Digital signage software: Where to begin?
Digital signage seems like a simple tool on the outset since it's essentially a display, a player and software. However, getting all those tools to work together can be a real nightmare, especially when you throw in complex features such as content creation tools, 4K, 3D and others. It's important to do your research when selecting a software package, especially with so many possible features
The first thing you need to understand is what you want out of your software solution. Will you be deploying a wayfinding solution or an advertising display in a retailer?
"Software selection starts with understanding exactly which functions you need the software to perform. For some, simply managing signage content and hardware is adequate. But other customers may require a suite of software tools that also manage advertising proof-of-play, conference room scheduling, complex wayfinder applications etc." Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, said in an interview.
The Digital Signage Software Guide lists a variety of other considerations to keep in mind when selecting a software package such as:
- Availability of video layer and content elements
- Integrated media asset library management
- Multitouch and trigger support
- Facial recognition
- Support for multiple users
- Dayparting tech
- Demographics-based content management
- Proof-of-play reporting
- Purchase models
Another key issue to consider when selecting a software solution is whether it plays well with your other components. Because vendors are competing at every level for your dollar, many of them are not particularly incentivised to make sure their competitor's software works well with their media players. Hastings identifies the media player, not the display, as the key area of concern when it comes to compatible. He recommends doing your research.
"Contact the media player hardware supplier and ask what software has been tested by the hardware manufacturer. Check the websites for lists of approved partners. Ask for a demo player and demo account to test the software ahead of time," Hastings said.
One of the biggest pitfalls is treating software like a magical solution that you can just set up and leave. For example, the best content management platform in the world won't do you any good if you don't have dynamic content to go with it.
"Initial and ongoing content development sucks up about 60 percent of the budget for a digital signage program. What's also surprising is the amount of resources many companies put into content after launch," Kris Konrath, director of marketing, Convergent, said in a blog.
"Once your solution is up and running, the majority of day-to-day work revolves around content. And like all marketing, there needs to be sufficient time spent on the strategy, development, approval and management of it."
One way to get around this problem is to partner with an excellent software provider who can create your content for you. However, for some end users, this either isn't possible or goes beyond their budgets.
In this case, Hastings recommends that users talk "to customers that have been using the solution for a year or so will give you an idea of both support and usability of the software."
With all this complexity, many customers will want to find an all-one-solution that can meet all their needs. Not all 'all-in-one' solutions are worth your time, however.
"All-in-one features and software offer a range from basic/entry-level to somewhat more advanced, however they’re not ideal for complex applications and video walls. One also must consider the lack of flexibility with SoC (system-on-a-chip) solutions," Hastings said. "First, the base-level operating system that ships with the TV is what you are going to get. If you plan to expand the application running on the built-in OS, you may be surprised down the road that it does not perform to your expectations, or there are bugs. Since these built-in solutions are rarely upgraded, what you get is what you bought."
As a counterpoint, SoC providers tend to rave about the cost savings for their products compared to traditional media players. Gary Bailer, director of product management information display products at Sharp identified SoC as one of the biggest trends in the market since it allows users to "keep their hardware and upgrade their software."
Don't forget to upgrade
The rapid pace of technology has unfortunately shortened the life span of hardware and software alike. So one last consideration to keep in mind is whether or not your software is future proof and whether it will be upgraded in the future.
While you don't have to automatically use new technology, you do have to consider if you will lose credibility by using outdated software or whether it will continue to dazzle, entertain and sell to your customers.
Image via Istock.com
Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.www