The hidden cost of digital signage stream decoders

Why are more people signing up for digital signage installations? One reason is the drop in initial capital costs.

Recently I saw a player on Google Shopping for roughly $200. That is cheaper than two tickets to a first-class rock concert, and can offer much more than a few hours of entertainment. The low-cost player offers a chance to increase business revenue.

Wow, increase revenue for just $200? Before you sign up, keep in mind there is a reason these digital signage installations are inexpensive.

Unlike digital signage players that are PC-based (x86 process, storage, etc.), these inexpensive players are appliance-based and gather content by streaming data across a network. With simple content layouts, this is not a problem. However, when digital signage content is streamed over a wireless network, data costs can creep up if not careful.

Example of how quickly data costs can rise over time.
Suppose a company wanted to install three 3G media players at a price point of $200 on their business network. Let’s sayhidden-iceburg that the company wanted Web pages, videos, and photos as part of their signage content. A quick estimate of data costs can be calculated using a data calculator*.

Let’s say the three players are on a total of 12 hours in a given day. During this time, these three players stream five Web pages, 60 minutes of video, and 50 photos (it can be assumed that RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and text boxes consume negligible data). For all three players, total data usage would be 18GB/month (6GB per player).

This statistic is important for one critical reason: the cost of data overages. Data rates for businesses using a WiFi network can costs upwards of $80 per 10GB; however, data overages can cost up to $15 per 1GB overage. That being said, the overages themselves would cost $120 per month. This brings the total month data charges to $200. Multiplying this number for the year brings the total to more than $2600 for the three players. Suddenly, those “cheap” players become more expensive.

By adding the additional costs of the players, the total cost per installation of digital signage for the first year is equal to $3K. The other item to take note of is that these data charges do not fluctuate too greatly. Therefore, it can be inferred that a three-player signage installation can cost upwards of $8K for three years of operation. There are other players that do not use stream decoding; however, they are more expensive initially.

Digital signage players with no hidden costs.
If your company cannot afford to be surprised with operational costs that continue to add up over time, I’d recommend you go with a one-time investment digital signage system like iCOMPEL. You just pay one up-front cost. All digital signage software is preinstalled and updates are free. No expensive licenses are required year after year.

Plus, the PC-based digital signage player works right out of the box – keeping digital signage simple. It also comes packed with customization capabilities making it perfect for large-scale, sophisticated applications.

So, what digital signage player will you choose for your next installation?

*Data calculations based off a well-known telecommunications estimation tool.

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Why you should use digital signage enclosures

A digital signage deployment isn’t truly complete until an enclosure has been included. The practical benefits to even the most simple digital signage enclosure are numerous, and if a signage display is going to be outdoors, it’s ever more important to pick the right enclosure for a player.

An enclosure is the first line of defense signage has against any type of tampering. At its most basic, a locking metal box around a player prevents vandalism, cable disconnects, or even repositioning. An enclosure protects the investment that digital signage represents. Most enclosures feature Gorilla® Glass, which is easier to clean off than an LCD or plasma screen of a display. Plus, it’s tough, and can usually prevent damage from thrown or wielded objects.

DS EnclosureAesthetically, an enclosure is the difference between a nicely framed and matted picture and a poster tacked to a wall. A digital signage screen in the proper enclosure has a neat appearance. The enclosure encompasses cables and other connections, giving a mounted display a contained, well-maintained appearance. Additionally, an enclosure is an opportunity for branding—a canvas as it were, for logos, team colors, and other messaging.

Another practical consideration for digital signage is mounting, and enclosures give users more options than a player on its own.

If digital signage displays are going to be placed outside, enclosures are not optional. Enclosures protect signage from the elements and regulate operating temperatures. Rated with an Ingress Protection (IP) Code, it is clear what digital signage enclosures protect against. Usually two numbers, the IP Code rates for solid particle protection (0-6) and liquid ingress protection (0-9), with 0 meaning no protection; 6 meaning dust-tight; and 9 meaning protection against close range, high-pressure water jets. For most outdoor applications, the most popular ratings are 65 (dustproof and water resistant) and 67 (dustproof and waterproof, including short immersion in water). Continue reading

How to choose the correct digital signage display

Shopping for digital signage displays is vastly different than shopping for flat-screen televisions for one’s home. When looking into purchasing displays for digital signage, the primary driver needs to be quality, not cost.

