Chris Melito's blog

Traditional digital signage versus SoC displays

Historically, digital signage installations have used display screens with a separate Windows-or Linux-based media player/PC. The media player is the brain communicating with the server and network to tell the screen what media to play. However, around 2013, System on Chip (SoC) displays hit the market and have become more prevalent in recent years. SoC screens provide a compelling alternative to traditional digital signage with lower implementation costs, a multi-core processor inside, and eliminating the need for an external player and associated cables. There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional digital signage with an external player and with SoC displays. When deciding what makes sense for your organization, it is vital to consider cost, usage, installation, and management. Let's take a look at each of these areas in detail. Cost Traditional digital signage with external media players typically has a higher upfront capital cost. There are also maintenance and support costs to consider. On the other hand, SoC screens, such as those from Samsung or LG, are much simpler than screens with external media players. In addition, SoC units are easier to maintain, have lower failure rates, and reduced cabling and installation costs. In both scenarios, you will want to purchase digital signage software to help you run your display network effectively and efficiently. Usage It is essential to consider how and where you plan to use your screens. SoC screens are a good option when you have space constraints or need the screen flush against the wall. The built-in media player eliminates extra cabling and hardware space requirements and is sleeker, tidier visually, and beneficial when trying to retrofit older spaces with screens. Additionally, consider the content you intend to show on your screens. For example, are you creating a video wall or planning to use HD/4K or processor-intensive content? If the answer is yes and power is a priority, an external media player is typically better in these scenarios. Installation SoC screens eliminate the need for an external player and the related cabling. There is no need to cable a player to the screen, a network cable to the player, and so on. Reducing cabling requirements can significantly impact installation time and make SoC screens easier to mount. To a certain extent, SoC screens are plug-and-play. However, if using displays from different manufacturers, expect some inconsistencies in features and functionality. Management SoC screen networks have fewer components than a traditional digital signage network, which reduces the number of failure points and provides some advantages in monitoring and control. One important consideration is that when a media player fails in the field, you can swap in a new player; however, if an SoC screen fails, you must replace the entire screen. Important considerations for SoC displays As you weigh the pros and cons between traditional digital signage with an external player and with SoC displays, consider these questions: Do you have intensive video requirements? What types of applications (i.e. videowall) are you planning to run? Are you installing it into existing infrastructure? Do you want to integrate with real-time data? Do you need a solution that supports HTML5? What type of operating system are you planning to use? Are you planning to use digital signage software?  

Developing a Digital Signage Strategy

Digital signage projects aren't uniquely complex, but they have many moving parts. Often they involve numerous stakeholders, a myriad of messages, and an assortment of technologies and data sources (often some or all of these competing with each other). Therefore, managing a digital signage project requires a good plan and process.  Implementation Process Omnivex follows a 4 step process with all of its digital signage implementations. We believe all organizations should follow a carefully established, repeatable, and scalable process when rolling out digital signage. Let's look at the steps in detail: Discover - In the discovery phase, we meet with you to discuss your business' overall project goals, establish project contacts, schedule frequent progress meetings, and set expectations and project responsibilities. We'll gather all the relevant information and requirements needed to truly understand your business to build a solution that works for you.  Architect - Once that initial information gathering is complete, we lay out the blueprint for your solution. We'll dig deep on everything from data integration and visual design mock-ups to scripting requirements and content management needs. At this stage, expectations turn into a real-world solution. Build - Once we've finalized the project blueprint, our team will create your solution. Layouts, playlists, scripts, data architecture, and integration all take shape at this stage, with everyone on the team focused on the overall project goal. Regular progress meetings allow you to view the project's development and provide feedback. In addition, a proof of concept is often run at this stage to confirm that the solution meets expectations. The build stage includes an iterative review process. You can't just look at something once. Having a fresh set of eyes review the solution is essential as things are often missed. Be open to constructive criticism and use this build phase to improve your screens before they go live! Test and Deploy - Testing is an essential part of our process. Our team will test the solution to ensure everything works and presents correctly. We'll then assist you with installing it in your facility and deploying the solution once testing is complete. Our team will provide full project documentation outlining the structure and necessary points to manage the solution. Training is important during this phase to ensure everyone working with the system understands how to use it, for example, adding a menu item on a digital menu board or adding a wayfinding point of interest. Inspire, Instruct, Inform Content is king, so make sure your digital signage inspires, instructs, and informs your audience. If it doesn't, it shouldn't be on digital signage, and you will need to consider other ways to share that information. It is essential to consider all communication channels for messaging and which messages are best suited to each channel.  Digital signage messaging is best when dynamic, interactive (through a touchscreen or mobile devices), and shares immediately actionable information. For example, consider a display in a meeting room and shared office spaces that provides room booking and hot desk heat map information. These displays can help employees determine where they can collaborate and perform their daily tasks. In addition, QR codes give your audience the ability to take content with them or find out more about messaging. Though digital signage relies on the same best practices as most graphic design, some unique considerations exist. Ensure that your graphic design experts consider the display technology, dwell times at the display, and media format specifications of your digital signage system. Omnivex has a team of graphic design professionals who can assist you with your needs.  Message fatigue is another important consideration: Keep messages fresh – quarterly updates at a minimum Repeated audio can aggravate any audience Ensure the most important messaging is shared across all channels of communication Ensure your message is consumable for as many audiences members as possible. This is a moral and ethical consideration, especially concerning accessibility and representation for diversity and inclusion.

