“How do I get started in digital signage?” I get asked this question several times a week and it’s not a simple answer as there are several things to consider. The Digital Signage Federation defines Digital Signage as a network of digital displays that is centrally managed and addressable for targeted information, entertainment, merchandising and advertising. Now Digital Signage means different things to different people. It could be a digital display at a supermarket checkout line showing information about products and promotions; it could be a television in your local deli or pizzeria showing live programming and advertising for businesses in the area; it could be a welcome sign with the day’s events in a hotel lobby; along with a nearly unlimited number of other purposes.
When someone asks the question about getting started in digital signage, it is helpful to understand what that person’s background is. Traditional AV integrators typically have no problem understanding the hardware that is involved and handling complex installations, but may need some coaching on the CMS software or on the networking side of things. IT resellers are usually experts at networking and software packages, but may not be as comfortable with the installation and connectivity requirements for displays and media players. Both of the above may have big voids when it comes to the content creation requirements, while ad agencies and traditional print sign companies are strong here, but are most likely green when it comes to installing display hardware.
Digital Signage systems require strengths in many areas including the specification of appropriate sized displays and placement for optimal viewing, as well as understanding mounting and power requirements. Additionally knowledge of different video signals, cable length limitations, and the different types of signal distribution hardware is essential. Education on these topics is available through organizations like infoComm as well as value added distributors like Almo.
Also, since almost any Digital Signage system lives on a network, at least a basic understanding of networking is a must. Education on this topic is available through various sources including network equipment manufacturers such as Cisco and control system hardware manufacturers like AMX as well as infoComm. Training on the actual Digital Signage CMS software will usually have to come from whatever vendor you choose for your client’s application, while content creation services will have to be outsourced if you don’t have the appropriate staff in house to provide that. Note that Almo has recently announced content creation services available to resellers and integrators, helping to round out the complete solution to offer to customers.
Other advice I would offer is to start small. Call on local and small businesses that might require just one or a small handful of digital signs in order to get your feet wet. Perhaps your local pizza shop owner wants to have live television in his dining room, but also sell advertising space on a portion of the screen, or maybe the local coffee shop wants to switch over to a digital menu board. Also, pick one or two digital signage delivery systems and get to know the software and processes very well. With a few hundred products on the market, you need to focus on just one or two that will work in most applications.