EDU Digital signage: Knowing your price points (part 4)

This is part four of a four part series on digital signage deployments. For part three, click here.

Today we’ll discuss the advanced digital signage deployment that includes multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with extensive functionality, such as individual screen messaging. If you are considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Extensive negotiations, including a number of RFPs and RFQs, may be necessary to specify and negotiate the price of the system for your needs. Also pay attention to any SaaS feeds outside of hardware and labor expenses.

Advanced ($8000 and up) — $$$$
Advanced digital signage systems can deliver the ultimate in management, control, and functionality for K–12 institutions. These state-of-the-art systems feature heavy-duty processors for playing bulky media files and streaming seamless video in higher resolutions. They’re fully networked, large-scale solutions that are designed for scalable, multiscreen, and even multilocation deployments.

These types of systems are well-suited for large school districts with many buildings in different locations, specifically districts that need to be able to display a wide range of bandwidth-heavy media and stream (or narrowcast) unique content to the individual screens based on location and time of day, and be able to verify playout on those screens. This stage adds a video server residing on the network, which means you can add live video through the use of connected cameras as well as streaming and stored video capability.

The price of these systems is really infinite, as you have the ability to add as many screens as possible. But once you go into multiple locations, you want immediate central management capabilities.

Once you get into more sophisticated systems, you want play logs for advertising, etc., but most of all, you want the remote management capabilities to know if screens are on, if the media delivery system is working, and if the content is being displayed. You also want the full capability of making real-time changes to react to last-minute district-wide decisions, athletic event cancellations, changes in bus schedules, or other events. Literally within seconds, changes can be made, deployed, and seen in one location or over the entire network in many locations.

Many school district campuses have implemented digital signage as part of their emergency-notification system with override
messaging that can be activated remotely in the event of a school crisis. If a crisis occurs, administrators or security personnel can issue evacuation notices or lockdown alerts in real time from wherever they are using a browser-enabled smartphone or cellular paging.

Some top-of-the-line systems can even be integrated into larger digital media systems, including those used for classroom desktop video, interactive whiteboarding, and campus broadcast TV production, as well as CCTV video surveillance platforms.
Obviously, the more complex the network, the higher the initial and ongoing cost of ownership. You will also need to consider
ongoing costs, such as licensing fees, maintenance fees, software upgrade fees, and additional system training. The actual cost
per screen and total cost of ownership can vary greatly, but the general rule of thumb is that cost per screen decreases as the
number of screens increases. The good news is: As more suppliers enter the market, equipment costs are coming down.

Best areas for use: Anywhere students, staff, and visitors congregate; entrance points, stadiums, and parking lots where
directional guidance (wayfinding) can be helpful for getting from one place to another; well-suited for larger school districts
with widely distributed buildings, including those where separate channels of content (logos and information specific to school
and grade level) are managed by personnel in different locations.
Content-delivery method: Network infrastructure, satellite, cable, cellular.
Pros: Highly scalable—network has the potential to grow as big as it needs to be; can provide extensive features, including live
videoconferencing, dynamic content delivery, extensive management, monitoring and control; most systems include extensive
and customizable reporting.
Cons: High startup costs; ongoing licensing, training, and upgrades; usually will require dedicated personnel; generating content
and keeping it current may require a heavy buy-in from different departments; may require coordination from staff not accustomed
to receiving creative and editorial contributions from others; if content originates from various sources, quality control
and accountability can be challenges, too.

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