Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Digital Signage Need to Know: Don't Be the Beta for a Manufacturer

-Deacon Wardlow

When a new product, software or service is developed there are several stages before a full release. With software, this is often noted in the version number, anything under 1 is a pre-release version which is still in development (ranging anywhere from 0.01 through to 0.99). Hardware often follows the same arrangement, though different manufacturers and different products will use different codes or designations. Beta testing can be fun and interesting. I've had the pleasure of testing out various hardware and software systems in early beta (from video games and toys through to lasers and solid state lighting devices). The point of a beta program is to shake out as many of the "bugs" as possible and have an ideal product/service which is ready for the market.

Sometimes a company is anxious to get going and they skip a few steps. Perhaps testing was rushed a bit. Maybe they didn't follow-up on all of the feedback on the product or felt some "bugs" were actually feature sets which were misunderstood and just needed a little documentation. The company ultimately deems when something is out of beta and ready for release. Unfortunately, sometimes a consumer is stuck with a product which is really still a beta, only you paid for the privilege to be the guinea pig.

Be wary of untested technology. Make sure you're not an unwitting beta-tester for a manufacturer's newest tech. While many new technologies are slight twists/applications of tried-and-true product which has been available but not applied in the unique manner the manufacturer is doing, many technologies are relatively untested in the market and require a period of thorough evaluation before a manufacturer should release them. Here are a few questions to ask your manufacturer and evaluate their innovations (and to be sure you're not on the receiving end of a potential nightmare waiting to happen):

  1. What innovations has your company come out with in the last year and how do they stand apart from other companies?
  2. Why are you implementing/integrating these innovations? What does the product (and the dealer/end-user) gain from the innovation(s)?
  3. How was the innovation(s) tested, integrated and implemented?
  4. How long was your testing and how many systems do you have active in the field with the new technology in place? 
  5. How long have the new systems/technology been out and in the field?
  6. Is there any other company using this technology and how long have they used it for?
  7. What problems did you note when you tested the new technology and how did you overcome the issues? 
  8. What downside is there to this new technology?
Don't be a beta. Make sure the manufacturer you're working with is innovative and a leader in the industry, but ensure they're careful with their innovations and are constantly looking to ensure you (and your clients) receive the best product with the best assurances. While it's important to be in front and leading, you want to make sure they know where they're going. There are some roads which are hard to return from...

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at deacon@vantageled.com. Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (http://www.vantageled.com), please check it out when you have a moment. Note 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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