I think that this fundamental concern is often lost amongst the myriad of bells and whistles that various signage packages offer. Ninety-nine percent of signage installations simply require that image A is played on screen B at a certain time. The image may be a still image, or it may be video or even a flash file, but the principle remains the same. The owner of the imagery or digital signage network needs to know with certainty that the image reached its destination and that, for example, it played at 7:00pm on Friday the 20th of March in the Riccarton Mall store.
This then implies the need to be able to remotely control and remotely monitor the screens that form part of your digital signage network, because all the bells and whistles amount to nothing if someone turned the screen off! Reliability of distribution and playback is fundamentally important because without it the investment is no more useful than sending out posters to stores and no one hanging them up.
For most digital signage users the initial return on investment consideration probably revolved around saving on printing costs and guaranteeing that the point of sale collateral was displayed and not left languishing on the manager’s desk. This is the true benefit of digital signage, but this requires that some technical prerequisites are met. Firstly you need to know that the remote display is turned on, and if it is not, you need the ability to turn it on remotely. This means that the display needs some form of external control such as RS-232 or LAN control. Secondly, the signage management software needs to be able to poll the screen and pull back a snapshot of the image that is currently being displayed.
The other critical factor I believe is simplicity; ease of use should certainly not be overlooked. It has been our experience that signage software that tries to be all things to all people becomes increasingly complex to use as new modules are bolted on through the various iterations. The developers often don’t see this, as they have ‘grown’ with the product. However, for the first-time user – who in many instances has been handed the burden of managing the signage – the shiny new management system sitting at their fingertips is often overwhelmingly complex. It should not require hours of intensive training to be able to operate the management system, so look for software that is intuitive and has a logical approach to its operation. To reiterate: simple, reliable delivery of commonly used content wins every time.
The other factor that should of course be given due consideration, is support. It is critical to choose a reputable brand, backed by a company with the resources to support it. We have seen many companies launch into the signage market, only to be chewed up and spat out again a year or two later.
Make sure that the company you are dealing with has a track record behind them and the resources to carry that solution into the future. This applies across the board from the vendors to the manufacturers. Make sure that both have a solid track record and that they will stand behind their product 100%.