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20 years ago, digital signage was something of a novelty. Today, most of us will see at least one digital sign in a day and most likely, significantly more than one.

Digital signage has become as ubiquitous as the poster it replaced, and for good reason. Digital signage works. In one study, consumers were shown to be almost 50% more likely to have seen and remembered a digital sign than an ad on the Internet, and when questioned, more than 47% can recall specific ads.

If you’re looking into digital signage for your organization, it can be overwhelming. With a range of solutions and options at your disposal, simply deciding what to install can be difficult. Despite the wealth of choice, digital signage networks can be relatively simple. Once you understand the basics, you’ll have the information to work with your provider to make good decisions for your organization.

Digital Signage Displays

Digital signage displays power the front of your digital signage network. They make up what you and the rest of the world sees, and they matter a lot. Even here, you have a plethora of choice. In most cases, modern digital signage consists of flat-panel displays. It’s important to choose commercial-grade displays, which will be rated for longer play-hours and will have a longer warranty than a consumer-grade TV.

LCD

LCD displays are the go-to for most industry display purposes. These displays typically offer low cost, wide formats, long-lifespans, and cost-effective run-time. However, they won’t offer the same quality of color as some other display options. LCD should be your basic solution for most screens.

LED

LED displays are increasingly popular especially in outdoor applications, because they offer high contrast, and are back-lit, edge-lit, and direct-lit. LEDs also offer sharper and brighter color and color contrast than LED, but are limited in that they cannot typically be viewed from up close. These signs are not suitable for displays situated next to visitors or for touchscreens.

OLED

OLED displays are a new and advanced display option offering flexible, bright, and ultra-thin displays. These displays produce light using an organic semi-conductor sandwiched between two electrodes, meaning they can be viewed from up close. OLED displays offer a combination of benefits from LCD and LED, but are very expensive in comparison.

Touchscreen

Touchscreen displays (typically LCD) support touch and interaction. These screens are suitable for specific customer-and-employee-facing operations when paired with touchscreen compatible software.

Digital Signage Media Players

Media players power displays by handling software, managing data, and functioning in much the same way as a computer or television. Media players range from very simple to very complex and many digital signage installers will have their own preferred or even bespoke solutions.

System on Chip

System on Chip or SoC is the newest media-player on the market but also one of the most convenient. Here, the media player is built into the display.

This is advantageous in that you have to make fewer purchases, require less cabling, and will likely have fewer hardware issues because you have fewer components to take care of.

It’s disadvantageous in that you lose control over the hardware, may lose media player power, and if one component breaks, you have to make a larger upfront purchase to replace it.

Windows

Most media players started out as computers. Today, a range of low-cost Windows-based media players exist on the market. This platform is the oldest, the most developed, and offers the widest range of software solutions and offerings.

HTML5

HTML5 players include Google, Linux, iOS, and Android players which essentially run like tablets or phones. These players are low-cost and low-power but typically offer versatility and affordability.

Should you purchase a separate media player, you have to ensure it’s compatible with your display and your software choice. You also need the cabling to connect your system together.

Standalone media players can come as boxes (think an Apple TV) or as “sticks” (think Google Chromecast). Both offer advantages and disadvantages, with box versions typically offering more power and stick versions typically offering more convenience.

Digital Signage Software

Digital signage software powers your entire digital signage network. Here, you may have one (complete) solution or create a solution composed of several software components. Most digital signage networks require the following software components:

Viewer

The viewer physically allows you to play media (typically known as presentations) on displays.

Server

A server application stores and manages data on your physical servers so that it can be pushed to displays. This should include full storage management including local storage at displays to prevent outages.

Scheduler

A scheduling tool allows you to schedule when and how to push data from the server across your network. This should include the ability to select displays based on factors on the network such as location, screen name, etc.

Monitor

A network management monitor helps you manage and control your signage network to handle data loads, prevent outages, and optimize details like system information and memory usage.

CMS

Your content management system (CMS) allows you to manage presentations, update content, and may allow you to create or design content using displays. CMS can range from basic applications to complex tools with automation and data integration wizards. This tool may overlap with or be part of your Scheduler tool.

Other Considerations

Mount

Most displays will have to be mounted. This can include a kiosk, a wall mount, or a stand. Where and how your display is mounted will affect your screen choice.

Practicality

It’s crucial to choose a display, media player, and software solution that supports your environment. For example, if displays are hung on the ceiling, you want to be able to remote update them.

Cables

Hardware including cables should be taken into account, especially if you need them for data transfer.

Data Sources

It’s important to review the types of data and content you want to share before choosing a software or hardware solution. Your digital signage software has to integrate with your databases. The software also has to be compatible with hardware you choose.

Content Design

Content design is a crucial aspect of digital signage because it’s a large part of what customers see. Many digital signage solutions offer templates and layouts but if you are designing your own content, it’s important to invest in quality media.

Digital signage can add value to many types of organizations. Whether you want to inform, guide, advertise to, or update passersby, displays make doing so relatively easy. Once you know what you want, finding an installer and choosing a solution is often equally as easy