Digital Signage: Connectivity for content delivery

crop1By Curtis Tilly
Connectivity is the ‘unsung hero’ of digital signage, enabling what many assume are the inherent benefits of the medium, delivering the right message at the right time, in the right location, to the right audience. On-screen content, media delivery, file forwarding and system monitoring all depend on taking a reliable, scalable and cost-effective approach to connectivity.

As connectivity has been continuously improved with significant industry contributions to the price/performance equation, place-based digital signage networks have been empowered to reach new plateaus of value and levels of success. Changes in technology, equipment and services in the telecommunications industry have addressed many of the early challenges digital signage faced in terms of providing reliable data transmission. New advances in wireless systems, especially, offer advantages to digital signage integrators and network operators alike, making the medium a more viable vehicle for communications of all types.

Now, as the digital signage industry continues to evolve, wireless connectivity is finally poised to become a major contributor to the success of tomorrow’s networks.

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The existing IT infrastructure at a digital signage network’s host site is also a limiting factor in the deployment of the networking, especially at retail locations.

The hurdles of IT networks
Given there are many complex pieces in the puzzle of rolling out a successful digital signage network, it is perhaps not surprising how the key elements of network and connectivity requirements often get the least amount of attention in a project’s initial deployment plan. In today’s connected world, it is simply too easy for the signage provider or integrator to assume the network’s operations and management will fall nicely into place with a minimum of fuss.

Unfortunately, this is very seldom the case, especially in an organization-wide rollout of screens. Challenges involving information technology (IT) infrastructure, network management, security, bandwidth and network support can often present significant hurdles. At best, these hurdles can delay the launch of a digital signage network. At worst, they can cause it to fail within its early stages of operation.

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Recent advances in the hardware and services associated with 3G, 4G and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless networks are providing a strong alternative to local, IT-based systems, particularly when such services are closely managed by a well-established communications provider.

Segregating security
As an organization initially determines its requirements for digital signage connectivity, one of the first and most important issues to address is the security of the network. With many recent virus scares and instances of stolen information, along with a mix of increasingly complex data security standards, companies have started to become very selective about their ‘business-critical’ infrastructure. Increasingly, this infrastructure is being deemed off-limits for non-critical content delivery and other alternative uses.

Given these circumstances, the best path forward may be to run a separate, parallel network for digital signage. Today’s wireless technologies make this option relatively easy to install, highly secure and robust in terms of delivering content to a variety of screens. All business-critical information is kept segregated from signage content, so neither network has the ability to negatively affect the operations of the other.

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