At the core of a digital signage system is the media player. It’s the computer that broadcasts your digital signage campaign to your displays. As a general rule of thumb, every digital display (or sign) you operate must be paired with one digital signage media player.
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A digital signage media player is a compact computer specifically designed to display digital signage media. The hardware used in digital signage media players are selected because they can crisply broadcast high definition images, videos, and animation.
In the past, desktop computers were used as digital signage media players, however, their large, bulky size made them difficult to work well for certain applications. For instance, if the computer needed to be stowed away from the audiences’ sight, then a large desktop tower became nearly impossible to hide. If the computer was to be stowed in a drop ceiling, then weight concerns prevented technicians from installing them in overhead locations. A smaller, more lightweight computer was needed and digital signage media players were developed.
By removing non-essential components, ports, and bulky cases, digital signage media player manufacturers were able to provide a compact, yet powerful solution for any organization that needed to implement a digital signage system in any type of setting.
Choosing the right media player to power your digital signage system is the most critical step in the digital signage system building process. Often lower priced media players are selected due to budget issues and end up being too underpowered to broadcast-quality digital signage. A few different digital media player operating systems, models, and corresponding benefits are listed below.
In the digital signage space, Windows-based digital signage players have the longest-running history.
With such a long track record of being able to handle any digital signage application, they’re an industry go-to for a wide variety of installations. For instance, Windows digital signage media players are the go-to choice for shopping mall kiosks and multiple display video walls.
Chrome OS powered digital signage media players are relatively new to the digital signage world. Chrome OS was released in 2011 and quickly became adopted by the digital signage industry for its affordable prices and the compact design of Chromebits and Chromeboxes.
Linux is perhaps the most popular digital signage media player operating system when you factor in both Chrome OS and Raspbian (Raspberry Pi’s operating system) are Linux-based. Since Linux is open-source, it generally reduces costs and the resulting savings are passed on to consumers. Additionally, many digital signage software packages can run on Linux, which makes it an attractive choice for many organizations.
Raspberry Pi digital signage is a relatively new movement in the do-it-yourself digital signage world. Enthusiasts who like the challenge of building digital signage systems from scratch tend to go with Raspberry Pi computers as their media player of choice. However, Raspberry Pi tends to not be ideal for commercial digital signage due to the amount of troubleshooting required to get a fully functional digital signage system up and running.
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The lifespan of a digital signage media player is about three to five years depending on how often it’s running and the quality of the hardware used inside the media player. The main reason organizations purchase new digital signage media players is when they wish to upgrade their displays to higher resolutions and/or larger sized displays.
The price of a digital signage media player can range from $0 (US) to $1,500 (US) on the upper end. A no-cost system would be a situation where an old media player or computer was repurposed to operate a digital signage system. However, to operate a reliable digital signage system, we recommend choosing newer media players since display technology tends to outpace media player hardware technology.
Depending on the application and the size of the media player, media players can be placed in the following locations:
In each of the cases listed above, the primary goal is usually to hide the media player from view. Not only is it generally more aesthetically desirable, but it also prevents people from hacking digital signage campaigns and stealing media players.
“We've tried different solutions for digital signage but this one's the best so far. We can plan ahead and reuse our programming. It's easy to use. It's cloud based. It's customizable. It's fast and [has] extra features to monitor devices.”