Digital signage has grown into an enormous industry in the last 10 years, with sales nearing $14 billion at the end of 2013, according to research firm IHS. And there’s no sign of a slow-down in sight: IHS expects the digital signage market to top $17 billion by 2017.
Value-added resellers are poised to take advantage of the digital signage boom by offering hardware and software solutions to customers in a wide range of verticals. But first, it’s important to get a firm grasp on the latest and greatest technology. Digital signage software evolves especially quickly, so be sure to do your research on a regular basis and stay informed.
To get started, the first step is understanding the four crucial elements of digital signage software:
1. Media player.
The media player software is the component that controls the video, audio and other content being sent to the digital display. This software resides on the media player itself. There are countless media player manufacturers out there, and many devices have different capabilities. Be sure to find media player software that can handle your customers’ specific needs, such as RSS news feeds, information crawls or video wall content.
Scheduling software is another important component of any digital signage system. As the traffic coordinator of a signage network, the scheduling software allows end users to schedule when each piece of content will play—for example, images of a restaurant’s breakfast offerings are displayed in the morning; but the scheduling software automatically switches to lunch-related content at 11:30 a.m.
For digital signage networks with numerous screens, the scheduling software also determines which screen the content will play on. Your customers with especially large networks will appreciate scheduling software that is easy-to-use and intuitive, requiring as little training as possible.
The server software is the brains of a digital signage network. This technology distributes images, video, audio and all other media to the media player software. Traditionally, each display required its own server. Today, many server devices and software platforms can handle multiple displays, which allows end users to easily and economically grow their network as their needs change.
4. Content creation and management.
Digital signage content software helps the user to create and manage the content that will be displayed. This software may or may not be built into a software package. If not, you’ll have to find this element separately for your customer.
Content management software varies greatly, so be sure to find a platform that will be easy-to-use for all customers, regardless of their experience with digital signage. Also, be aware that different software may have different capabilities; if your customer needs to be able to send automated emails or if they’re making use of touchscreens, for example, their content management software needs to support those specialized tasks.
Licensed Software vs. SaaS
Be aware that digital signage software packages are available as software as a service (SaaS) or a single purchase licensed solution. There are pros and cons to each type of software. Take into account your customer’s digital signage network, facility, budget and other constraints to help determine what form of software will be best for each project.
Depending on each customer’s needs, you may find yourself specifying very different digital signage software for many deployments. That’s why it’s important to take the time to understand what they require of their digital signage—and how today’s software can fulfill that need.
How do you go about finding the right digital signage software for each customer? What would you say is the most important feature of this type of software: ease of use or features?