Why digital signage projects fail

Every year the CES show kicks off with a slew of PC and display tech announcements.  This year is no exception with new small form factor PCs and super-thin flat panel displays.  CES is a consumer show but a lot of the technologies shown there will directly influence what we see at the digital signage shows later in the year.

We can’t deny the fact that a lot of consumer grade equipment makes its way into digital signage installations.  Fact is, a lot of small and medium size businesses buy their displays “off the shelf” at Best Buy instead of ordering commercial grade units from a local AV integrator.

The use of consumer tech in digital signage is a known fact and it isn’t about to go away.  Many folks see commercial equipment as unnecessarily overpriced.  Perceived cost is certainly one reason why we see so many consumer TVs hanging in many business environments.  Some of this has to do with the breadth of models and features of consumer TVs compared to many commercial grade products.

We should remember the average digital signage customer isn’t always very tech-savvy.  They don’t realize why they should be paying more for ruggedized technology or see the advantages of higher lumens values or MTBF.

Some people look at the total cost of a digital signage installation and then make their decision based on certain assumptions.  Often, these assumptions are wrong and they eventually run into all sorts of problems.

There are several reasons why digital signage projects fail but judging by what I see out there, my definition of failure is probably a lot different from theirs.

For many, getting an image or a video on a remote screen is a big “win”.  Everybody high-fives, then moves on…  Does anyone ever go back and look at the display?  Probably not, as long as no one’s complaining the screen’s gone blank.  It’s all good.

But what happens when a display starts shifting colors or the LED backlights start to go?

When you think about it, a lot of money is spent buying and installing digital signage equipment, and then bad things start to happen.  I have seen this again and again.  Defective screens with “ghost” images in the background, burned-in displays, uncalibrated displays in video walls… the list goes on.

Can we still see an image?  Yeah, kind of… Ok. It’s fine then…

But in reality, it’s nowhere near fine.  It’s crap!

So, why isn’t anyone one fixing this?  Doesn’t anyone care?

Perhaps the TVs are mounted in a really awkward location and the owner doesn’t want to pay a technician to take them down.  Maybe the warranty has expired on the TVs and there is no budget to replace them.

Whatever the reason, this is qualifies as a “fail”.

Maybe it’s because I’m in the business and I pay attention more than the average person but I see this all the time.

The problem isn’t with the installation.  It’s not the software… It’s just crappy hardware.

It’s a shame, really, because every professional display brand offers extended/on-site warranties.  The internal components of most commercial grade equipment is designed for extended use, often in harsh environments.  Sure, this equipment will cost more in the short run, but it will pay off.

If you care enough to spend the time and effort to invest in digital signage for your business, don’t cut corners when it times to spec your hardware.

You’re not saving any money.  You’re just hurting your business.

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