Discover how a UK startup is transforming digital signage
“If a company is going to be data-driven, then they need to be looking at data every day. And people don’t want to be logging in and out of a system to be able to see that data, so ScreenCloud was born out of a necessity to display data in a more visually interesting way within our own business,” explains Mark McDermott, the CEO of one of the most innovative companies operating in digital signage today.
ScreenCloud, as the name suggests, is a cloud-based software system for managing any type of display. But rather than try and sell bespoke (and expensive) solutions to clients, ScreenCloud enables you to transform almost any screen into digital signage, which can then be controlled and updated via the web (with a monthly fee of $20 per screen).
“I think the key difference between what we and others do in this space is that we give customers the opportunity to take any screen—whether that’s a TV, a tablet, a computer screen, whatever—and to then control it from one single software platform,” says McDermott. “This gives people the option to use consumer as well as commercial grade hardware; it could be the TV in your lounge. Simply connect a stick-PC such as an ASUS Chromebit to your display, and then our software will elevate that up to a professional grade product that you could use within your business to communicate with your customers, employees, and anyone else that you can put a screen in front of.”
The ScreenCloud story
ScreenCloud launched in April 2014, but it started life as a hack within Codegent, the digital product studio founded by McDermott back in 2004.
“Although ScreenCloud is a relatively new product,” McDermott tells us, “The people working on it have been working together on other projects, for more than 10 years in some cases, and all of the software is built by them. It’s a fairly lightweight player, because what we’ve really tried to do is to unify the delivery experience.”
The ScreenCloud team has built the product using Chromium, the open-source code upon which Google Chrome is built, enabling the company to deploy the app to all kinds of media player, irrespective of whether they are running Android, iOS, Linux, or Windows.
“By using Chromium we ensure it looks the same whatever platform you’re on,” says McDermott. “The other thing the media player does is use our bespoke caching system, because in many environments where your using digital signage the Wi-Fi can be of a very low quality, and screens can often end up living on exterior walls, or behind columns, so signals can be weak and drop out. So you need to rely heavily on caching, and that all happens locally on the media player. This all happens on the device.”
Using the service
Once ScreenCloud is installed on a player, it can then be controlled via a web-based CMS, where you can upload, schedule and configure all the content that needs to be sent to you screen. And if this wasn’t enough to get you excited about the possibilities ScreenCloud presents, the company also boasts its own app store, where you can access prebuilt screen apps that provide you with extra options, and more importantly, extra content.
“Content is the elephant in the room for the whole industry,” says McDermott. “There are just too many companies out there that aren’t taking content seriously enough, and the more that screens get used, the harder it will be to get away with crappy content. Just like the websites of the early noughties, there was a time when you could get away with a sub-standard site, but now you can’t. It doesn’t matter how big your business is, if the experience isn’t a good one, your customers are going to call you out on it.”
With his background in web design, McDermott is quick to draw similarities between the early days of the average online experience, and what people interacting with digital signage are dealing with today.
“Digital signage feels very much to me like the early days of web. The first corporate sites I saw were essentially love letters to the CEO, with massive amounts of homepage copy, and every department having its own section,” says McDermott. “But if you look at top tier corporates now, they are offering up sites with just a handful of pages. That simplifying of thinking, the consideration of how long someone is spending on a page—coupled with the use of analytics—is where we’re at now with digital signage. We’ve got a long way to go, but we hope products like ScreenCloud will help shift the perception of digital signage.”
Name: Mark McDermott
Job title: CEO
Mark is co-founder of digital product studio Codegent, and is CEO of the digital signage startup ScreenCloud, based out of London and Bangkok. Mark’s passion is digital and, alongside his partners, he is striving to build world-class digital products.