths right behind the software vendors and their booths would be a bit more discrete.  You had a sense software "ruled".

Now, the roles are reversed.  The screen manufacturers are now front and center.  You walked into the show and you found  Samsung, LG, NEC with Sony and Philips not far behind.  Intel was there too with an very nice booth showing  innovative new technologies.  The NEC booth was a multi-level affair and there were some big bucks spent at the Samsung and LG booths.

The software guys were located further back.  The booths were smaller and more discrete.  Some were almost stripped-down to the bone (Wireless Ronin and NCR, to name a few).

So what's changed?

The software side of the business is now more mature.  Products have settled into their own niche and profits are probably lower.  This probably explains why software vendors are embracing any technology that lowers deployment costs. Software vendors can't spend their way into more market share, hence the reduced footprint.  There were a couple of exceptions.  Four Winds Interactive and Stratacache had larger and more elaborate booths than I had seen in past shows.

This year, hardware is king.  Screen manufacturers, processors, off-shore equipment manufacturers and even screen mounting hardware folks spent big money on lavish displays.

Used to be hardware was seen as more of a commodity.  It wasn't sexy but this is changing big-time.  Now it's all about innovation and reducing costs.

What about the hot technologies we've been reading about?

There was (thankfully) very little 3D shown at the show.  In fact I saw only two 3D screens and that was plenty.  This technology is simply not taking off.  It's expensive, content costs more to produce and it doesn't work.  If you need to be standing 15' and dead center from a 3D screen to get the effect then it's not suitable for public venues.  It's a gimmick and people aren't buying it.

I saw one booth promoting an e-paper solution.  It looks good as a replacement for black and white print material and not much else.  This will eventually take off but there are still details that need to be ironed out before this becomes mainstream.  Since e-readers have been around for a few years you would think we would have seen some traction in digital signage but it's not happening yet.  You would think E-paper would be great for exterior applications, especially in daytime but I had an e-reader screen go dark on me once because the sun beating down on it had overheated the display.  Not sure if that's the issue but I hope we see more of this technology in the near future.

I also saw some interesting flexible LED material that will be really great for large exterior applications.  You can wrap a building in this stuff (not cheap I am sure but what an impact that would make!).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Adding value with tablets and touchscreens

I recently visited the Toronto Auto Show and couldn't help but notice all the tablets that were installed next to each vehicle.  I was surprised to find many were nothing more than interactive brochures, but it doesn't need to be that way.

If you're going to invest in developing content and deploying interactive technologies in a trade show environment, better ask yourself a few questions:

1- Am I adding value?

Sometimes, a printed sign may actually be the best way to deliver your message.  Unless you have a good concept that requires a tablet, don't invest in the technology just for the sake of it.  For technologies to be more than a passing fad, they must add value otherwise they are a waste of money.

Letting me spin a 3D rendering of a virtual car on a 7 inch tablet when I'm standing right in front of the vehicle achieves absolutely nothing.  It is a waste of time.

2- Is the technology making a difference?

Look for opportunities to innovate but stay away from cheap gimmicks (see above).  If your competitors are displaying similar content using the same method, you are doing it wrong.  Leverage technology to "wow" your audience.  Just slapping a tablet in front of someone won't make the experience memorable.  You need to do more and if you can't, do something different.

Case in point... I'm 3 pages into a car spec sheet on a tablet when I'm offered a QR code.  I scan the code with my smartphone and I am redirected to a web page that shows me the exact same information.  This is another wasted opportunity.

Let's think about this for a moment... You're asking your audience to dig through their pockets to fish out their phone, fire up a QR scanner, scan the code and then... you rehash the same information they just flipped through.  Why not have the person enter a contest or sign up for some type of reward?

3- Are you making efficient use of these technologies?

Getting back to the example above, why not simply place QR codes on the vehicle itself so people can retrieve information about the various features of the car as they are experiencing it.  Turn it into an "Easter Egg hunt" of sorts.  This is how you engage and entertain your audience.  Sometimes, flipping pages on a small touch screen is simply not enough.