Common Challenges When Implementing Digital Signage

You have decided your organization needs digital signage. Now what? Where do you start? Digital signage projects come with a unique set of challenges, including client stakeholder alignment, project management hurdles, content strategy, technology infrastructure, and resource availability. There is a lot to think about, so let's dive into each area in detail: Stakeholder Alignment Is everyone on the same page? Are they bought into the plan? Client and stakeholder alignment seems like a simple concept but is often one of the most significant issues derailing any project, including digital signage. Ensure that the following stakeholders are present as early as possible in your digital signage project: Project champion - This person has authority over the project and all stakeholders. They are the person that problems escalate to, are responsible for the budget, and ensure the right people are available to work on the project. Technical - The technical stakeholder is typically someone from the IT department. They ensure the plan for the digital signage network is feasible and the infrastructure exists to support it. Additionally, they can evaluate if the devices (players, screens) you want to use meet your company's security requirements or other essential protocols. Content - Let's face it - content is king! Make sure your marketing and/or communications folks are actively involved in what you are putting on your digital displays. It would be best if you had a cohesive strategy for your content. Ensure corporate branding and messaging are reflected and the content meets governance and privacy requirements. Have these people available as early as possible in your digital signage project. Project Management Having a plan and process is essential, and this is not unique to only digital signage projects. Break your project down into stages or phases. Identify key objectives for each stage and ensure you check all of the boxes as you move through the stages. Digital signage projects often bring together multiple departments, technologies, and data sources. There are many moving parts so staying on top of the project is critical. Content Strategy What messages belong on your digital signage? Who are you trying to reach? What other channels of communications do you have available? These are just a few questions to consider when thinking about the content for your digital signage network. Ensure you have a robust methodology for what goes where and why. The reality is that not everything should go your digital signage. Create audience personas and tailor your content to the various personas. When building your personas consider cultural, geographic, and other considerations. Make sure to avoid message fatigue, particularly when looping content! Digital signage requires a unique design, and while it does follow general design principles, it has special needs. What types of content will you use? Video, still images, dynamic text, and streaming video are just a few possibilities. Your corporate feed is closely monitored if you integrate social media, but consider how you filter content from your audience or through hashtags. Also, think about your data sources - KPIs, news, weather, traffic, databases or other software applications, and calendars - are just a few examples. Make sure you understand all of the rules and regulations, particularly accessibility requirements, related to your digital signage network. Don't build digital experiences that exclude people. For example, make sure the height of a wayfinding kiosk is appropriate for someone in a wheelchair and screen options are accessible. Hybrid work environments are here to stay, so consider a mobile-first strategy. An omnichannel experience ensures your messages follow people regardless of whether they are in front of a mobile screen or a digital sign. Since the pandemic, QR codes have become very popular and essential for a mobile digital signage strategy. Technology Infrastructure A reliable technology infrastructure is critical to a successful digital signage implementation. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of technology improvements, from SoC screens to media players to purpose-built Linux devices to IoT. Each will have different considerations for how it will operate on a network. Company networks aren't uniform. Make sure you work with your IT department to ensure the devices and screens you select meet your company standards. Provide them with as much information as possible about your chosen devices. Ask your IT department to provide a cohesive strategy for how devices will work on your company network. Network bandwidth and configuration are becoming less of an issue with the cloud. However, make sure you look at the throughput and transferring of files. One option is to consider a forward and store methodology. However, this approach affects the network, and you will want to have a rigid schedule for how and when to transfer files. Streaming content on digital signage has become very popular in recent years. It is essential to think about the best protocol and encoding structure. Additionally, consider what type of events you want to or are best to stream. Ensure multicast protocols are correctly set up on your network, and the technical infrastructure can handle streaming. Lastly, ensure you get in the field and see where your digital screens will go. Make note of potential network and cabling considerations. Identify structural issues that might require involvement from construction or facilities teams. Resource Availability Staffing is probably one of the biggest challenges facing companies these days. With projects like digital signage implementations, it is common to see a changeover in staff, particularly once a project has been live for a while. Staffing changes can be both from a technical side and the people creating and managing the content. Dedicated resources are essential but often impossible unless it is a large installation. Regardless of your situation, make sure you have a plan in place for transferring knowledge between resources. Additionally, document all processes, guidelines, and other critical information related to your digital signage network. Finally, be prepared and be flexible!
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