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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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Software as a Service
As a general computer-industry initiative, software as a service (SaaS) has been around for more than a decade—and really since the early days of the Internet era. The concept of SaaS is to allow users to avoid the capital expense of purchasing software in favor of effectively renting it for the amount of time used. In very public rivalries, Oracle and Sun Microsystems made noise many years ago with SaaS office application suites that would compete with Microsoft Word and Excel. Admittedly, neither effort prospered due to the immaturity and relative low bandwidth of the erstwhile Internet. Microsoft-envy and animosity aside, the average computer user relies too much on word processing not to have a local version—particularly in light of the relatively low cost.

Yet as the Internet has become faster and more reliable, SaaS applications have become a lot more viable. Webmail is the most obvious and omni­present, although that has more to do with the convenience of retrieving personal email anywhere than cost. There are also numerous other applications across a variety of vertical markets—as varied as architecture, CAD, retailing, and data storage—that embrace the SaaS concept for reasons of flexibility,functionality, and cost.

Digital signage SaaS applications are also gaining ground, with some obvious advantages compared to the conventional off-the-shelf software model. That begins with cost, although not necessarily in terms of the cost of the software itself. Case in point, Visix AxisTV SaaS solution requires a two-year upfront commitment. Although it’s payable monthly, thus reducing the upfront cost, it probably offers little savings over the cost of purchasing off-the-shelf software. However, like the aforementioned hardware costs, such specific software costs are calculable.

Digital signage initiatives tend to stall because it’s harder to predict the costs of the system buildout, network infrastructure and management, and creation and file management of the content. As the market for digital signage has expanded beyond the early adopters and into smaller retail, office, education, and house-of-worship environments, organizations are less likely to have personnel with the required IT and AV integration experience.

The benefit to many SaaS digital signage solutions is that the costs are effectively built into the usage costs, thereby removing the mystery of both cost and integration. SaaS applications such as Visix AxisTV can offer hosting services with a solid backbone infrastructure with network and file management as a part of the package, thereby removing much of the uncertainty associated with most digital signage projects. Like many SaaS offerings, AxisTV offers a web-based interface that offers users control of content assets, scheduling, and network options, but the company keeps it all on Visix servers and Visix’s network so the customer doesn’t need to have a dedicated administrator.

If customers need even more assistance, Visix even provides design and creative services for developing signage templates and, if necessary, the content itself. However, for the most part, the goal is to offer a solution that allows users to plug their own messages into an accessible template-based format.

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