Buck A Month Gets Digital Signage Operators Peace Of Mind

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GUEST POST: Charles Regula, VIA Technologies

Would you spend a buck a month more to buy into some peace of mind for your digital signage network?

Sure you would … if you thought about it that way.

But when it comes to sourcing devices for signage networks, most of the focus goes squarely to the initial, total cost of the hardware. If you have been around digital signage – particularly if your company specs and sells solutions – you’ll have heard end-users insisting they needed to get the final cost for devices down below a certain price threshold.

My company, VIA Technologies,  manufacturers devices that are based on low-cost ARM processors and use the Android operating system. I hear stories regularly about end-users insisting they can’t pay more than $80 for an Android player (or some number like that).

It’s very possible, sure, to buy a tiny media-streaming Android TV box or HDMI stick that can be put to use as a rudimentary digital signage player. Software companies have made those units work, sometimes quite serviceably.

But it is a total crapshoot when a company goes down that path.

Why?:

1 – The devices are designed for periodic use in homes, not heavy 24/7 use in commercial settings. They’re not built to last the way they need to last in the digital signage use-case’

2 – They ship in containers from Shenzhen, China with skimpy, muddled instructions and come with little or no support or after-care. Remember, these things are low-cost commodity products;

3 – The circuitry, the connectors, the pre-loaded software can and often will change with each new delivery. Your software team, or the software company you work with, can end up in perpetual R&D getting steadily new and different versions of the same box or stick to cooperate and work like the rest.

It’s a total mess. Several companies that have developed Android solutions have dozens of discarded units on their test benches. I know one software company that had to pull some 500 Android set-top boxes from the field because of their high failure rates. The CEO ate the cost to put in replacements to rescue his client, and basically do the right thing. And he quit Android.

Sounds a little nuts, right? People cutting costs and nonetheless paying much more in the long run..

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It seems nutty, particularly, when about $1 a month changes everything. The cost difference between a mid-range Shenzhen Android TV box or stick, and a commercial-grade Android media device, is perhaps $50. The life-cycle for a typical digital signage installation is about four years, or 48 months. Divide $50 by 48 and you end up at about a buck a month over the duration of an initial installation.

So … for about a buck a month extra, a commercial Android media playback device gives solutions providers and end-users:

1 – Built for purpose devices engineered to run 24/7, with software tools and hardware that can be managed remotely;

2 – Readily available and useful support, on the same side of the globe, as well as knowledge and understanding of the demands of signage;

3 – Devices that ship with the same hardware specs and software for several years, not for several weeks (maybe).

It’s human nature for people to try and shave costs and get the most bang for their capital investment buck. But saving that extra buck a month, by going with equipment that was never designed for signage, tends to be a choice end-users and solution providers regret.

A buck a month more, for peace of mind, seems like a hell of a deal.

Charles Regula
Charles Regula is Product Manager for digital signage at VIA Technologies Inc. in Fremont, California. With headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, VIA is a global developer of highly integrated embedded platform and system solutions for M2M, IoT and Smart City applications, ranging from video walls and digital signage to health care and industrial automation.
Charles Regula

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4 Comments

  • Jeremy Gavin says:

    You are preaching the truth Charles! We want to do more and more with the amazing technology that is digital signage, yet we cripple our capabilities all too often by building a network on a weak foundation of players that are not built for their performance, but for price.

    Do yourself a favor – value your own network, plan for success and understand that investing in media players based on performance is money well spent. You’ll be glad you did 24 months from launch.

  • Ken Goldberg says:

    Well done, Charles. You get what you pay for. Anyone who thinks that their success as a network hinges upon the cost of the media player is naive at best. Vendors pandering to that crowd learn a hard lesson, like that CEO, who has paid with more than cash.

  • Mads Nilsen says:

    In the “ABOUT SIXTEEN:NINE” box on this blog it says “There’s no advertorial”. What is this if not advertorial?

    • Dave Haynes says:

      Not sure what you mean. There’s no direct reference to a product in the post, and Charles is expressing a pretty commonly held point of view about consumer versus commercial devices (see the other comments).

      There are lots of posts here that make direct and repeated references to product, because I found them interesting and assumed readers would, as well. The only commercial reference here is that the author works for a company that sells commercial devices.

      My measure of valid posts is that that the material advances knowledge and expresses sound opinions. Advertorial is ad copy disguised as something useful.

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