In the early days of digital signage, folks would be happy with showing PowerPoint slides on big CRT monitors. They could show animations, pictures, videos and text in a continuous loop. The use of motion was better than static, printed material. It didn’t really matter if the content was well designed. The novelty factor was often enough to get the message noticed.
However, there were still lots of issues around updating and scheduling content. The first solutions were little more than scheduling engines with very basic capabilities. The other issues centered around connectivity. Network connections were slow and difficult to configure which often meant updating content by CD or DVD since this was before 3G mobile data and high capacity USB storage.
Plasma flat-screens were just coming out on the market. These were a big improvement over CRTs and rear projection LED TVs however they were still very expensive, heavy and were prone to “burn-in”. Content creators needed to make sure there were no static images on screen for too long otherwise the graphics would get permanently embedded in the display. This improved a lot in later years to the point where it’s no longer an issue. You can’t buy a Plasma screen anymore but some of them are still in use today.
Technological and manufacturing advances meant bandwidth increased exponentially as did PC and display screen performance. We now have a wide range of playback options for our content. We can use small form factor or “stick” PCs, Android media players that come in various shapes and sizes or even tablets.
Digital signage software solutions have also improved dramatically over the years. Solutions can be hosted locally or in the cloud. Content is now mostly video-based and there is a lot more streaming data available. Live data is also quite common so there is less and less reason to be showing cable TV programming on a public screen.
It’s also important to mention that dashboards have become more accessible via mobile devices so network operators and brand-owners can control their message from virtually anywhere.
Gone are the days of the “sneaker net” where CD-ROMs were shipped out across the country.
Modern solutions can trigger content and respond to various sensors. For example, motion sensors can be used to switch content with a wave of the hand. Digital signage screens can show on-demand content when an alarm is triggered or when a RFID tag is present. Lately, beacons have become more popular and some are used to trigger specific content based on proximity. Beacons are also used to exchange content with smartphone users. For example, promotions or other targeted content can be sent out when someone walks by a digital display.
Modern digital signage software products must evolve constantly and adapt to emerging technologies so they can benefit today’s advertisers and brand owners.