Some of the people who developed the open source digital signage platform Concerto, when they were students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, have now developed a commercial wrapper of Concerto aimed at users who want a low-cost, intuitive system, but don’t want to manage servers.
If end-users want to use Concerto at no cost, they’ll need your own servers and people who know how and want to deal with that. Or, reasons Innio Group, they can get a hosted, SaaS version of Concerto and let Concerto experts deal with that stuff.
“Our hosted version of Concerto offers the same technical capabilities as open source Concerto, but with a seamless installation experience and support,” says Innio’s August Fietkau. “Of course, that’s just a beginning for us. We hope to offer a variety of content plugins, templates, emergency integration, and other capabilities larger organizations may find useful.”
Innio, which is based in the same town (metro Albany, NY) as the highly regarded tech school, was founded by RPI alumni. “During our time at RPI, we developed Concerto to display student government announcements without paper posters; only later did our idea of widespread signage deployments increase the project’s impact dramatically,” says Fietkau. “Concerto was not RPI’s first digital signage system. It was preceded by an expensive, complex, and centrally controlled system of the sort Concerto now competes against. So while we don’t have any direct ties to RPI’s signage system today, we’re very pleased that it fulfills our ambition of being a well-used and totally student-administered system based on open technology.”
“It’s our belief that our service and its open source counterpart won’t compete for users, but we’re playing to some basic SaaS advantages. Users don’t have to install, support, or upgrade Concerto and we’ve made the technology choices that we think work best. We’ve seen too many people installing the server side of Concerto on a Raspberry Pi with SQLite that may be better served by an affordable hosted option.”
Fietkau says they see a lot of questions coming from the overseas market, and I know from blog traffic there is a huge amount of interest in finding low or no cost software to work with very low cost Raspberry Pis, which Concerto does (but doesn’t necessarily recommend).
“Our observation has been that many of our users are at large companies, some of which already have a signage system. I would characterize our system as an “insurgent” signage system. Concerto gets brought in by mid-level employees who have a need for extensible signage that will work for their internal application right away.”
“Which is where our Concerto service comes in,” Fietkau continues. “Our pricing is on the front page; no need to mobilize your purchasing department and sales reps. Anyone can buy it. Anytime — in their pajamas. It’s priced such that an employee with a project can put it on their company card. Our experiences at RPI and beyond suggest that simple, open systems trump opaquely-priced complex systems in most environments.”
“If it wasn’t obvious a few years back, fully web-based systems have rendered the last generation of signage irrelevant. We’re glad to see a lot of signage products in the SaaS format getting out there. With regard to those systems, we think that Concerto’s use of open code, simple plug-in architecture, and internationalization support make it a strong entry. As we hit the marketplace, our message, like our software, is simple: Concerto is clearly-priced, easy for users, available on demand, and can be made to work with nearly anything.”
Innio’s Concerto service uses a variety of small-form-factor computers running Linux. The company says because of its origins in a collegiate environment, Concerto avoids the more centralized and complex workflows of most commercially available signage software. “Using its plugin architecture, Concerto integrates with existing data sources and infrastructure, such as calendaring and emergency management systems.”
SaaS fees start at $10/month and scale up from there.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.