Videowalls: The Next Big Thing

Seven key considerations when selecting a solution
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Seven key considerations when selecting a solution
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Videowalls are popping up everywhere, which means standalone digital signage screens no longer command the attention or offer the premier solution they once did.

Until recently, videowalls were prohibitively expensive and complex. Only large corporations and high-end retailers could afford the six-figure cost. However, videowalls are no longer just for specialized AV system integrators, as new entrants cost just one-tenth of previous solutions and offer rich features such as browser-based setup, standard PC network delivery, full artistic layout control, and compatibility with virtually any display. With display prices and bezel sizes also falling quickly, a broad selection of low-cost screens can be used for videowall deployments. Getting into the videowall market is a smart move for system integrators, however, it is very important to select the right solution to ensure maximum flexibility and competitive advantage.

1. Cement a strong cost advantage. Videowalls used to be very expensive, but still represent the allure of a high-end luxury item. It is important to research and standardize upon a single, cost-effective, yet flexible videowall solution that enables you to leverage the greater perceived value versus actual cost to win new installs. Choosing a solution you can purchase, deploy, and support at a much lower price will enable you to compete handily against resellers still proposing the old technologies. Just ensure you have sufficient margin to sharpen your pencil when required to win the project.

2. A flexible solution will increase your profits. Wide-ranging customer requirements common in the videowall sector have forced many AV system integrators to learn to support multiple videowall solutions to be price-competitive, but this extra overhead is no longer necessary. Look for low-cost videowall platforms that are flexible and advanced enough to cover the full gamut of deployments. Your customers will appreciate the extra flexibility and the time you will save supporting a single videowall platform will be substantial.

3. Choose a modular architecture. Avoid videowalls built into the display. A modular approach lets you choose best-of-breed vendors for each component and selectively upgrade to extend system lifespan as customers expect their investment to last a decade or more. Glass, mounting, and installation are typically the most expensive components, and the premium for built-in splitters often costs more than a more powerful and flexible independent controller. As content resolutions constantly increase, today’s best built-in videowalls will be obsolete within two years, disappointing your customer and limiting your ability to sell upgrades, service and support.

4. Easy demos. Choose solutions that are easy and inexpensive for you to test in your own or customer facilities. Easy to ship, long-shelf-life equipment with simple online demos, and demo programs will keep your costs down and allow you to sell upgrades to customers with aging video-wall controllers.

5. Avoid proprietary hardware and vendor lock-in. Legacy videowall controllers rely on proprietary hardware that is expensive to purchase, inventory, and repair and poses risks to your reputation. A failed proprietary component can yield weeks of customer downtime awaiting RMA, which reflects on you. New resellers getting started with videowalls rarely have the time or patience to learn complex legacy specialized equipment. No one wants piles of cables, video cards, and extenders that are difficult to conceal and maintain. The arrival of network-based videowalls lets you choose a tidy and simple solution that uses standard PC parts and existing network closets—clean, manageable and understandable.

6. Ensure you are offering in-demand and differentiated features. As videowalls become increasingly common, customers want to stand out from the crowd with artistic mosaic display layouts. Sometimes known as an art wall, this rare but differentiated feature mixes different displays rotated and arranged at different angles to captivate audiences. Customers are turning to videowalls to differentiate via eye-catching displays. Offering this and other unique features will win you business.

7. Future friendly is the key. Today 4K capability is expected, but soon 6K or 8K will be the norm. With a network videowall this would mean buying a $1,000 new PC two years out. Other changes like adding panels, rotating displays, or changing content management systems will also become easier. Modular videowalls engineered for flexibility give you an advantage and build ongoing revenue streams.

For more information and analysis on the different technologies available, download our whitepaper: http://userful.com/videowall/

Userful 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.

Tim Griffin is CTO and founder of Userful. Under Griffin’s leadership, Userful pioneered the model of zero client computing, which has since become an industry standard, with zero client devices now being manufactured by a broad range of partners. Userful has more than 1 million seats of its software deployed globally and has achieved revolutionary price and performance for centrally powered digital displays. In December 2014, Userful launched a new videowall system built on their network graphics approach called the Userful Network videowall.

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