What is Digital Signage?
Digital Signage is the Future
Digital signage is the way of the future. Traditional signs are expensive and can only display one message. Digital signage costs less than traditional signs and the message can change as often as you want – even every few seconds!
But how do you set it up? What hardware and software do you need? What monitors are best? Let’s take a look at some of the options.
Digital Signage – Monitor Or TV?
Televisions and computer monitors are undergoing a “convergence” where they are starting to each gain some of each other’s features. The good news is that both television screens and monitors can be used for digital signage and prices keep dropping while the picture quality and screen size you get for the money keeps getting better.
But there are some key differences between the two you should be aware of.
Television Screen Advantages for Digital Signage
The primary advantage of using a TV screen for your digital signage is screen size. Television screens are currently larger than computer monitors at the same price. So a television screen may be your best choice for large spaces or where the screen has to be mounted further away from viewers.
We are not going to get into whether you should choose plasma, LCD or LED as that would be a topic for another article. Suffice to say that all of these TV screens will work for digital signage. LED seems to be the way the industry is moving for the future but OLED screens are poised to enter the market more fully soon. At the moment OLED screens are expensive.
Computer Monitor Advantages for Digital Signage
Computer monitors offer two advantages for digital signage.
- Higher resolution: Most HD television screens work at about 1080p. But newer computer monitors may be 1440p or higher.
- Existing monitors: Since most companies already have a large number of computer monitors already connected to computers, it is easy to set up a company or organization-wide digital signage, news and announcements system with little or no outlay of cash to purchase screens.
Commercial vs. Consumer Televisions and Monitors
Commercial screens for digital signage cost more but offer the following advantages:
- Built to run 24/7: Most consumer televisions are built to run for 6-8 hours a day. Commercial monitors are more robust and last longer when running longer hours.
- Better cooling.
- Better connection options (see below).
- Warranty: Many consumer TV warranties are void if they are used in a commercial setting whereas warranties on commercial televisions are still valid.
Connections for Digital Signage
Most televisions now come with the ability to connect to computers. Here are some ways they connect:
- Component video
- DisplayPort (less common but allows multiple screens to be connected)
Any of these connections can be used. Check your computer and screens to see which can connect. If you are building a new system from scratch, we recommend DisplayPort. DisplayPort lets you connect up to 6 screens to a single player computer. DisplayPort is not common yet on consumer level televisions and monitors but is more common on commercial versions.
Digital Signage Software
Digital signage software is the all-important “engine” that manages your digital signage system. The software handles the display, scheduling and contents of your playlist for your digital signage. The best digital signage software we have found is from PresentationPoint™.
PresentationPoint™ not only offers software for showing content on digital signage, it also has software for creating news tickers & banners, data-driven dynamic presentations and much more.
PresentationPoint™ software handles the most common media formats used for your digital signage so you can add any of these to your playlist:
- Microsoft PowerPoint™ files
- Video files like AVI, MPEG, DivX, Flash
- Graphic files like JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP
- Audio files like MP3 and WMA
- Data sources like Microsoft Access™, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, RSS feeds, Microsoft Excel™ spreadsheets, XML files and more
Here is a brief rundown of the various software available from PresentationPoint™. Contact the company if you have any questions about which software add configuration is best for your needs.
DataPoint™ lets you display your data in real time. So your PowerPoint™ slides aren’t static – they automatically update themselves with your latest data. Here are some examples:
- Your sales slides and graphs always contain the latest figures
- Creating live message boards that automatically update with announcements, news and events
- Connectivity with automatically updating data sources like Microsoft Access, MySQL, Microsoft SQL server, Oracle, RSS feeds, Microsoft Excel files, XML files and many others
iPoint™ is used to create a play list of multimedia files like images, videos and PowerPoint™ presentations. You can schedule your play lists and assign play lists to remote players.
iPoint™ is great for:
- Digital signage
- Scheduled advertising and messages
MessagePoint™ lets you use Microsoft PowerPoint™ as a screensaver. This is like running your own television station from your computer. You can use this to communicate with your colleagues company wide, to impress customers and motivate personnel.
MessagePoint™ is great for:
- Company-wide news and announcements
- Updating targets, event planning and meeting agendas
No conversion of the presentation to image files is needed. When you update your base presentation, MessagePoint™ (professional edition+) will automatically detect the update and restart local playback.
NewsPoint™ lets you collect information from various sources like RSS feeds, websites, databases, XML, weather forecasts, stock quotes and others and then to display this information via DataPoint™, iPoint™ or TickerPoint™ in real-time to your audience.
TickerPoint™ lets you display a smooth scrolling news ticker in your PowerPoint presentations with either internal or public news. The ticker is updated continuously as new information arrives from the data source.
The information can be from a connected RSS feed, database or Excel spreadsheet.
For many business people, Microsoft Outlook™ is your daily work dashboard where you handle your email, appointments and tasks. OutlookPoint™ is a Microsoft Outlook™ add-in that lets you use Microsoft Outlook™ and a dedicated mailbox to maintain information on your digital signage network.
You can create folders in Outlook that automatically synchronize to your OutlookPoint™ database.
You can use OutlookPoint™ in conjunction with DataPoint™ or iPoint™ to display this information in your presentations.
Digital Signage Computers
The good news is that you don’t have to go out and buy the latest, expensive, state of the art, razor’s-edge technology hardware to run your digital signage system. The software we suggest runs very well on mid-range Windows-based computers used in most office settings already.
Mounting Your Digital Signage
Whether you are using wall mounts or mobile mounting systems, we strongly recommend you work with a reputable digital signage installation company. Reputable companies will ensure that:
- The wall can handle the load you are placing on it.
- There is sufficient cooling and ventilation to extend the life of your display.
- Sufficient electrical power and surge protection is in place.
- The screen viewing angle is optimized.
These companies can also do regular maintenance such as calibrating the colors and vacuuming the ventilation vents.
Help To Get Started
Now it is time to get started on your digital signage future. Contact one of our representatives today to get help designing the perfect digital signage system for your facility.
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