To make your digital signage successful, as well as having a top-notch screen, the device you choose to deliver your digital signage on-screen is an important consideration.
These days things have moved on from just attaching a laptop to a display and leaving it noisily whirring away. You can now get media solutions built into the screens themselves (system-on-chip), or you can add them via standalone USB sticks, HDMI sticks or mini-PCs.
Your choice will decide on the amount of control you need to update your display(s), the amount of power you need (and are willing to pay for) to run the device, and, of course, its cost. Here’s a quick run-down of the different types of digital signage display hardware available out there to help you make your choice.
The simplest solution is to use a USB flash drive stick with a looped display of content on it. You just plug it into the display and it shows the content on it automatically. This is great for single-use displays that you have easy access to, as it involves you physically replacing the USB stick whenever you want to update the content. This is one of the cheapest (and quietest) solutions to run, but it means that a lot of the best parts of digital signage – ease of updating content, controlling multiple displays – aren’t available to you.
Similar to USBs, but usually a step up in terms of using connectivity for updates, are HDMI stick media player devices that connect via a display’s HDMI port. For example, the ASUS Chromebit or Amazon’s Fire TV stick. Both let you control the content remotely, but the Chomebit is more supported in terms of apps available for running display signs.
The Chromebit is essentially a Chrome OS desktop on an £80 HDMI stick, which doesn’t require its own power supply to run. You control what content shows on the screen via Google’s Chrome Device Management Console – a cloud-based content management system. You can have multiple Chromebit connected to the system, so deploying changes to digital signs ranged across a building is very painless.
Small factor PCs
If you are looking for something with a bit more grunt to open up your display choices, the next step up to deliver your digital signage is with a thin client or mini PC like the Chromebox. A Chromebox is simply a very compact desktop computer that runs the same Chrome OS as a Chromebook does. Typically, these enable you to run updates over Wi-Fi and display higher-end content than some of the solutions previously mentioned. Depending on how many displays you need to control, there will be cost issues if you require one mini-PC per display.
This is a networked display sign solution, but instead of plugging anything into the display, the screen has a chip in it that controls what you see on the screen. The advantage here is that there’s no extra device to plug in and you get to control the display from software that is usually cloud-based. Costs rise with this situation, but so does ease of use, especially if finding spare power points is a problem where you work or you want your displays to be as clean and streamlined as possible.
And when it comes to screens, remember it is often a false economy to use a consumer display rather than one that is designed for commercial use.
With all of these choices available to deliver your digital signage it is, of course, important that what you get something that meets your display needs. However, do take some time to consider what you might want to do in the future as well as today; you don’t want to be held back by the option you go for!