I don't believe most Digital Signage manufacturers design their systems around planned obsolescence, but it definitely feels that way to end-users after a few years. While lower-cost digital signage systems using an embedded controller are great, what happens when the client wants to integrate a third party application or product? Embedded controllers and proprietary equipment mean the end-user has to use whatever the original provider has available. If a new technology comes along, integration often means scrapping the control solution and/or a lot of additional work to integrate. Systems which are "future-proofed" are built using technology which can accomodate change down the road. Here are a few things to be wary of and some things to look for when evaluating how "future friendly" a Digital Signage system (LED Signs, LCD indoor, HD control systems, etc.) really is.
Embedded controller running Linux/droid or Windows-based IPC?
Embedded controllers definitely have a place and function in the market. Their reliability is excellent and they're great at specific tasks. Unfortunately an embedded control solution is basically a stripped-down system created to perform a very specific task, When working to integrate newer tech or a 3rd party system, it's difficult (often not possible) to do anything without replacing the system. While a windows-based IPC (industrial PC) will cost more, the flexibility and ability to readily upgrade a system to integrate new features/functions lengthens the lifetime performance of the system available.
Third Party Options:
Will it work with X?
While we all like to believe we're delivering the best system available, times (and tech) change constantly. It's hard to know if something bigger and better will be available in 6 months or 6 years. Ask the manufacturer/vendor you're working with what's required to integrate new third-party technology (software and/or hardware) into their system. Does the system currently available/on the table have the ability to easily/readily integrate third-party hardware and/or software? Can the manufacturer/supplier team work with a third party company to integrate a feature the client may see as a "must have" option when it's available? If the response is skepticism or, "you'll need a different control system" - you may want to look elsewhere.
Investment vs. Purchase
I've covered this topic in the past. Digital Signage is definitely an investment by an organization and/or individual. The best investments offer growth and a substantial return for the investor. Whether the system is $2,000 or $2,000,000 - the investment an end-user is making with digital signage should set them up with a solid foundation which allows the end-user to take advantage of new opportunities and technology down the road. Don't be the one selling a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Be the advisor who delivers an investment the end-user can feel happy with for years to come, a solution which delivers time and again and is as "future friendly" as possible. Don't be "that person" who is sticking with the "same old" tech - expect more, deliver more and you'll have clients coming back to you time and again.
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. Direct emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for queries and/or assistance.