Consumer-grade displays
Consumer-grade LCDs are inexpensive and usually easily available. However, they do not come with extended warranties, usually only having warranty periods of a few months to a year. The screen performance and brightness are limited and do not last long in the scheme of things. Consumer-grade displays usually do not have a screen saver capability in case the video signal is lost, nor is an automatic on/off switch feature available.

displayCommercial-grade displays
In contrast, commercial-grade LCDs are designed specifically for the rigors of commercial digital signage applications and, as such, cost more. Digital signage usage differs significantly from consumer display usage, with displays needing to be on for longer hours. The hardware in commercial-grade displays enables more effective operation in commercial environments. Heat dissipation plates, cooling fans, and other electronics are components that enable these displays to be on for long hours with economical power consumption.

Other features in commercial grade LCDs may include video-wall processors, scheduling options, and lockable control panels. Commercial displays can be rotated, meaning they can be hung horizontally (landscape) or vertically (portrait). This flexibility enables businesses to use displays in a way that fits space requirements and desired look and feel of the environment. The bezel on commercial signage displays is uniform, unlike on consumer-grade TV screens, and usually much thinner than consumer-grade bezels. This enables creative layouts with more than one display.

Commercial displays also usually have warranties of several years. The industry standard warranty starts at three years, and some manufacturers are starting to offer standard five-year warranties. Continue reading

6 Things to remember when investing in digital signage

Digital signage can truly be an enigma. Today, it seems to be all around us in forms as diverse as interactive flat-panel displays, signs the size of buildings, and, most recently, on mobile devices we carry around with us.

Digital signage can be a very effective and surprisingly affordable communications medium for businesses and institutions of all types and sizes. But if you’re just getting started with a digital signage project — as well as designing the AV infrastructure behind the screens — you may be unsure of where exactly to begin and what all is needed to make it happen. Here are six things to remember when investing in digital signage.

1. Budget
A digital signage system is not a one-time purchase. The budget needs to include costs beyond the initial investment. Future purchases will likely include software upgrades, new hardware, tech support, and, possibly, training. A company may even seek outside design consultants occasionally to completely refresh its look. In general, a budget that accounts for up to 24 months is better than one that only considers the first outlay of cash for displays.

2. Scalability
Another factor in setting up digital signage systems that is often overlooked is scalability. An inflexible system seriously limits the ability to adjust, add, and change hardware and displays in the future. Content and functionality of the signage system will be in flux as well. Expanding signage configurations is par for the course when setting up a signage system. Other departments will want to deploy it once they see how effective it is. Companies get bigger and change locations, add offices, upgrade facilities. Signage needs to be able to scale with the organization.

3. Involve more than one person
Digital signage shouldn’t be software that goes onto one computer with only one person running the show. Many people in an organization should be involved in digital signage content and configurations. Licensing agreements or Web-based systems easily accommodate multiple users, and the effort that goes into creating content and maintaining the system won’t need to start at square one with each personnel change. Continue reading

Black Box at DSE 2014

Last Thursday marked the end of another another successful Digital Signage Expo. This year’s show, held in Las Vegas, welcomed 5,000 attendees from around the world, and featured over 200 exhibitors dedicated to digital signage, interactive technology, and Out-of-Home networks.

rAVe Publications stopped by our booth, and we were able to showcase our MediaCento IPX, VideoPlex4 Video Wall Controller, and iCOMPEL Q Series products.

David Crum, Product Engineer, demonstrates how to extend HDMI video over an IP network with the MediaCento IPX.

 

Product Manager Erik Indresøvde demonstrates the VideoPlex4 Wall Controller.

 

Rob Edgecomb, Digital Signage Technical Sales Specialist, shows off the iCOMPEL Q Series digital signage subscriber for hard or noise-sensitive environments.