Most project requests in digital signage software are very simple–especially for those deployments who are looking to do less than ten screens. There is the occasional one screen deal which may require a full enterprise solution, complete with social networking and user generated content integration. These types of requests are certainly more rare than the simple, practical need for a digital display rotating content. Because the majority of the market does not necessarily need all the whistles and bells, sometimes it is necessary to give people the simplicity they desire, which in our industry generally means a simple digital photo frame with rotating digital images.
What are some advantages to using digital photo frames?
Simplicity is perhaps the greatest benefit for those who wish to use a digital photo frame as a digital sign. In general, digital photo frames simply require the input of a flash reader card and you’re off and running. The reader card holds the number of still or quick video shots you’ve loaded on it in a particular order. That content then plays on a loop until the screen either burns out or you turn off the device. It simply does not get any more simple than that. Creating the digital content does not require an Adobe Photoshop whiz brain either. Simple and often free paint tools can be utilized to create simple, but elegant content.
Another benefit of a digital photo frame is security. Because the display is not generally connected to the network, it makes it very difficult to gain access to the display remotely. This is extremely beneficial because it disallows predators from scoping onto the screen and displaying inappropriate content. In many instances digital photo frame-like devices do not require the disc to be “always in.” In general, the disk is inputted content is uploaded and the disk is removed. Most digital signage that uses this technology also require a special security stamp embedded into the thumb drive so no one without access to the display will be able to input content to the screens without the correct digital drive.
A third and final benefit–at least for purposes of our discussion here–includes cost. It is far more expensive to have a robust digital signage player installed at the rear of the display. It also requires a greater amount of chump change to pay for a software license or software-as-a-service fee. All of these costs are virtually eliminated by utilizing a simple rotating graphic with a large digital photo frame.
What are some of the disadvantages to using digital photo frames in digital signage?
The most blatant disadvantage of using a digital photo frame is the inability to schedule and run high-impact dynamic content. This is detrimental in two ways. First, it is the content that draws. Unless you are simply installing some sort of reader board for necessary information, dynamic, regularly scheduled content is most beneficial, especially if you wish to capture actual eye-balls. Secondly, scheduled or day-parted content allows you to target niches and demographics based on times of day. In a digital menu board scenario, it gives the restaurant the ability to have breakfast and lunch content change automatically, without having to switch content manually. Without this, you’re only running on two cylinders.
I know digital photo frames may seem more secure. However, security also has a cost. I wrote some time ago about a sneakernet approach to content scheduling and uploading. This certainly has more disadvantages than advantages, especially for managing recurring costs of content delivery. As you will see in my previous post on the subject of the “sneakernet,” you will note that content delivery costs generally increase if you are running anything of scale through such a rudimentary method.
Venues and Considerations
While there are certainly disadvantages, there are also many perks. Photo frame-like technology is great for the “one-off” displays who are not even running on a network and whose content does not regularly change that much. Targeting the SMB has been one of the great discussions in digital signage in the last couple of years. Small and medium venues will find great benefit from using digital photo frame technology. These types of displays can be all-in-one or as a separate player device for use with any industrial LCD display. Small and large–whatever your preference, there are certainly tools that can help.