At Aerva, we often get asked about the ability to stream content to digital signage devices. This makes sense - people are used to streaming video and audio on their computers and mobile devices, and it’s a great delivery system that puts you one button-press away from your favorite TV show or album at any given moment.In the digital signage world, however, it’s almost always a better idea to download the content to your signage device and play it locally rather than streaming. Here’s why:
Network Outages: Streaming content depends on network connectivity. When you’re watching Netflix at home and your connection becomes dodgy, the video may buffer or the quality may dip, and if your internet connection goes out, you’ll lose the video altogether. This is annoying, but you can just continue watching your show later on when the connection is regained. With digital signage, a loss of content playing at any given time can result in lost ad revenues and loss of credibility if the screen persistently experiences connectivity issues.
Keep in mind that digital signage devices typically drive public-facing displays - you’re often displaying content to an audience that is walking or driving by the display. If the video goes out, then you’ve failed to send your message to your target audience. If you’re lucky, they’ll pass by the display again later on, but most often you will have missed them altogether.
Any device that’s connected to the internet can experience network connection problems. If your signage runs on a cloud-based service, that adds additional points of failure. Many signage devices today even run on wireless routers that connect over a cellular network, so factors like location can affect the quality of the network connection.
Downloading content to your signage device and playing it locally takes the network factor out of the equation completely. Your content will always play, 24/7, which is critical in most signage applications. And when new content is uploaded, it will immediately be downloaded to the device.
Video Quality: When you stream video/audio, the quality of the content you can play also depends on the quality of the internet connection. If your signage devices use a 4G wireless router, you probably won’t be able to stream 1080p video, even in an ideal setting. When you download content to your device locally, however, this limitation doesn’t exist. You can run 1080p video, uncompressed audio, or 4k video without any issues (assuming you have a powerful enough media player).
Control: Lastly, downloading content to your signage device gives you total control over the content. If you’re streaming a video from a third-party service, the video could get removed or edited and your signage device won’t know the difference. Obviously this only applies if you’re playing content from a third-party site, but I’m including this point since we get a lot of questions about the ability to stream videos from YouTube
Streaming video does have its place in the digital signage world. Most notably, the ability to stream live events can be an extremely cool and powerful way to engage your audience. At Aerva, we’ve done a number of one-off campaigns that utilize this technique, but for playing static content, downloading the media to your signage device and playing it locally is almost always the better option.
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