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Digital Signage 101

What is Digital Signage?

Digital signage is a form of electronic display using networked video displays in public or common-use spaces that broadcasts highly targeted messages to a defined, temporary audience to show information, advertising and other messages. In simpler terms, digital signage can be defined as distribution of a video (and sometimes audio) signal from one or more sources to one or more monitors. It can also be referred to by several other terms including "Narrowcasting," "Screen Media," "Place-based Media," "Digital Merchandising," "Digital Media Networks," "Digital Out-of-Home" or "Captive Audience Networks."

When setting up a digital signage system, there are three distinct areas of business in which revenue can be earned: 1) Product and Installation 2) Software as a Service (SaaS) and 3) Content Creation and Management. Product and installation is basically selling and installing the hardware necessary to run a digital signage solution. It is the piece of the puzzle where the distributed video and audio system is designed and integrated. SaaS is simply the software that is deployed over the Internet or deployed to run behind a firewall on a local area network to manage the system. Finally, the content creation/management is the ultimate recurring revenue stream due to the continual need to update and refresh what the audience is viewing.

Digital Signage Ecosystem

Digital Signage Ecosystem

Signal Types and Distribution Methods

There are several different signals that can be used in digital signage. A network connection to the player may be used when the player is centrally located or mounted in or on the display panel. Moreover, player outputs typically allow for VGA or DVI-D. Analog (VGA) signals may be distributed from the player via Cat5e as non-network distributed A/V. For maximum utility, the digital signage player output may be modulated and distributed via MATV. However, transition minimized differential signals (also known as "TMDS") such as HDMI, DVI-D and DisplayPort are becoming more important.

There are also numerous ways to distribute signals. For shorter distances, native cable is the best choice. This scenario takes the signal from the media player directly to the monitor via native cables such as VGA, DVI, or HDMI. For more than one media player (inputs) or more than one monitor (outputs), signal splitters or matrix switches can be used. For longer distances, using Cat5e or Cat6 cables or fiber is the appropriate option. In this scenario, the media player(s) would connect to a transmitter via native cable, the transmitter would connect to a receiver via Category or fiber cable, and a native cable would be used from the receiver to the monitor(s). Another method that is common is to have a media player behind each screen. This is useful when different content on every screen is required. In this environment, the media players are often placed on the existing network infrastructure and content is updated over the network.

Digital Signage and Network Interface

In digital signage, the network plays several vital roles. The network is the originating source for content. It is the IP-addressed centralized control of digital signage hardware and software. The network allows for regional distribution of content to "zoned" players. The players may then distribute line level video and audio via UTP or native connectivity. Lastly, the network can distribute content via LAN connectivity to individual panels with on-board players.

Wireless Solutions for Digital Signage

Digital signage can also be distributed wirelessly. For example, a LAN connection can stream wireless from the source to the player. Wireless from the player to display is also possible through an A/V connection and used in combination with wired distribution. However, not all wireless solutions are equal. For example 802.11 or spread spectrum devices offer the best performance when high definition video and audio are required.

Common Workflow of a Digital Signage Installation

  • Assess customer needs
  • Develop an installation plan
  • Gather materials for the job
  • Validate the installation plan with key stakeholders
  • Install the digital signage system
  • Test and verify the installed digital signage system
  • Provide service and support on installed system
  • Ensure end user is satisfied with system

Common Digital Signage Applications:

Education:

Digital Signage - Education
  • Way finding/information sharing in hallways
  • Information sharing in employee break rooms/conference rooms
  • Digital menu boards in cafeterias
  • Information/presentation sharing in large auditoriums/classrooms
  • Information sharing/advertising in lobbies

Corporate:

Digital Signage - Corporate
  • Way finding/information sharing in hallways
  • Information sharing in employee break rooms/hallways/office space
  • Advertising/information sharing in the lobby

Healthcare:

Digital Signage - Healthcare
  • Way finding/information sharing in hallways
  • Information sharing in employee break rooms/conference rooms
  • Digital menu boards in cafeterias
  • Information/presentation sharing in large auditoriums
  • Information sharing/advertising in lobbies

Hospitality:

Digital Signage - Hospitality
  • Way finding/information sharing in hallways
  • Information sharing in employee break rooms/conference rooms
  • Digital menu boards in restaurants
  • Live TV in bar/restaurants
  • Information/presentation sharing in large auditoriums
  • Information sharing in lobbies

Houses of Worship:

Digital Signage - Houses of Worship
  • Way finding/information sharing in hallway
  • Live TV (broadcasting service to remote locations in the building)
  • Information/presentation sharing in large auditoriums

Restaurant/Bar:

Digital Signage - Restaurant/Bar
  • Live TV
  • Advertising
  • Digital menu board
  • Information sharing

Transportation:

Digital Signage - Transportation
  • Live TV
  • Advertising
  • Digital menu board
  • Information sharing

Sporting Arenas/Events:

Digital Signage - Sporting Arenas/Events
  • Live TV
  • Advertising
  • Digital menu board
  • Information sharing

Retail:

Digital Signage - Retail
  • Advertising in aisle ways
  • Advertising at point of purchase

Financial:

Digital Signage - Financial
  • Advertising
  • Information sharing

Market Opportunities for Digital Signage

The digital signage industry is poised for explosive growth. Overall forecasts are unanimous in predicting double-digit growth of installed systems, and most industry users see narrowcasting as a key path for delivering their message efficiently, effectively, and repeatedly. There is no project that serves the public where digital signage cannot be leveraged. Because of this, as a design professional involved in the creation of the space and structure, you need to consider the future needs of occupants and owners to leverage digital signage infrastructure. In much the same way that you would never consider a design complete without careful analysis of light fixture placement and output and lighting controls, you should not allow the need for digital signage infrastructure to be an afterthought. Inclusion of carefull considered DS capability will increase the value of the project and the satisfaction of the client.

Digital Signage Expected To Grow - Chart

This white paper is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. C2G makes no guarantees, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information found in this document.