I have seen great examples of useful and entertaining installations that use tablets and touchscreens.  There are interactive restaurant menus, retail product finders, multimedia kiosks and many more...

To be successful, your next interactive project must connect with your audience and add value.  Otherwise you may as well call up your print shop.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A few good digital signage blogs

I try to post articles that will be useful to anyone interested in the digital signage space but there are lots of good blogs that cover this subject. Here is a list of some of the best resources that I regularly visit.  Some will be familiar but I tried to list the sites I read on a regular basis.

By the way, if you publish any useful digital signage related info and I missed your site, please forward me your URL and include a short description.


One of the best known source of information in this industry.  DailyDOOH  covers every aspect of the digital signage space.  Great source of industry news (and gossip).  DailyDOOH is based in the UK with contributors worldwide.


This is a digital signage blog written by the team at ConnectedSign LLC.  This is a blog that dispenses great advice to anyone looking to enter this business.  The company has been around for many years and has many great projects behind its belt.   Good place to start when you're looking for inspiration.

Digital Signage Insider

This blog is written by Bill Gerba of Wirespring.  Bill has been reporting on the state of the industry since the early days.  You will find on this site business insights and metrics that are really useful when planning your next roll out.

Digital Signage Pulse

Nurlan Urazbaev's site is a daily archive of digital signage related articles.  If you want to keep up with the latest digital signage news, be sure to bookmark this site and visit it often.  It is a great source of information.

UBC Digital Signage Blog

The University of British Columbia's digital signage team publishes a blog that covers the use of this technology in an educational setting.  Anyone interested in this space should spend some time there and on the department's web site.  This is a great example of how to deploy and use digital signage in a school, college or university.  Great info.


Good articles written by long time consultant, blogger and industry commentator, David Haynes.  This site is a fine source of information on the companies operating in this space and the people behind them.  David has a great writing style which makes for an entertaining read.  Be sure to drop by.  You will learn something.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to become your own broadcaster

Just read a great article on David Hayne's Sixteen-Nine blog where he discussed a new solution for "micro-broadcasting" from a US company called West Pond Enterprises.  The company sells a technology that lets network operators broadcast video signals inside retail spaces and large facilities (think convention centers, arenas, and similar venues).

Up until now, remote content updates required a hard wire or WiFi connection and neither solution is ideal in large facilities.  

Laying out network cabling is expensive and once it's done you don't really want to move it around.  WiFi is much more flexible than cables but environmental factors can impact it's reliability.  Then there are the  potential security issues, interference from radio and electronic equipment...  The list goes on.

In many cases, IT folks don't want you near their networks.  They don't want your data to eat up their bandwidth and they certainly don't want their LAN exposed to security breaches. 

This is when a "white space" broadcast delivery system becomes interesting.
And it gets better...
  • In many situations you only need a single digital signage player (meaning one software license and PC or other dedicated hardware) per location to feed multiple screens.
  • You can use any TV screen with a digital tuner.
Pricing puts it between cabled installations and WiFi but when you factor the need for one PC and signage player license per site, you're looking at a very cost effective option.

As David says in his post, we've all be told consumer grade screens is a big no-no in this business and  most commercial screens lack a tuner but in some applications.  However I'm sure there is a retailer out there who would love to mount inexpensive digital TVs on top of their end-caps.  Not to mention QSR locations and other environments that are less than PC friendly.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

Monday, February 4, 2013

Small PC computing will dominate in 2013

2013 is shaping up to be a big year for small, low-cost computing devices.  These devices are becoming increasingly popular in digital signage applications.

Many well established software vendors are lining up with their own Android players. We have already heard of a few announcements during the ISE show in Amsterdam and we will certainly see many more at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas later this month.

So here are 3 technologies that are gaining traction in digital signage:

  1. Android devices
  2. Raspberry Pi
  3. Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing)

Here is why small PC computing will dominate in 2013...

Android based digital signage players

The Android OS is already well established with tablets and phones.  Hardware designed to run Android is very inexpensive and its video playback capabilities provide a very attractive option for software vendors.  Think of it as an Android tablet without the screen.  You end up with either a small "puck" (think Apple TV or Roku box) or a stick that is easily hidden behind any screen. 

