This is part two of a four part series on digital signage deployments. For part one, click here.
Last week we reviewed the basic price point and model of the ultra-affordable digital signage solution for schools. Today, we’ll discuss the moderate solution, or a solution that includes multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room displays, with the same content on all screens.
Moderate ($4500 to $7000) — $$
The biggest differences between the moderate and ultra-affordable systems are that with moderate systems, you can display more than one area (zone) of content within a presentation and the same content can be seen on multiple screens in multiple rooms at single site. What’s more, the players are often network enabled and support streaming of video (not just from a file loaded onto a storage device). Plus, you typically have the ability to stream live Web feeds as a standard feature.
A zone is an on-screen area (measured by pixels or as a percentage of entire screen) that shows content from its own playlist. Because moderate-priced systems support multizone presentations, you can play different media in different screen areas. Some zones can change while other areas remain fixed. The zones may or may not be resized or moved to a different location on the screen. In most cases, each zone can be managed individually so you can dynamically change the content as needed. One zone might show video, while another shows the local weather forecast. Still another area might show a changing menu or schedule. It’s all up to you.
Because this type of system also supports multiple screens, it’s great for broadcasting information to different areas of your building or campus. Plus, because it can be installed on a network, you can control multiple screens from a central PC. This control can be in real time and include instant-messaging capability. Some systems also give the administrator the ability to turn the screens on and off. In addition, screens can also be controlled remotely with a browser and an IP address for additional flexibility for the administrator who has to be away from his or her command station throughout the day.
These systems frequently include a tool for aggregating RSS feeds, so you can collect and automate the distribution of Web-based info, such as live CNN news or National Weather Service bulletins, as video crawls on your signage. This is a time-saver because the administrator no longer has to constantly gather Web content, worry as much about inappropriate subject matter streaming to the screen accidentally, or write any extra code. These feeds can also be from local law enforcement and internally created sites, from teacher blogs and departmental sites, for instance. Still, because it requires an Internet connection, you have to have adequate bandwidth, and initial and ongoing IT support, as well as deal with permissions, access, and admin rights.Best areas for use: Small to midsize school buildings with multiple entrance points, food-service lines, and lobbies where students and the public gather; also for schools with a building-wide network infrastructure and various departmental Web sites.
Content-delivery method: Existing or designated network infrastructure.
Pros: Multiple screens can be controlled via the network connection; content and screen operations can be updated remotely from a central PC; enables RSS feeds and other real-time content from the Internet, including streaming video.
Cons: Adding an IP connection means IT involvement; advanced software may require additional training; potential bandwidth and network maintenance issues, as well as the increased content “gatekeeper” role of the administrator.
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.