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Picture This: SaaSy Digital Signage

Jun 4, 2009 4:02 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Amid a recession, digital signage’s time has come.

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One of the bright spots in today’s otherwise dark economic picture is a burgeoning digital signage market. According to a March 2009 study by ABI Research, the digital signage business—which, in ABI’s study, includes hardware, software, installation, and maintenance—is expected to grow by as much as 33 percent in 2009. That’s a truly encouraging, if not remarkable, number in these difficult times. It’s also a clear signal that digital signage’s time has come.

All along, digital signage has promised better, timelier communication ranging from targeted point-of-sale advertising to critical scheduling information at transportation hubs to simply a more efficient way to disseminate information across corporate and education campuses. While airports and arenas have been leveraging digital signs for a few years, digital signage is now reaching the broader business world—including much smaller organizations and establishments.

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What has changed? First, digital signage solutions have matured. Software has become more capable, more reliable, and better able to leverage wired and wireless IP networks—thereby cultivating more confidence in the market. An increasing number of successful case studies also now exist, offering guidance to those considering new digital signage installations. Second, hardware costs for flatpanels and player devices have also dropped considerably over the last couple of years, making the cost of entry for digital signage accessible for an increasingly broad market.

Yet digital signage remains complicated and a potentially expensive under­taking at a time when capital investment can be hard to rationalize. In many ways, the visible hardware is the easiest piece of a new digital signage puzzle because the costs are relatively straightforward and can be amortized over an understood period of time. It’s the rest of the digital signage infrastructure—the digital signage software, network management, and the creation of the signage content—that often raise more questions for new digital solution installations and more uncertainty about overall cost of ownership.

While shrewd businesspeople would argue that an economic slowdown is the best time to plan and expand for the future, it’s nonetheless difficult to pull the trigger when present circumstances are so unsettled. It’s no surprise then that there is growth in solutions that can reduce the initial capital investment.

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