In this blog, we outline 7 digital signage products you are likely to run into when starting a digital signage project. In this blog we cover digital signage hardware and software, making sure you have all your bases covered for a successful digital signage integration.
Before we begin, it’s important to understand the relationship between the digital signage products and their roles within a project.
A digital signage system or digital signage network is made up of 3 main elements: A digital signage media player, digital signage software, and a screen. Without one of the elements, you can’t have digital signage. However, for each element, there are countless options out there to suit your project’s exact specifications. We will dive deeper into these elements later in the blog, however, we’ve put together a simple graphic that demonstrates the 3 elements below.
1. Digital Signage Media Players
Thanks to advances in technology, small and large-scale digital signage systems can be managed via the cloud. In the past users would have to physically traipse around a building or travel to multiple sites. This would be just to unplug a USB dongle, update the content, and plug it back in. They would then have to travel to the next site. As you can imagine this got pretty expensive and was a pain to manage! Especially for larger organisations who needed new content/messages to go live at the same time in different locations.
The birth of cloud-based digital signage has been a miracle. Each digital signage display will be connected to a media player which is connected to the internet. From here a single user can manage their screen network remotely from any location. This fantastic piece of technology is dependent on a digital signage media player.
As previously mentioned a digital signage media player will pull content from your digital signage software and display it on your displays. But what kind of players exist? And which one is right for you?
When choosing a digital signage media player there are a few key points you need to keep in mind to make sure your digital signage runs smoothly and looks great. These are: what are you going to display? what kind of screen/videowall are you looking to control? and what is your budget? Below we have listed a few of the main types of digital signage media players you may come across when embarking on your digital signage journey.
Android Media Players
Essentially, Android media players are mini PCs. They are powered by Android and sit behind your digital signage display. Digital signage companies will often offer commercial-grade Android media players. These are built for 24/7 use and really pack a punch when it comes to displaying all kinds of digital signage content on your screens.
We recommend one Android media player per screen. This allows you to easily handle all your digital signage content requirements for single screens in 4K. However, if you’re looking to power multiple screens such as a video wall. You will need something more powerful.
The benefit of being Android-based is that all your digital signage apps and programs can come pre-installed by your digital signage provider. This means all you have to do is plug the player into the back of your display and your content will start to play. With other media players, you may need to install everything yourself, which can be time-consuming and tricky.
Live TV Android Media Players
As the name suggests these media players do all the same things as commercial-grade Android media players. However, Live TV players have the added functionality of live TV digital signage. If you’re looking to display live TV alongside your standard digital signage content this may be the media player for you.
Video Wall Media Players
Video wall media players are amongst the most powerful digital signage media players you can buy. These media players are built to control content for multiple screens. With video wall media players you get all the same features that come with standard commercial grade media players. However, video wall players boast a huge boost of power and functionality to turn multiple digital displays into a digital masterpiece. Video wall media players come at a higher cost than standard Android media players.
Amazon Fire Stick
Many of us are very familiar with Amazon Fire Sticks. Simply plug the device into the back of a TV and it turns into a smart TV where you can watch your favourite shows and even play games. But how do they relate to digital signage?
Some digital signage companies use Amazon Fire Sticks as their flagship media player of choice for digital signage. They can be satisfactory if you’re looking to display simple content such as photos and videos. However, if you’re looking to display more complex or advanced content such as live data feeds, dashboards, etc. you may want to consider a media player with more power. Certainly, if you’re looking to control a video wall or a large LED display.
Unfortunately, Amazon Fire Sticks also lack the ability for remote device management. This means if your screen has an issue somebody as to physically be there to fix it. With other media players that include remote device management, support teams and users can access the media player remotely and resolve any issues that exist.
2. Commercial Digital Signage Displays
Arguably one of the most common types of digital signage products is the screens. More specifically commercial digital signage displays. These screens look similar to televisions you may have in your living room, however, commercial screens have been built for digital signage use. For example, commercial-grade displays are built for 24/7 use, meaning they won’t suffer from screen burn or damage from being on for too long.
Another huge feature of commercial-grade digital signage displays is the brightness. We’ve previously covered screen brightness in another blog – What is a high brightness screen? However, we can give you a quick rundown here. Commercial digital signage displays often have much higher brightness ratings than a TV you may find in your living room. For example, your living room TV can have a brightness rating of 250 – 350 nits. Whereas, commercial digital signage displays range from 400 – 4000 nits. This extra level of brightness is extremely important if you are looking to install a window screen in direct sunlight or a place that gets a lot of glare. On a sunny day, your audience would not be able to read the content on a 300 nit screen. However, a brighter screen will make the content more visible and will mitigate the effects of sunlight and glare.
