Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Digital Signage Need To Know: When comparing LED Sign solutions (EMC/EDS/CMS/Etc), make sure you're getting what you expect.

-Deacon Wardlow
It's not all apples and oranges in the Digital Signage world. With all the "geek speak" and "tech terms" it's difficult to tell the difference between good and gimmick. Comparisons used to be a lot more straightforward. What LEDs are you using? What's your software like? Now things are a lot more complex and many manufacturers will play a bit of a game with dealers and end-users. When manufacturers play games, the winner isn't likely to be the buyer. Here are a few ways to tell the difference between good and gimmicky to sort product in the right places and be sure the comparison is on equal footing or not.

Size Matters
As written in my blog last June be sure to compare the proposed solutions by not just size, but the active matrix. Different LED Sign manufacturers have different borders on their product (some have no borders). A 16mm 4'x8' sign can have VERY different active matrices. A smaller active matrix means smaller viewing area = smaller display. Some companies will promote the "low cost" of their system compared to other displays of the same size. Make sure the "same size" means the active viewing area and not the cabinet.

As Scott Hofheins explains in his October blog, "When looking for a good LED sign supplier, don’t trade short term value for long term headaches." Back-end support is critical for any system. This is not just limited to the techs available on the other side of the phone, but rather the complete package. Can you get in touch with your sales rep whenever you need them? Does the company have comprehensive documentation/guides on installation and service for the system? When you speak with the company reps, are they knowledgeable on the product and do they make recommendations when you're unsure of the best solution for a particular opportunity?

Zenith, RCA and others used to be leaders for in-home entertainment (TV/Radio/etc.), but they were quickly put the wayside by competitors who were able to take advantage of newer technologies and options in the market at a better price. New companies will come along all the time, the question is how long will they be around after the sale? Look for companies with a presence in the market and a strong background. We're not talking a century or so (Microsoft is a monolithic company and they've only been around for 22 years, Google for about 14 years). Make sure the company has a solid position in the market, experience with the product and they're in a place where they'll be around for another 5, 10 or more years. Age doesn't always mean reliability, but a company who's been in business for five or ten years is more reliable than one who opened their doors a year or so ago...

Quality Control 
As I wrote back in November, take a deep look at who you're working with and the alternatives and make sure the company is a solid partner. What makes the company different? When considering an off-shore alternative, keep in mind how quality control can be ensured along the entire build process through to delivery. With many off-shore companies you get what you inspect, not what you expect. With a domestic company, they (usually) have to answer to the authorities and there are remedies to be pursued when something goes wrong. With a non-domestic company, there are few options/remedies available and A LOT of trust required.

After Service 
As mentioned on support, don't let after service be an after-thought. What steps has the manufacturer taken to protect both you (the dealer) and the end-user in case something goes wrong? Does the manufacturer offer an insured/bonded 5 year on-site service program option along with the standard 5 year parts/labor? Are parts readily available at the manufacturer's factory and what's the fastest they can get a part to a dealer/end-user? Will the components come with a replacement guide or is the field tech reliant solely on phone support? Is the system capable of auto-diagnostics and reporting? For large-scale spectacular systems, can redundancies be built-in to the system and does the manufacturer have prior-experience with redundant data/power/etc.?

Change, in all things, is inevitable. Scott Hofheins wrote a blog last December where he points out a company which isn't moving forward is standing still and being left behind by the companies who choose to grow/change. Technology is constantly in flux (faster network connections, bigger storage, faster processors). It's important the manufacturer chosen as a partner is consistently looking to the future and working to ensure their product is changing to meet not just the needs of the present but the future needs ahead.

When a close look is taken at an "apples to apples" comparison, you'll start to see the difference show through. Two systems which look similar at first glance can be almost completely different depending on what the partner is bringing to the table.

*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 noted.


KINGofTHINGS said...

Thank you for this story! While some of this I have been able to utilize in the past I was also seriously hampered by a company 'standing still' (literally) as you say. I suspect that will change now with a 'merge' of that company with another forward looking one.

Deacon said...

I'm glad the blog spoke to you. Too many companies aren't moving forward as they should and this leaves them (and their clients) falling behind. I hope your movement forward is assisted by the support of a better company now. Don't hesitate to drop us a line if we can help with anything (especially if there's a topic you'd like to see covered!).

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