Web-based Digital Signage

web-based digital signage

Why are web-based technologies important?

Before we talk about web-based digital signage, let’s think about technology’s march toward everything web-based.

Listening to conversations or reading articles and blogs in the technology industry, we hear some of the current buzzwords – like, “Cloud”, “IOT” (Internet of Things), “HTML”, “website”, and “online”.  They are an indicator of what type of technology is current.  In other words, where technology is and where it is going.

The Captain Obvious direction is the Internet. That is to say, for the price of a connection, you can access more types of information than you ever thought possible.

The lure of instant access, and anyone or anything connected in new ways every day.  This has shaped the evolution of the tech sector for the last decade.

Technologies Moving to the Cloud (Web-based)

Looking at how technology has and is evolving in sectors like Telephony and CCTV, we see they have already mostly made the transition to Cloud or web-based IP technology.  In other words, their old technical forms are being left behind.

Application software, starting with SalesForce as one of the first, have all migrated to the web.  Similarly, the old PC apps like QuickBooks are now cloud-based apps.  Further, new software companies like Workday are 100% web, which underscores this trend.

In video communications, Zoom and WebEx, both web-based technologies, are now dominating live video communication. The old Polycom, Tandberg and similar hardware codec based systems are dying. Video-on-demand from YouTube, Vimeo, and enterprise video-on-demand platforms are all web-based. 

Our entertainment content is evolving from cable TV and DVDs to on-demand streamed content. Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime lead the way and others are joining the fray.  Live TV is also moving to web-based live streams. The cable and satellite walled garden content providers are seeing their walls crumble.

Likewise, digital media is making the move to the web.  Adobe and Apple apps are losing ground to the web-based DIY digital media technologies like Canva and PosterMyWall.

In conclusion, the clear trend is to technologies that are web-based.  

In the same vein, we can see further proof of this trend if we take a look at what language programmers, in general, are programming in. To sum up, more than 70% are web-based technology programmers, e.g. Python, javaScript, PHP.  

But some technologies, like digital signage, are clearly lagging in this migration to web-based technology.

Why is digital signage lagging in moving to web-based technology?

There are four underlying reasons why digital signage has lagged the web-based technology migration.

  1. The digital signage market began at a time when the technology resources needed for digital media were scarce and had to be carefully managed 
  2. HTML5’s arrival lagged the establishment of most of the current leading signage platforms
  3. The “Always on” requirement for retail digital signage 
  4. Built-in web functionality is a patch for web capability in signage solutions and extends the life of old technology solutions
Scarcity of Resources:  

The digital signage industry started more than 15 years ago. Firstly, it was at a time when the technology solution providers in this segment had large image and video files to play. However, the technology challenges of limited bandwidth, connection reliability issues and players (PCs) with limited CPU power to play the content made it difficult.  

Subsequently, to make everything work in this environment, the best approach was to create software on the player. In addition, the content for the digital signs could be loaded onto the player, during non-peak connection times.  

The player-based architecture was really the only option at the time, and that architecture continues to dominate.

HTML5’s Latest MultiMedia Capabilities Arrival:  

In the early days of the digital signage industry, a browser-based approach meant sacrificing the ability to create and play multimedia content.  However, with the latest HTML5 major update and “W3C Recommendation” arrival in 2014/2015, things changed. After that, using browser technology to play multimedia was now at the same level as other technology solutions. In short, the multimedia restrictions of the browser disappeared!

Always On Solution:  

In the retail sector, digital signage content needs to be playing on screens at all times.  A blank screen is not acceptable and browser-based solutions at their core require a connection to play content.  So, if the connection is not reliable that is a problem.  However, with technology’s evolution, this Achilles heel has been alleviated by building online and offline caching extensions into the browser.

Built-in web functionality:  

The traditional digital signage solutions did not have an architecture that supported sourcing content from the Internet.  Consequently, they could support images, videos, and flash content.  However, when customers asked for social media, weather and other web content to be part of their digital signs, they had to build it into their existing (non-web-based) solutions. This “build it in” approach is like building Internet Explorer capability into Word.  To clarify, instead of using Internet Explorer (IE) itself they build IE capabilities into Word. 

Not ideal. And not sustainable in the long term. Read why below.

How would you know a digital signage solution is truly web-based?

Meanwhile, Display5 talks about a true web-based platform architecture.  The word ‘true’ is a good tipoff as to what we are referring to.  By ‘true’ we mean that a platform uses web development languages only to build the technology.  On the other hand, player-based solutions build web-capabilities into their software.  As a result, they are not web-based.  

Consequently. a true web-based platform will let you incorporate almost anything web into it.  But, a non-web-based platform has to build in the capabilities to support the web content. In other words, capabilities naturally found in a browser must be built into its platform, as best it can.  

“Best it can”, becomes harder and harder to do because of two things:

  1. Browser manufacturers are building more and more capability into their software and trying to duplicate those capabilities in a proprietary signage platform is difficult.
  2. Signage platforms that have proprietary software running on a player (most solutions), have to continue to update that software with new web functionality as it evolves.  And they have to do this for each type of player they support.  This can quickly overwhelm the R&D efforts of the software company.  This is why we refer to most digital signage solutions as “player-based”.  

The alternative, a true web-based platform, doesn’t have either of these problems because it uses a browser to create and play content.  

What are the advantages of web-based digital signage?

There are four key advantages to a web-based signage platform.

  1. More content sources and the choices will continue to get better
  2. In addition, the best content control and scheduling capabilities  – which will continue to evolve
  3. And it provides a single signage CMS across all screen sizes and resolutions
  4. Finally, you get hardware independence for players and screens: Windows, Linux, Chromebox, Android, SoC

If you would like to explore these advantages in more detail, then read this blog

But the case is clear. There has been a mass migration of technology to web-based technologies in general. Digital signage ultimately will not be any different.  

Why not go with a signage platform that is built on 100% web-based technology for your business?

Advantages of 100% Web-based Signage

Most importantly, web-based digital signage promises to be the architecture for the future of digital signage. To sum up the key advantages:

  1. More digital signage content sources
  2. Unparalleled content control and scheduling
  3. A single CMS across all screen sizes and resolutions
  4. independent screen and player choices
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