When it comes to deploying digital signage, schools have an almost unlimited amount of options. We’ve organized them into four major categories to help you select the most appropriate system to support your objectives, application, and budget:
- Ultra-affordable: Single-screen/single-zone/single-room display
- Moderate: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display—same content on all screens
- Moderate with TV capability: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with live TV—same content on all screensK–12
- Advanced: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with extensive functionality, such as individual screen messaging (may or may not include live TV tuner capability)
Over the next few weeks we’ll cover each one of these price points. Today, we’ll focus on the ultra-affordable solution.
Ultra-affordable ($3500 to $5000) – $
This category represents the “down-and-dirty” solution—one screen, one media player, and one USB or flash drive. This type of solution is not networked; instead, staff members in a particular school building or classroom transfer new content to screens by inserting USB or flash drives into media players on-site.
“This type of solution is ideal for a lobby, behind the desk in the main office, or outside a gym or auditorium. It’s a relatively low-cost method of creating and displaying messaging,” says Brian Kutchma, Black Box VP of Sales. “It’s a great way for smaller schools with a limited budget to capitalize on some of the benefits of digital signage. With a plug-and-play AC power outlet media player, an LCD or a plasma screen, and a little effort to learn some out-of-the-box software, you can easily implement digital signage.”
There are no instant-messaging capabilities, and the screen must be turned on and off manually. This system provides a single-zone (PowerPoint like) presentation with looped content. On more advanced systems, you can display one message or incorporate multiple messages on the same screen. Typically, that’s not the case with these entry-level type players.
But the single zone look may actually work to your advantage if the signage is an area with a lot of foot traffic—an area where people are unlikely to stop and take the time to peruse a screen streaming a mix of content fields. If there’s one message you want to get out at any given time—“Wear your school colors today!” “Track meet is cancelled,” “School pictures tomorrow”—then the single-image screen approach may be best.
Come up with a content strategy early in the process. The most challenging part of any signage system is the content. It’s critical that anyone considering signage has a plan in mind and the resources in place to create and manage the content.
Districts using ultra-affordable solutions like this one usually have a one-screen deployment, so changing content and turning the screen on and off manually isn’t an issue. Also, users usually like the plug-and play ease of this kind of system.
Best areas for use: School offices, lobbies, cafeteria food-service lines, libraries, employee break areas.
Content-delivery method: Removable storage devices: USB drives, compact flash, SD memory cards.
Pros: Low-cost, easy-to-manage solution for one-screen deployments and single locations; plug-and-play operation.
Cons: Low flexibility. Content must be manually changed through removable storage devices. Content is displayed in a singlezone, looped play with no instant-messaging capability. Screens must be manually turned on and off. Lack of scalability.
NOTE: Estimated prices for solutions include a 42-inch LCD screen, media player, and digital signage software. Prices can vary depending on a number of factors.