Media player selection
The next item to consider for a signage project is the right digital media player. There are myriad options available and this choice is significantly affected by the intended display software being developed. Many of today’s displays allow for a single board computer or SBC to be installed in an option slot within the display. These can be highly advantageous as it is a clean solution and makes for one less item to deal with in the hardware chain specific to where it will be installed.
A second alternative is a small form factor media player. These devices are manufactured by a number of companies that have developed them specifically for digital signage applications. They’re small and lightweight but pack the power of a desktop computer and can be “nested” into the same mount used for your displays.
Another choice may be the use of remotely placed computer equipment and video extenders to the displays. This can be a very clean solution and cost effective depending on the nature of your project and how you plan to use the displays. If you choose to go to an outside company for development of signage content they quite often will recommend and include media players for your project.
Applications make the mounts
Display mounts are often overlooked as a readily available piece of hardware that doesn’t require much thought. This is simply untrue. There are many mounts available on the market but choosing the correct mount to work in conjunction with your specific configuration is critical to having a clean, seamless solution. One must consider the display size, type of mounting (ceiling, wall, post) and orientation, portrait or landscape. Mounts not only provide a manner to hang displays but also can provide additional space to allow mounting of a media player, TV or signal box.
A number of reputable and experienced mount manufacturers are in the market providing these solutions.
Another overlooked piece of the digital signage hardware puzzle is cabling. Everything from CAT 5 used to connect the media players and displays to the DVI, or HDMI cables used to connect the displays to the media players, or TV box needs to be considered. Inferior cabling, both in quality and installation, can cause issues that derail your signage project. Excess cabling can also scuttle a project by creating a “rat’s nest” of excess behind a mount solution or impede cooling circulation in an enclosure solution.
In short, both type and length of cables should be considered and specified early in the process. The most expensive cabling is not often required but a reputable cable installation team that employs best industry practices is always warranted. Do not underestimate the importance of this part of the solution.
Prepare for the outdoors
Thus far we have focused on hardware needs for indoor digital signage applications, but in the real world, sometimes the best location for a sign is outside. There are several types of outdoor installations; the first is a completely under cover and protected from direct elements deployment. In a situation like this a display installed on its own without any protection may be adequate. Temperature fluctuations, dust, dirt and potential vandalism are important considerations.
The second outdoor install type is “partially under cover.” These installations generally cannot be left without protection. This type requires some measure of protection for the display whether it be cover or enclosure solution depends on the total exposure.
The last type of outdoor installation is “completely exposed to the elements.” This outdoor application requires an enclosure solution to protect it from all the aforementioned conditions.
An LCD enclosure system of high quality can be very helpful when you have outdoor locations where digital signage is desired. Whether it’s on a platform trackside, a bus shelter or at curbside check-in, a well-placed display with the right message can be an invaluable tool.