This article covers the basics of a digital signage system including hardware and software pieces to get you up and running in no time. The following components are applicable to installations for any network size:
- Digital Media Player
- Content/Network Management software
Digital Media Player
A digital media player is a small form of a PC. It’s a small box that you’ll plug into a TV/display to show your content. It tucks neatly behind the display or sometimes it is mounted on the wall or at least close to the display.
The display can be a LCD (typically for indoor applications). We are also seeing some LEDs start to come indoors because the pictures become so fine that they are almost indistinguishable from some of the LCD screens. And there are other kinds of display as well. For example, Samsung is introducing their QLED 8K monitor which costs up to $15,000 for a 85' one. There is not a lot of 8K content out there yet. You can imagine if you are trying to drive a screen or multiple screens with 8K content - the network and the computing power required to do that is going to be pretty intensive. But these are the applications that people are looking at and it's really exciting and cool because the resolution for screens continues to get higher and higher, and the price of the computing power keeps going down. It's getting better and better. In the future, it will be more cool to look at and easier to work with.
For outdoor, LCD tends to have challenges with direct sunlight, that means you can't really see it. That's why the LED displays come into play. I am sure you've seen billboards that used to use paper-like materials and now is transitioning over to the digital side. There's a whole lot of reasons for that. For instance, with digital signage, you can program your content, you can cycle ads through it, and have one ad there for an extended period of time, you can do some eye-catching creatives as well.
Another component is content and network management. Assuming you've got multiple displays through multiple buildings. You need a way to centrally manage the content and manage your players. You don't want to be sending your AV staff out checking on your players and uploading content when your players and your installations are spread out all over the place. It just becomes very impractical. The cloud is really not a new thing, but it does enable you to do a full distributed network management and be able to schedule content in a large distributed network.
System Set Up
How do the pieces connect? So you've got a media player, usually the connection is as simply as using a HDMI to the display. The player also needs to use the internet wired or wireless depending on what your situation is. And obviously your player and monitor need power. So those are the things that is required to get the system setup.
On the display side, typically you will see them wall mounted. They are so thin now that they can be just tucked right in through the wall. It's a matter of getting clever on hiding the player. You also see stand-alone applications like Kiosks. An example here from Aerva is an Intel NUC media player and the cloud being used to manage the content.
On the content side - here is where the users come into play. A user uploads the content, then schedules the content for display. Then the player essentially figures out when to display the content that it is being told to display based on the user's content management set up. All the set up steps are fairly easy and straightforward to do without needing any technical expertise, although the installation hang-and-bang part of this usually takes some level of expertise, particularly with the network. The media player set up is really straightforward, usually just plug it in to the power and plug it in the HDMI to display and then get the network up and running. So, depending on what kind of network sophistication you have, you might need IT people to help with the provision of IP address or things like that, but in general the set up is very simple and easy to do.
Contact Aerva for more information about digital signage system basics.