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Understanding the Basics of Digital Signage Media Players

November 13, 2017

Are you ready for the digital signage boom? The global digital signage market is expected to reach $13.8 billion by 2017, with the United States leading the way, according to InfoComm International. To get in on the growth, now is the time to brush up on the digital signage technology that will make your business a success.
Let’s take a look at the devices that many consider the brains of a digital signage system: media players.

What are Media Players?

A media player is, in essence, a compact personal computer or processor that controls each digital display and runs the system’s various applications. Media players are usually fairly small devices and can be located in one of three places.

  • In digital signage installations where each screen displays something unique, they are usually mounted to the back of the digital display and connected with a video cable.
  • In systems where multiple screens display the same content, they often reside within a nearby enclosure.
  • When these options aren’t feasible, the media player can be located remotely using signal distribution equipment. Remote media players are often rack-mounted in an IT closet.
  • The Role of Media Players

In every digital signage installation, a variety of hardware is used to deliver content to the screen. Typically, a digital signage system includes the following:

  • One or more display screens
  • One or more media players
  • Digital signage software
  • A content management server

End users can quickly and easily create and update content, schedule play lists and handle other management tasks using digital signage software on a PC or other device. Then, the media player stores and plays the digital content, which could include audio, images, video or documents, or a combination of the four. Each media player pushes content to the display screens according to a predefined play list.

Choosing a Media Player

As with most other technologies, not all media players are created equally. There are hundreds of different media players on the market from a variety of manufacturers. Some media players are even available at places like Best Buy and Amazon.com. Finding the right one for each digital signage project will depend upon the customer’s needs and budget, as well as the environment.

With today’s media player technology, there are a range of options available. Now, you and your customer can choose Android or ARM-based players, multi-output players or even digital displays that have their own embedded media players. As Android and ARM players have gained popularity, lower-priced hardware has become available from a variety of new manufacturers. Now, VARs can even opt for a media player that costs less than $100, enabling smaller customers to take advantage of the technology and build larger networks.

Some media players now come pre-installed with the necessary digital signage software, while others give you the chance to choose your own. In any case, the choice will be determined by the type and style of content, whether the system will be IP-enabled, the number of displays and whether interactive signage will be used.

It’s also important to take the environment for the media player into consideration. What is the average temperature of the area? Is there regular air flow? Would the media player be subject to vibration, extreme heat or shock? These factors will affect your media player selection and could have an impact on budget.

Finally, save time, money and effort by planning ahead. Work with your end user to get a clear understanding of their needs – now and in the coming years. Choose high-quality, reliable hardware to minimize the threat of field failures, which interrupt content delivery and take up resources for both you and the end user.

All Things Considered

What has been your experience with shopping for media players? What types of media player technology have you had success with? Leave your comments below.