Statistically speaking, if you are reading this post then you have most likely just Googled “what is digital signage software” or simply “digital signage software” and you are probably looking for some help sorting through the hundreds of digital signage software offerings in the marketplace.
Digital signage is a fragmented industry with over 600 vendors, all competing for your business. To understand the differences between one vendor to the next, and their offerings, you first need to understand the technologies of digital signage. In any digital signage network, there will be hardware – consisting of at least a screen and media player – and software.
What is Digital Signage Software?
In the simplest of terms, digital signage software enables you to manage content on your screens. Signage software falls into four main categories:
1. Digital Signage Player Software
The digital signage player software resides on the media player and plays back content.
When reviewing digital signage players and the software residing on it, it is critical to note that different players support different types of media. Most player software will download the content to provide continuous, uninterrupted playback even when there is no internet connectivity. Some player software will provide streaming which, to work, needs consistent internet connectivity. This is an important factor you need to establish before committing to a player.
In the past, Windows-based players and software led the market, but less expensive products are gaining traction. Depending on your content needs and budget, non-PC alternatives which include Android, Linux, Chrome and System on Chip (SoC) screens, may give you better performance.
Digital signage player software will also give you:
Reporting that outlines the overall health and status of the media player.
Proof of play reports to track and monitor content playback. Marrying this report with sales numbers or engagement metrics can help you determine what content is the most successful and allow you to develop insightful content strategies.
The ability to overrun original content and instantly display alerts and other emergency information.
2. Content Management and Distribution Software
This is very likely what you were looking for in your research. Content management system (CMS) software manages and schedules content that will be transferred to the player software that resides on remote digital signage players. Essentially, the CMS communicates through a local network or the internet and the player software retrieves its instructions and all the content required to run on the screens.
Content management software can be cloud-based or hosted. Cloud-hosted software eliminates the need for onsite server hardware, is easily scalable and offers the benefits of easy access from anywhere for remote management of the signage network. There are, however, some security concerns. To make sure that your digital signage software vendor is on the same page as you when it comes to cloud security, ask them these 5 security questions.
Hosted software (also referred to as on-premise or LAN-based) gives you physical control over your server and keeps critical data in-house but requires a hefty capital investment in hardware and infrastructure. There may also be limits to “streaming” content such as social media, weather, etc., which require access to a web API.
In digital signage software, you’ll see terms like “playback” (which you already have in this post) “playlists” and “programming.” This is an important element of content management software with options including:
Playlist driven digital signage software – developing a playlist for digital signage content is a lot like putting together a music playlist on your iPod or smartphone. You create a list of content to be displayed and select whether it should loop continuously, follow a certain sequence or play in random order. It’s a simple application that is in most digital signage software.
Scripted programming and rule-based software – with this software, there are no playlists. Instead, you assign any number of rules to each content, determining where, when and for how long it will play. The schedule is assigned to the media itself – e.g. play video X the first Monday of every month – instead of creating a schedule then adding multiple media to it. This software also supports meta-tag programming. Tags are assigned to content and the content will only play on the players that have been assigned a matching tag. Rule-based software makes it easy to handle larger networks with media players in different locations.
Hybrid digital signage software – it’s the best of both worlds. This software supports both types of content programming. The software lets you use playlists, assign rules to content and even tag content and players.
3. Content Creation Software
Content creation software allows you can to create both static and dynamic content for your displays to catch the attention of your target audience and drive engagement. Free tools like Canva, Powerpoint, Photoshop, Prezi are great for designing informative graphics. There are also tools specifically for digital signage content such as Signage Creator. The right content creation software will act as a valuable design tool that will help you convey a clear message, and utilize graphics and text within your design.
The more advanced content management software will have content creation tools native to it. This would be in the form of content apps and widgets for easily displaying and updating dynamic content such as social media, weather, metrics dashboards, event listings, YouTube, news, traffic, HTML5 and more. They allow the user to create and display both static and dynamic software without logging in to another tool.
Content design is an important part of digital displays that simply cannot be underestimated. For a lot of businesses, a digital display is the first point of interaction for customers and visitors. It provides the perfect opportunity to make a great first impression and to start to build a relationship with your audience.
4. Device Management Software
Device management is something that is critical to ANY network with devices deployed in more than one location. The platform collects information on the media players, reports the data and is able to take action as well. The best platform will:
Reboot devices and screens from a remote location
Check and provide snapshots of the content playing on screens driven by media players
Compile playback data from the player software
Report on the memory usage, temperature, network status, etc. of the players
Deploy software and firmware updates for media players and screens
Send automated notifications via email about the network status
There you have it. Digital signage technology is increasingly ubiquitous and being used in more innovative ways to connect brands with audiences. It’s an easy and affordable platform to enhance the brand and improve communication.
While the advantages of digital signage are clear, choosing the right software vendor can prove more difficult. You need to know what makes the best signage software, narrow down your choices to vendors with the best software then select the best fit for your business model. From there, you can begin to hone your messaging and fully utilize your network.
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