Custom Install 2.0: Digital Signage: A fast growing opportunity for today’s custom installer
First, let me apologize for the reference to the Ace of Base hit “I Saw the Sign” from the 90s. It was just too good to pass up. With that out of the way, let’s start with a question I get from some of the installers I speak with: “What is digital signage and is it an opportunity I should be pursuing?”
Digital signage is an industry term for a solution category that captures all the products and services used to replace traditional printed signage with plasma and LED panels, effectively taking analog signage digital. From a product standpoint, this category includes display panels, accessories such as mounts and cabling, switching products, control and media servers.
As for the size of the opportunity, InfoComm estimates the size of the digital signage product market in North America at close to $1 billion for this year, with a 25 percent annual growth rate anticipated through 2015. Digital signage is used across multiple industries including retail, healthcare, hospitality, sports and music venues, restaurants, bars and many other businesses. This is a real and meaningful market that, like the others we have discussed, leverages much of what you already do in a slightly different way. I’ll break down the three major components of the typical digital signage opportunity to help paint a picture of how the industry has provided opportunities for dealers.
The centerpiece of digital signage solutions is the video panel or panels. Determining what the signage application is meant to do (e.g., a menu board at a quick serve restaurant, a directory at a hotel, general information at a hospital) and the location of the panel (indoors or outdoors) will dictate your recommendation of LED, plasma or outdoor panels to be used.
Another consideration is the number of panels required for the solution. Does the customer need four panels side by side to display menu options or a two-by-two video wall for promotional material in their display window? If so, selecting panels with extra-thin bezels and the ability to be linked will be key.
Also, keep in mind that there are many options for you and your customer to discuss when budgets are limited. Many consumer panel manufacturers, such as Sharp and Samsung, offer commercial warranties for their consumer panels if you provide basic information about the use of the panel and its destination. This can save you and your customer thousands of dollars, and some manufacturers estimate that consumer panels are used in close to 70 percent of commercial applications.
After you select the correct panels, the accessories selected are just as important. Mounts should be able to stand up to the wear and tear of the environment and may need locking options to deter theft. Cabling choices need to be able to carry signals reliably over long distances, so baluns and cat5 are often used in addition to other robust switching and signal routing technologies when HD is a must.