Android based Players provide an affordable solution for large deployments that don't require all of the capabilities of a traditional PC.  There is another reason as well.  Many electronics manufacturers are jumping on the "Smart TV" bandwagon which means the market is about to be flooded with screens that already have an Android device built-in.  This is potentially a game changer because it greatly simplifies screen/player deployments.  

No more special brackets to mount a PC behind a screen.  No more cables.  Come to think of it, no more PC!

In order for Android based solutions to become a dominant factor in digital signage, they will need to prove they are adequate for 24/7, year-round usage.  They must also be able to do more than full screen media playback.  For example, they should support some level of screen divisions (content playback zones) and live data feeds.  We already see HTML5 based solutions perform really well on that front so it will be interesting to see how robust Android based players will be.

The Raspberry Pi

What started as a small, low-cost PC kit project for students and hobbyists has started to attract attention from many digital signage entrepreneurs.

The Raspberry Pi is interesting because it can run various flavors of Linux, including Android.  It is also extremely small and very inexpensive.  You can purchase an assembled board without a case for about $35.  Throw in a case and you're still below $50 for a complete multimedia capable PC.  I have also seen complete kits with the OS and cables go for $80 so there are many sourcing options for those who want to try the platform.
No wonder more than a million units have been sold in a year.  With these sales figures, you can bet many of these boards have ended up in software developer's hands.  The Raspberry Pi is another great example of where the PC industry is headed.  Small, inexpensive, quasi-purpose built hardware running on open source operating systems.  Judging by all of the activity around these devices we can expect to see more software solutions developed for these platforms.

The Intel NUC

The Intel NUC was initially announced as an educational and hobbyist PC platform.  Perhaps Intel wanted to test the industry's response to this new ultra-small PC but since it's introduction, the platform has become quite popular as many PC hardware integrators launched their own NUC based PCs.

So what's the big deal here?  Well for starters, this is a full-featured Intel PC.  It is not a tablet hardware platform or a "dumbed down" device.  It's a full featured Intel PC that can drive dual-screens in full HD.  

This unit will run any modern OS and is compatible with most digital signage software solutions already on the market. Software vendors don't need to recompile their software players so you're getting the best a PC can deliver in a really small footprint.

A few specialized hardware integrators like Stealth have been building small PCs for many years.  These were mostly designed for mobile applications and harsh environments.  These PCs were very expensive and they didn't always offer sufficient performance for digital signage.

I think Intel's NUC platform will be very popular for some types of applications but pricing and availability will dictate how well the platform does in the digital signage marketplace.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lockbit enhances PGA tour signage

There is a great article from the DailyDOOH on Locbit's involvement in the latest PGA tournament.  It's great to see the company grow from targeted ad-delivery into a solution that lets viewers interact with digital signage screens.  Network administrators can also leverage the technology to control which content is shown on screen.  It's a smart solution and I hope we'll the company expand even more in 2013.

Digital signage network owners should take a look at this platform.  It lets you engage your audience in ways that most content distribution platforms can't.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 common misconceptions about digital signage

#1 - This is going to be EASY!

Not to burst anyone's bubble but deploying digital signage can be quite challenging.

There are many variables to consider:

  • What hardware/software should I use?
  • What am I going to show on the screen(s)?
  • Should I host the software or should I go with a hosted solution (SaaS)?
  • How am I going to hook this all up together?
  • Where should I locate the screen(s)?
  • Does the location have internet access and power available?
Going at it alone can be a very costly proposition and often vendors will downplay this complexity.

As a good friend once told me... "If this was easy, chimps would do it!".

So before you hand out your hard earned money, seek some professional advice.

You will avoid costly mistakes.

#2 - We can do this for free

Let's see...  We'll grab some free software, throw it on that old Windows XP box sitting in the back room.  We'll hook it all up to the plasma TV from the board room and voila!  Instant digital signage.

