Although the price of digital signage technologies has come down in the past few years, for most end users a network still represents a fairly large investment. According to the annual industry survey by WireSpring Technologies, a typical digital sign costs about $3,500 over three years – and that’s just one sign. With prices like this, it’s no wonder a growing number of end users and value-added resellers (VARs) are seeking out lower-priced, open-source technology.
As digital signage becomes increasingly widespread, the popularity of open-source technology, which is designed to operate with devices from any manufacturer, has grown. Today, several industry organizations, including Point-of-Purchase Advertising International and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, are working to develop and promote industry-wide technical standards that will make it easier to communicate across digital sign networks made by different manufacturers.
As a VAR, what does the open-source movement mean for you? Open standards bring both positives and negatives with them, so be sure to carefully consider your options before selecting a particular device for your product line or current project.
Flexibility. Open-source technology can be integrated with many types of devices from multiple manufacturers. Open-source digital signage software, which is usually available as a free download, provides even more flexibility, allowing end users to actually work on codes or, if they prefer, stay with the design view alone. As a result, end users and VARs enjoy greater flexibility in designing digital signage systems. With open standards, users are no longer locked into proprietary technology and can take advantage of nearly any device they want, at the time of deployment and into the future.
Innovation. With open-source technology, you’re free to innovate and get creative. Choose the best hardware and software for each project, and adapt it to suit your end user’s needs.
Lower prices overall. Interoperability across systems and media players is increasing competition in the supply chain. This is causing costs to fall while making the return on investment for digital signage networks much more attractive. The result is great news for end users and VARs alike.
Compatibility. With certain open-source hardware and software, you could run into problems with your various technologies working well together. Today’s digital signs are mostly closed, proprietary systems, so it can be difficult to interoperate across digital sign networks that run different solutions. Plus, open-source software might not be compatible with certain content types and hardware brands. Due to the lack of a common communication protocol, many products from different vendors still don’t “talk” effectively to each other.
Usability. Open-source digital signage software is especially vulnerable to usability issues. Generally, the technology hasn’t been vetted by usability experts the way mainstream software has. As a result, it isn’t fine-tuned for the everyday end user, so many struggle to navigate its functions. In addition, open-source software often lacks the typical documentation – like user manuals and guides – that helps users troubleshoot issues with mainstream software.
Security. Many end users view open-source technology as more prone to security problems. In fact, a Forrester Research study found that more than half of IT executives and technology decision makers at large companies worry about the security of open-source software. Although the technology you specify might be completely secure, your end user might perceive it otherwise.
It’s important to carefully weigh your options between open-source and propriety hardware and software. Think about the end user’s resources and capabilities, and then find out how they feel about the subject. Some end users will welcome the idea of open-source technology, while others will want to stay to tried-and-true proprietary devices.
What are opinions on open-source digital signage technology? Have you had success building networks with it? Or, have you had any difficulties? Tell is in the comments below.