Anyone installing a digital signage network will quickly learn that their software or management platform is one of the most critical elements. While hardware and hardware capacity and capability are important, your digital signage platform ultimately controls what you can do with your network, when, and where. This means that choosing the right software for your needs should be one of your first and most important steps.
Many digital signage installers will offer software and hardware installations as a single package. It’s important to ensure that any software they do offer meets your needs, that you have the options you need to meet goals, and that your software works with your hardware capabilities.
Your Content and Goals
It’s important to define what you want to do with your digital signage network before choosing software or hardware. The following considerations will define what your network should do, and therefore which capabilities you need.
What type of content are you displaying? It’s critical to evaluate how and where you intend to showcase content, because this will dramatically affect your hardware and software needs.
- Ads – If you’re sharing ads, do you need programmatic or analytics support? Should software integrate into inventory and sales platforms to change ads as stock updates? Will you have access to real-time data to update ads to keep them relevant?
- Quality – What type of content quality are your displays showing? Not all software will support every display resolution or file size.
What does your audience need from displays?
What types of displays are you pushing content to? In some cases, this is simple. In others, you might want to push to touchscreens, interactive content, tablets, video walls, and menu boards. Make sure your software natively supports every type of hardware you want to use. This also applies to items like device operating system.
Are you updating displays remotely? Do displays move during use (such as if installed on public transport), are displays easy to access? Features like local file storage, remote updates, remote upgrades, and remote network control become much more important when you’re managing displays across geographic locations. For example, store chains can often save considerably by pushing display ads out from a central headquarters, to be automatically distributed at displays in branch locations.
Most digital signage networks need some level of security. It’s important to review what you need and why. An indoor-only system will logically need much less protection than an outdoor, but should be protected with firewalls, basic network security, and backups.
Features and Options
Once you know what your digital signage network has to do, you can better decide what your software should do.
It doesn’t matter what your software offers if relevant employees cannot easily use it without considerable training. Digital signage interfaces should be chosen for usability over any other feature, because this is the feature that will enable individuals to actually use it.
Real-time data integration is increasingly important. Your digital signage software should integrate with and pull data from sources like sensors and data feeds like RSS. You likely also want to access local directories and servers on your network, but this will heavily depend on your organization and its needs.
Even if your digital signage network is relatively small, remote updates are a critical feature. These allow you to push updates from a central location, without manually making changes at the display. This includes remotely updating software, remote-updating display content, and pushing live data to displays.
Software should be designed to meet a network that is larger than your existing one. You also want software that integrates network management including servers, players, and detailed information about playback and network health. You likely also want options to push presentations to displays for local storage, which prevents downtime I case of network outages.
It goes without saying that your digital signage should integrate into software and apps you want to use with it. This might include CRM, content management platforms, sales platforms, or directories.
Automation tools allow you to update and manage data in real time, whether with programmatic ads, auto-updating content as factors change, or automatically changing displays based on predefined rules. Automation reduces time-investment per display, helps to ensure continued display relevance, and is critical in industries such as restaurants, where menu changes happen on a daily basis.
While technical capabilities are an important aspect of a digital signage platform, it’s also important to review the developer. How long have they been in business? How well are they doing? How often do they update the platform? What kind of license are you getting? Do you get access to new updates and features or do you have to purchase them? What kind of technical support are you getting?
Some digital signage software developers will offer very hands-on support, training, setup assistance, and ongoing support and debugging. Others will treat your software purchase as just that, and won’t offer much in the way of ongoing assistance at all. Depending on your organization and its team, you might benefit from either option, but it’s important to know what you’re getting upfront.
Digital signage platforms essentially power your displays, pushing content to screens, updating data, and driving what people see. They’re one of the most important aspects of your digital signage network, and it’s important that you pick one that meets your organization’s needs.