A feature that is not commonly mentioned for commercial digital signage displays is a detachable IR receiver. Your TV at home is likely to have a built-in IR receiver, allowing you to control things like the source or volume with the remote. A few years ago, however, some users were using standard TVs for their in-store and window digital signage. Some people then figured out you could bring a compatible remote from home and change things like the source or volume without the user’s knowledge. To solve this issue some commercial signage displays come with a detachable IR remote receiver which can be removed when the screen settings do not need to be changed.
3. Digital Signage Kiosks
Another one of the digital signage products you are likely to see is digital signage kiosks. Essentially kiosk digital signage involves a portrait freestanding display that can be touch or non-touch. The most common use cases for kiosk digital signage are digital wayfinding, interactive shopping catalogues, information hubs, and advertising screens.
There are different types of digital kiosks that will serve a wide variety of uses, needs, and sectors. We already touched on digital kiosks being touch or non-touch, however, you also get indoor kiosks, outdoor kiosks, and even double-sided kiosks.
With a digital signage kiosk, the media player is usually integrated, therefore, the set up is often as simple and connecting the digital kiosk to power and WIFI. Once done you are ready to start deploying content.
Through digital signage software, your kiosk digital signage can be controlled in the same way as your standard digital signage displays.
4. Video Walls
As technology has become easier to manage and use, the popularity of video wall solutions has exploded. In short, a video wall consists of multiple screens to give the impression of one large screen. They are seen in a range of sectors including large corporate offices, retail stores, and universities.
It’s worth bearing in mind that video walls don’t have to be huge to wow and impress your audience. For example, many restaurants are taking advantage of video wall technology and are displaying their food offerings in ways that were impossible before. Food can now stretch and animate over multiple screens, drawing attention to special offers and deals.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re planning on integrating a video wall at your organisation you will need the right player. The more screens your video wall consists of the higher the power of the video wall media player you will need.
5. Large Format LED Displays
When people see large-format LED displays, they often think it’s a video wall. Although a similar concept instead of consisting of individual screens a large-format LED is made up of lots of LED panels. The advantage of this is no bezels. Each LED panel is covered from corner to corner with LEDs. This gives the illusion of a seamless screen.
Large format LEDs can be built for outdoor use, stadium use, and more. Even better, just like the other digital signage products in this guide, they can be controlled with the same software you use for your other digital signage screens.
6. Digital Hand Sanitisers
Digital hand sanitisers are a relatively new member of the digital signage hardware family. Since the introduction of COVID-19 organisations have been looking for new ways to operate safely whilst maintaining a strong and consistent stream of communication with their employees, visitors, and customers.
Digital hand sanitisers are essentially a contactless hand sanitiser with a screen on top. When a user takes a pump of hand sanitiser, content and messages can play on screen. For example, if there was a digital hand sanitiser at the entrance of a restaurant, a user could take a pump of hand sanitiser, disinfect, and then be shown an offer or special. Alternatively, a digital hand sanitiser in a school could play content showing children how to properly apply the hand sanitiser.
7. Digital Signage Software
Arguably, digital signage software is the most important amongst digital signage products for any digital signage project. Without software, you have no way of getting the content onto your screens. Digital signage software allows users to create, update, edit, schedule, group, deploy, and manage digital signage content. There are many different types of digital signage software out there that have all been designed to meet specific end-user needs.
When researching which digital signage software is best for you it’s important to identify your main needs and what challenges you want to overcome or problems you need to solve. For example, is your problem “taking too much time to individually update content around a country or site?” If so then cloud-based digital signage software is probably for you. Or do you find your marketing team struggling to remember to upload and change the content at different times of the day, week, or year? Then you’ll need digital signage software that includes digital signage scheduling.
It’s also worth thinking about what kinds of content you want to display. There are many different kinds of digital signage software that offer a range of app and feature integrations. For example, some digital signage will only allow you to display photos, text, and videos, whereas others will offer live TV, Microsoft BI integration, and data feed integrations.
Another element of digital signage software is the ease of use. When getting your content and messages onto your screens you want to do so quickly. And if anybody needs to take the job over, you don’t want them to have a steep learning curve. There are many ways different software providers have come up with to create and get content on your screens. Some providers have gone for a drag and drop option which allows the user to simply drag and drop their photos, videos, features, etc. into a creative studio. Other software providers have more complex interfaces that have steeper learning curves and increase the time it takes to update your content. Other software can seem extremely simple where all a user has to do is select a picture, which is then deployed to a screen, however, this comes at a sacrifice of a lack of features and content control.
Our favourite type of digital signage software is cloud-based. This is because it allows you to do everything you need to do from one central location. For example, is your marketing team based in London, but content needs changing for the Glasgow branch? With cloud-based software, the marketing team can change the content for the Glasgow branch in seconds without having to move. This is also handy for support. With cloud-based software, if there is an issue with one of your digital signage media players, content, or software. Your digital signage provider should be able to remotely access and fix the issue. Non-cloud-based software may require onsite visits which can be time-consuming and costly.