Before you dust off that PC, consider this.  Time is money and free software will often lead to a lot of work.  Unless you know what you're doing, prepare to spend many hours going through documentation, help files, you'll be posting a lot on user forums just so you can get your installation working.

It's true that many free and open source solutions are backed by paid support and consulting services.  You will get the software for free but you should be prepared to pay for support, otherwise you'll be wasting a lot of time.

With so many affordable SaaS and self-hosted solutions on the market, it doesn't make much sense to try and "build your own".  If you don't have the the budget for professional software, stick with PowerPoint (or Google Docs).  You won't be able to schedule content or display live news but at least you'll have content on your screen and you won't need to spend too much to get there.

#3 - Content is free

On the internet, images and videos are but a few clicks away... As long as you're willing to pay.  Unless you are acquiring the content from a "free" source (under a creative-commons license for example), scraping content off the internet is akin to stealing.  Same goes for displaying RSS feeds or playing live TV in a public venue without consent.

Most digital signage software applications let you publish pictures, videos and real-time data with a few mouse-clicks.  It is the software user's responsibility to secure the rights of all content displayed on their screens.

Unless you're in the business of creating content, you will need to acquire it from outside sources.  It's best to shop around for royalty-free content providers that have images that fit your needs (see: Corbis Images, Getty Images...) and consider dealing with a content aggregator that has secured the rights for the content.    A good example would be Screenfeed or Blue Fox.

If your budget won't afford professional content, at least look for content that is distributed under the Creative Commons license.  Google and Yahoo will let you specify this criteria in image searches so you should use that switch when searching for content online.

#4 - Consulting? Training? Who needs that?

Perhaps you're a video production whiz.  Maybe you know your way around Flash.  Doesn't mean you know how to prepare content for distribution in a digital signage system.

Digital signage requires a special set of skills that cuts across many disciplines. It's not broadcast... It's not web publishing either.

Digital signage content must often be displayed for days or even months.  It's one thing to load content when someone hits your web page but it's an entirely different thing to have your content loop hundreds and thousands of times in a stable and reliable fashion.

A well designed digital signage platform will manage key memory parameters to ensure trouble-free playback.  However, the need for proper content preparation should not be ignored.

Knowing how to prepare your content can save you hours of troubleshooting and downtime.  These skills are as important as knowing how to configure your digital signage software to ensure a reliable and trouble-free operation.

Spending one or two hours with an expert at the beginning of your deployment will save you many hours of frustration regardless of the software platform that you use.  You will get up to speed faster and become productive much sooner.

#5 - I can't afford this!

After reading this, some of you may think of digital signage as this black hole that will swallow all of your cash.  This may sound like a funny description but if you don't plan ahead, you will end up paying for it.

It doesn't have to be.  Digital signage can be deployed in a viable and self-sustaining manner as long as you do a bit of planning and have a good understanding of the potential costs.

Remember that digital signage can generate its own revenue stream. If you are in retail, healthcare or in hospitality, consider co-op deals with your vendors and suppliers.  This is a great way to offset ongoing maintenance and production costs.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Determine what you want to achieve with your screens
  • Perform a thorough assessment of all in-house expertise and capabilities (technical and creative)
  • Define your budget
  • Target specific technologies that will support your vision (SaaS, Self-Hosted platform)
  • Put out a RFP and evaluate multiple options
Before you get started, consider hiring a qualified digital signage professional who can help nail-down your requirements and translate them into a RFP that is clear and easy to follow.  This person can also help in evaluating the proposals you will receive from potential vendors.

A large portion of your budget will be spent in the planning and roll-out stages. This is when you acquire, install and begin using the technology.  Once this period has ended you will enter the production stage at which point you will face ongoing operating costs  These are: content acquisition and development, administration and support.

This scenario applies to pretty well any digital signage platform on the market.  If you purchase a self-hosted software platform you will encounter a "one-time" acquisition charge early on.  Choosing a SaaS solution will let you amortize this cost over many months or even years which is sometimes preferable.

So there you have it!

I hope you find this little check-list useful and I welcome your comments.

photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via photopin cc