AMX releases TCO calculator. Great, but …

December 14, 2010 by Dave Haynes

Pro AV giant AMX has announced and released a total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator for digital signage installations.

“The first such tool in the digital signage industry lets buyers compare digital signage solutions and evaluate costs, both fixed and recurring. The TCO calculator also serves as an education vehicle introducing new buyers to the factors involved in digital signage deployments. AMX will be demonstrating the TCO calculator at Almo’s E4 AV Tour December 15 in New York City.”

The online form is a nice little thingie that has a series of inputs that lets end-users figure out total costs over a period of time for a project. Factors that can be compared include buying versus monthly subscription service, software fees, maintenance, electricity costs, period of operation and size of deployment.

“A device like this can really benefit the marketplace as there are a number of options and variables that need to be analyzed and understood to make the best purchase in a digital signage deployment,” said Sean McNeill, AMX Vice President of Business Development. “As the digital signage industry is beginning to see explosive growth, organizations and businesses considering a deployment now have a source to educate themselves on the cost factors that come into play.”

The TCO calculator was created with input from industry experts such as InfoComm Academy Faculty Instructor and leading digital signage consultant Lyle Bunn. It introduces potential buyers to aspects of a deployment that they may not have contemplated. For example, companies must consider the alternatives of purchasing the hardware or a lease-like monthly subscription solution. Software cost and fees are assessed. And maintenance considerations are evaluated through noting the construction of the hardware, namely whether the solution is designed with solid state parts or moving parts. Moving parts, like a fan, may require repair or replacement during the deployment period.

The calculator is free to use and you can get at it by going to

As a baseline tool this does a pretty good job of factoring the main technology costs of a deployment. But for this to be a really robust calculator to budget and fully rationalize a digital signage project, there are several more input fields needed.

Here’s what I’d add:

The display. Obviously a big component, but also a big variable on TCO.

The labor costs of installation at the front-end are substantial and really hard to budget (unless a site survey is done, which kinda solidifies the estimate and removes chaos, but also adds more cost).

There’s also field servicing/repair costs, particularly if fans and spinning hard drives get used. The cost of rolling a truck even once over the life of an install is usually several hundred follars that didn’t get budgeted.

Then there’s the big one – content. Despite its oft-repeated coronation as being the king of any project, its real costs often gets missed in budgeting. It takes time and money to develop the original creative look and feel of programming on a project. Then that content has to be refreshed if there are any real hopes that people will build a routine of looking at the screens. Content that says the same for too long turns into visual wallpaper.

Yes, content can be developed using templates and, eesh, PowerPoint. The question is whether low-balling content costs makes the project, as a whole, even worthwhile.

Staffing requirements have a role in costing. Training. Connectivity. Legal. Insurance (potentially a big one if the project is going into a commercial building). And so on.

So, a solid job by AMX covering off its field of play – which is gear and software. This tool will indeed be helpful.

But anyone looking at a digital signage project, as a whole, needs to go into it with the understanding that a broad range of costs beyond the hardware and software can and will bubble up.

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