Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Digital Signage "Need to Know": The Cloud, Cloudware, and LED Signs

-Scott Hofheins

What is “The Cloud”, what is “Cloudware”, and what do they have to do with the LED sign business? I hope to help answer these questions and maybe give some insight on the future of the LED industry in general.

The Cloud
This has become a popular term in recent years. It comes from the term “Cloud Computing” where multiple devices can access services from centralized equipment that “host” the services and provide the infrastructure. The other devices (like your laptop for example) can access the system and use all the services (storage, applications, collaboration tools, etc...) without having to install or operate the infrastructure. This can be done on a local business network, but when people refer to “The Cloud” they usually mean over the internet; the largest “network” in the world.

This is a play on the word “Software”. Software is installed locally on a computer and used by that computer to accomplish tasks (edit photographs, play music, write documents, etc...). It is local, and uses your own computer’s resources. Cloudware is also installed on computers (servers), but they are “off-site” and provide the services through the internet so your own computer doesn’t have to use all it’s brain power and storage.

When you want to read a book, you wouldn't build a library in your house to find and read your book. You would drive your car on the street (the internet) to the library (the website) use your library card (user name and password) to access and check out the books. All the organization, upkeep and storage is done by the library. You (the computer) can focus on the important stuff, viewing and accessing the information.

LED Signs
What does this have to do with LED signs? Well, not much historically because LED signs weren't as sophisticated as they are now. In the past most LED signs were only connected to local networks, or in most cases connected directly to a computer. They didn't use as much data because they were mostly one color, text only signs.

These days, we have tighter resolutions, brighter LEDs, faster controllers, and millions of colors. Most high quality video boards are controlled by Windows based industrialized controllers, so they are by nature “internet friendly”. Times are changing and manufactures are feeling the pressure to provide better solutions. Solutions that are effective, secure, user friendly and easy to access. The Cloud is the foundation for these solutions.

I've been privileged to be a part of Vantage LED’s efforts with the SM Infinity collaboration, and although we are the first to do it on a large scale, I know we won’t be the last. This is a good thing. Healthy competition results in a better product for everyone, but this post is really about the concept in general. I am absolutely sure that most of us in the industry have at one point or another thought “ Wouldn't it be great to have internet based software.” I know I did when I first entered the industry, but the technology and infrastructure wasn't there to support it. Now it is.

This is the future of the LED sign industry. We have to move forward and embrace technology to provide the best experience to the end users. We bank online, we pay bills online, we learn online, people want to control their signs online. The challenge has been declared, and manufacturers are going to need to answer with a loud and clear “yes...you can”.


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit www.vantageled.com for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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