Digital Signage: An Overview Digital signage is use of digitally powered signs (such as plasma display panels, liquid crystal displays (LCDs), kiosk stations, computer monitors and normal televisions) to replace and enhance traditional media. Digital signage is revolutionizing media and information industries by allowing central and rapid update of content and its immediate delivery to specific audiences in specific locations.
Components of Digital Signage The components needed for a digital signage system include:
An authoring console, equipped with content management software, allowing definition of content in a variety of playback formats.
A server, to which finished content is uploaded and from where it is distributed to different displays in network.
A distribution infrastructure, consisting of a data network or fiber optic or CAT5 cable, which broadcasts media from server to displays.
Digital signage displays, which can be plasma displays, LCD monitors, CRT monitors, or kiosk stations.
Benefits of Digital Signage Digital signs have already brought significant benefits to businesses and media vendors alike:
Attention grabbing advertising A digital sign brings innovation and movement to previously static media locations, and has power to get customers' attention, making it a particularly effective form of advertising.
Real-time advertising and information Digital signage allows advertising and information to be updated on fly from one remote authoring station and broadcast immediately to audiences regardless of location.
Relevant audiences With digital signage, advertising focuses on best potential customer: an existing one. Supermarkets have already found that current customers are more likely to purchase products advertised on their digital signs. Cost savings Every time digital signage users change their message or campaign, they save on printing costs and processing time. Profit center opportunities Businesses can create instant profit centers by selling advertising time on their digital signs to customers or suppliers.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE Uses of Digital Signage It is not surprising that, with all benefits of digital signage, there are so many uses for it worldwide. They include: Advertising networks In-store advertising Interactive kiosks Tradeshow displays Corporate identity branding Electronic menus and lobby displays Branch office communication Campus bulletin boards Community bulletin boards Arrival and departure schedules Franchise communication systems Emergency announcement systems Corporate communication systems Back office employee training
Digital Signage Distribution Technology: “What Lies Beneath” When considering a digital signage project, users usually focus on display types and content management software. For integrator, however, there is an important component that user rarely considers: distribution technology and platform. This infrastructure transmits digital video and audio from server to appropriate displays, and is a key contributor to actual digital signage performance. In addition, as connecting component for all displays, distribution technology can be a significant part of project budget. That’s why choosing correct distribution technology is vital in ensuring a successful digital signage installation. Options for Digital Signage Distribution
There are three main options for digital signage distribution:
Data network Fiber-optic cable CAT5 cable
In this paper, these options will be presented together with core considerations in choosing a distribution technology:
Cost Performance Existing infrastructure
Digital Signage Distribution Options: Platforms & Combinations
Each platform has its own benefits and drawbacks. When harnessing more than one platform. There are a number of interesting combinations as discussed below.
Data Network Platform A data network platform uses a computer network infrastructure in order to transmit content in form of compressed multi-media files (such as MPEG files) from management station to central server and from there to computer connected to display device. The central server handles distribution to multiple displays, and display-end computer decompresses file for display on display device. Alternatively, if only one display is required, network can transmit compressed file directly from management station to display-end computer, which then decompresses and displays file.
Benefits & Drawbacks The advisability of data networks depends largely on existing infrastructure. If there is an existing computer network infrastructure, using a data network platform for digital signage can save costs significantly. However, if no computer network already exists, need to implement such an infrastructure will increase costs considerably.
An additional cost related to data networks is caused by need for display devices to be connected to local computers or equipped with embedded CPUs, resulting in extra investment in hardware, an important factor when costing project as a whole.
In addition, from a performance standpoint, using a data network platform has several disadvantages. A data network platform limits user to compression technologies available on market today, technologies that significantly downgrade quality of multimedia content and displays’ dependence on network is another major consideration for 24x7 locales that cannot tolerate display downtime.
Fiber Optic Extenders Fiber optic cable is a transmission medium favored for applications that need high bandwidth, long distances, and complete immunity to electrical interference. That makes it ideal for digital signage, which requires high resolution and transmission over long distances. Unlike network platforms, fiber optic cable does not require CPUs or special software at display end. All that is required is a transmitter and receiving unit for each display.
There are two options for fiber-optic cable: single mode or multi-mode. Single-mode fiber provides a higher transmission rate and up to fifty times more distance than multimode, but it also costs more. In general, decision between different types of fiber should be result of a simple cost-benefit evaluation: distance and level of resolution or performance required versus acceptable investment in distribution technology.