Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Old Technology vs. New: Does "innovation" really matter?

-Deacon Wardlow
I work with a lot of innovative companies. These companies are on the leading edge of hardware, software, and cloudware. Many people I work with (on the reseller/buyer end) contact me and ask if they should stick with the known company they've been working with for several years or take a "risk" on something new.

I have a Commodore 64 with the cassette tape drive, the 3.5" floppy disk reader, and I even have the original programs (some games and a simple word processor) I programmed back in the day. The C64 boots up with that beautiful blue screen and start prompt to this day and (somewhat surprisingly) the floppy disks and cassettes still work even though they're about 30+ years old now. Reliable and low fail rate doesn't always mean the technology meets your current needs. That C64 is excellent, but I rarely use it as anything other than a distraction.

Reliable, trusted, tried-and-true are good, but not necessarily reasons to stay with a company or manufacturer. Innovation matters, if you don't believe me - check with Apple, Samsung, Google, and others who are primarily innovation driven. In the LED Sign world (aka Direct LED Displays, Electronic Message Center, etc.) many manufacturers still run the same software they had outsourced or released six or seven years ago. Think about the smartphones people had seven years ago and what's available now, vast differences... While some technology is slow to change, you'd think there'd be some changes to the display hardware and software which improve both the end-user experience and the display quality and options.

When taking a look at options for LED outdoor signage - please take a moment to ask a few simple questions to see if you're getting something which is both current and future-forward:

1. What changes have occurred in the last 3 years which made the product better?
2. How often is the software/cloudware updated and when are new features added?
3. What is the company doing to deliver a product which meets current need while being able to be upgraded/adapted 3 - 5 - and more years down the road?
4. How are you more innovative than your competition?

If the company hasn't changed and/or upgraded its hardware and/or software options in the last 3 years (or worse, longer...), think long and hard before considering them as an option. If the company doesn't upgrade the software/cloudware at least twice a year, how does that reflect upon their reaction to client/end-user requests for new features/options? If you can't easily and readily upgrade the software or hardware to meet a future need (i.e. change the face to a tighter pitch without changing the whole sign, or upgrade the controller software to some other company's control solution) - be wary as you may be buying into a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and that purchase most assuredly will equate to buyer's remorse down the road when the end-user wants to get more out of their system. Especially considering the lifespan of an Outdoor LED Sign Display can be 10 years or more.

There is risk going to any new company (and even sticking with the "old" option). So take time to pick the sales rep's brain on what warranties are in place. What are their guarantees and how does the company ensure the end-user (and sign company/reseller) can get parts and service even in the worst case scenario of that manufacturer being out of business or unavailable. Make sure you're not just getting a solution for "now" but looking down the road and getting the best solution overall for the end-user and yourself!

Note all posts - thoughts - writings- etc. 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 for queries and/or assistance.

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