Digital signage networks are powerful communications tools, but to get the most out of them requires proper monitoring, content management and control.
Digital signage networks are enticing to marketers, advertisers and large institutions because they offer exceptional reach and wrest control away from traditional gatekeepers, thus collapsing the distance between the communicator and the medium.
So much for the highfalutin talk; let’s get practical and take a journey on the road to succeeding with digital signage networks. If digital signage networks are to achieve these lofty goals, they must offer certain fundamental capabilities, including making it simple to manage content, monitor playout, detect network faults, diagnose problems, control individual monitors and override playout schedules to issue emergency messages in times of distress, such as weather events, fires and other catastrophes.
The first stop on this journey is the content management server. The content management server provides a network operations center (NOC) with access to every, or targeted, digital signs along the network. Rather than manually communicating point-to-point, addressing one digital signage player after another sequentially from a central location to distribute media and playout schedules, the content management server pushes out new media and schedules to targeted players over a LAN, WAN or VPN as instructed by someone with administrative rights -often long after that person has left for the day and is snoozing away in bed.
Depending upon the application, it may also be necessary for the content management server to accommodate hyperlocal content playback on specific monitors, which, for example, may share the same general geography. Imagine a university with a digital signage network. A content management system could serve media files and playlists for all but a single onscreen area to ensure consistency of messaging across campus. However, in that reserved onscreen space hyperlocal content regarding individual schools, colleges and departments could playback messages tailored to their needs.
The next trailmarker to success is confidence monitoring of individual signs in the network. Think of the nightmarish task of continuously making sure every sign in a network is functioning if there were no IP network connectivity. You’d need some comfortable running shoes or lots of reliable people to watch the monitors locally and report problems as they arise. A far more practical approach is to ping each monitor via the IP network at a regular interval -maybe every 30 seconds- take a snapshot of what’s on the screen and visually inspect each representation when alerted to a problem from a central location in the NOC.
This leads to the next two landmarks on our journey: fault detection and diagnostics. As individual digital signage players and monitors are pinged, a range of established conditions can be inspected, such as network connection integrity, chassis airflow and temperature. Fault detection and diagnostics not only equip technicians with knowledge of what problem to look for before they even arrive at a faulty player or monitor, but also alert network administrators to impending problems that can be corrected preemptively as conditions drift beyond certain thresholds.
The penultimate stop on this quest is individual monitor control. Imagine the energy and dollar savings to be realized by an institution or enterprise with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of LCD monitors on a digital signage network if only there were a way to turn the monitors off after hours and back on in the morning. A successful digital signage network implementation will provide for RS-232 or IP control over monitors to provide just that control.
The last marker on this path is emergency messaging override. In the event of a fire, a terror situation or severe weather, emergency messaging can mean the difference between life and death. Thus, it’s extremely important that authorized personnel -such as upper management, a campus police chief, or emergency response coordinator- have the ability to simply override signage playout schedules on a universal or targeted basis, depending upon the circumstance. This should be done via an ordinary Internet connection via password protected access so there is no need to travel to the NOC and thus no unnecessary delay. Additionally, the emergency messaging system should provide access and remote control of all monitors in the event that an emergency situation develops after hours when monitors are shut down and only a handful of people or at the location. Having the ability to turn on the monitors remotely ensures 24-7 communications in case of an emergency.
Taking the time and effort to ensure these way markers are accounted for when setting up a digital signage network is worthwhile. Doing so will ensure your institution or enterprise has the maximum degree of control and flexibility and elevate your chances of successfully communicating important messages to people via your digital signage network.