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Expert Viewpoint: Digital Signage Trends

Jun 2, 2009 12:00 PM, By Ken Goldberg

A look at where digital signage networks are headed in the future.


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Displays

At one time, display hardware was the most expensive element in a digital signage network. However, the sharp drop in display prices over the past two years has made the deployment of a digital signage network more feasible for many organizations. LCD displays have largely displaced plasmas as the standard for digital signage, eliminating worries about burn-in. Some things to consider when selecting displays:

  • Commercial vs. consumer models: Commercial models cost more but typically have a better warranty and life expectancy. Consumer models will always have a TV tuner (usually not needed) and loudspeakers. Commercial models will include monitors (no tuner, loudspeakers optional).
  • Video inputs: VGA will be compatible with nearly any media player, and digital inputs include DVI and HDMI.
  • Size: The bulk of digital signage networks run on displays in the 32in.-to-42in. range. For LCD displays, prices start to escalate as sizes increase past 42in.
  • Screen resolution: Most networks will not require the highest-resolution 1080p displays, as 720p resolution will suffice for their content types at a lower price with high quality. In the current environment, 1080p will only be required for specialized, full HD applications because most content being produced today remains at lower resolutions.

Communications

Connecting the media player to the server requires a reliable broadband connection. Prices for bandwidth continue to drop as alternatives proliferate. In some environments, the digital signage devices can piggyback on existing Internet connections. In others, network owners must decide how to enable connectivity.

Options include DSL, cable, satellite, and 3G cellular. Coverage, cost, and reliability will be the key factors when deciding which to choose. For geographically diverse networks, companies that offer managed networks encompassing several providers with a single bill, such as New Edge Networks, have proven popular, especially when aggregating DSL networks. Depending upon the environment, wireless access points providing a link from the player to a router may be a viable—or necessary—choice. Ensure that WEP or WPA security is supported by both the media player and Wi-Fi antenna.

AV integrators will play a huge role in the next phase of digital signage expansion. The ability of integrators to understand the elements of a digital signage network and the choices that need to be made will increase their value to customers. With capital deployment costs falling, more organizations will launch digital signage projects. Those who can provide expertise and consultation services will find this portion of their business expanding rapidly.

Ken Goldberg, CEO of Real Digital Media, is an expert in digital signage, retail technology, operations, and customer management. He can be reached at k.goldberg@realdigitalmedia.com.



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