The early days of digital signage was nothing more than a TV and VCR. That would have been the start of the movement from static displays to what we now know as dynamic, or digital signage. The next progression was a transition to networked systems, through a server-based system. That made digital signage a lot more robust, and capable of amazing things. Now, with the advancement of cloud storage technology, moving from a local server to the cloud has become the next logical step.
What follows is what I learned about the latest in digital signage cloud-based technology from Craig Makino, CEO, PDC North America Digital Signage, a Japanese company.
Digital signage in the cloud eliminates the need for a local server. There are many advantages to moving from a local server-based system to a cloud-based system. It makes the process of building, operating, and maintaining a large-scale digital signage system more affordable, easier, and more dependable.
Cloud-based operation eliminates the need to buy and maintain a server, which not only eliminates the initial cost of buying and setting up the server but also the time and cost of updating the hardware as it gets old, and backing up the files on hardware. Because when the system is in the cloud, it is backed up many times over. That means that the chances of the entire system going down due to a crash are virtually nonexistent.
There no longer needs to be one central network-operating center (NOC). Instead, the system is operable by multiple people, all at the same time, and in multiple locations, accessible by computer, broadband connection, and a browser. Content management, and trouble-shooting become equally simple. Additionally, most digital signage systems require a special app to access their systems. This can cause a problem if the user needs to make a change from a computer that does not have the required app. If the computer is behind a firewall, downloading the required app is not possible. With a cloud system, there is no need for the app, so changes can be made from any browser.
Scalability also becomes more affordable. Adding screens can be done without buying or maintaining more servers, which means expanding and operating a system with thousands of screens becomes more manageable. And, without the need for large servers pushing out high-definition content from one location, large-scale bandwidth requirement is no longer an issue, or an additional cost.
“As more cloud networks are being built, digital signage on the cloud is a natural progression providing unlimited content storage capability,” Makino says. “With so many cloud networks entering the market, the law of supply and demand is continuously driving down the cost of space rental, which also helps keep the cost of operating the system down.”
A cloud-based system is also more reliable. If the main server goes down in a digital signage system, the entire network goes down, which can mean that screens do not get regular updates or may go dark. Such an event requires deploying a repair team to the actual location where the server is housed, which also means the unit is inoperable until the issue is resolved. The time it takes to fix it also depends on the severity of the problem. If the digital signage system is also being used for emergency notification, it can literally be a case of life or death.
Archiving content, which entails backup redundancy, is also taken care of through the cloud. If one or even two storage locations fail, we still have the cloud. Imagine having a complete system failure on a server, and losing a library of content. The cost and time to rebuild it could cripple a system for months, and cost thousands of dollars to replace.
Cloud-based digital signage may not be for everyone. Smaller systems that don’t require large-scale servers, hundreds of screens, and large libraries are still good candidates for a local system. But if an organization is deploying a large-scale digital signage system that has to communicate over a broad geographic area, it is worth looking at a cloud-based system. It’s an idea whose time has come.
Marshall Electronics is a member of the Digital Signage Federation, the only independent, not-for-profit trade organization serving the digital signage industry. The DSF supports and promotes the common business interests of worldwide digital signage, interactive technologies and digital out-of-home network industries. To learn more, go to www.digitalsignagefederation.org.
Perry Goldstein, director of New Digital Technologies at Marshall Electronics, is an electronics industry veteran responsible for managing the company’s digital signage division. He is also an electronics industry analyst, speaker, and widely published writer.