Guest Post: Sean Levy, MediaSignage
In some ways, digital signage grew up without going through puberty.
This space has certainly experienced the growing pains of a nascent industry, but many of the predicted growth spikes to the industry failed to play out the way some big observers suggested it would. Instead, we have seen a market that reflects a more predictable and steady rate of penetration, particularly when it comes to implementation and ubiquity of product.
Digital and place-based signs will continue to become more recognizable in OOH spaces. As this occurs, advances in hardware, software and distribution will continue to be the tail that wags the dog when it comes to proliferation of product.
I predict the next phase change and ultimate growth in the market is most likely to be spurred by both enterprise and consumer-based all-in-one displays, including the rise of Android TV.
Unlike its digital signage media player counterpart, Android TV expands on the application ecosphere in a big way. While Android digital signage media players are typically built with a single purpose in mind—typically to power a digital signage display—Android TV greatly expands the capabilities of a single display into a nearly unlimited cacophony of third party apps.
In this world, digital signage will represent only one of a host of other applications sitting on top of the Android OS. Android TV (and other smart TVs, for that matter) include an embedded motherboard, complete with all the software required to have a full suite of applications. The need for a stand-alone device, that acts as a media player, almost completely disappears.
Media players are dead. Long live the digital signage media player!
I have long believed and advocated for the complete elimination of the digital signage media player as we know it. It was not that long ago that many enterprise players cost north of $1,500. The costs have not only decreased by more than 1/10th, but features and functionality have increased, as well.
In addition, the size of such devices have gone from full tower PCs, to mini-PCs, and now to something the size of a smartphone. Gone are the days when an all-in-one digital signage display required a massive motherboard. The argument for doing so revolves around cost, aesthetics, security and, ultimately, scale.
The cost to procure today’s smart TV is at par with yesteryear’s standalone player. While not fully commercial-grade, many digital signage owners are opting for the smart TV version of the all-in-one display. There is a tangible difference in cost between the alternative commercial version and the consumer-grade version.
We are seeing many opt-out of the commercial side when it comes to display choices, especially among the SMB crowd. While the picture quality and hardware warranty are certainly real considerations, if price is an issue, smart, all-in-one devices will almost always win.
I’d wager aesthetics of an installation could pair a close second to cost. If installed properly, a signage display will have the player tucked neatly behind a mount, often secured nicely behind the rear of the display. However, the use of HDMI ports – which are further exacerbated by the location of such ports – and cords often can create an eyesore.
A sign will get a #facepalm #fail – regardless of how good the content is – if the cords and installation detract from the display itself. All-in-one options completely eliminate this potential issue.
Closely tied to aesthetics is the need for screen security. If the player is inaccessible, then its potential for getting swiped is almost eliminated entirely. Obviously, removing a mini-PC is much easier than walking off with a complete all-in-one display.
The rise of smart TVs on the consumer side is likely to help further drive the penetration of digital signage within enterprise and SMB customers in the industry. In fact, even the simplest of smart TVs are being used in many smaller, local digital signage applications.
Our team at MediaSignage thinks this is game-changing technology, so we developed and just released our own SignagePlayer built around Android TV.
In all, this is a positive for the industry, as an increase in digital signs begets more digital signs. The improved cost, security and aesthetics produced by all-in-one displays in digital signage make it a compelling next phase on the hardware side of the business.