There seems to be a lot of hoopla, brouhaha, and hullabaloo (or whatever you want to call the hype) about digital signage these days. Digital signage, at least typically with expensive systems, are a series of LCD monitors that are networked (either hard-wired or wirelessly) to a computer to display a variety of information. It might show what’s currently scheduled inside a room, upcoming events, or a map to other locations. Some might also be interactive through a touch-screen, bluetooth, or SMS text messaging. All of this seems very cutting-edge, can make for a better experience, and cut down on printing costs and time spent hanging posters.
Unfortunately, digital signage can also be a very expensive product to buy into with a hard-to-determine Return on Investment. Some people have been able to implement digital signage and defer costs by placing advertisements along with their information. This isn’t always feasible or wanted by different organizations. Small businesses and organizations that are just looking for a cleaner display might be interested in digital signage if only it was cheaper. Instead of hanging up posters that display static information, get tattered corners, and have a high cost for updating, you might be interested instead in using these:
That’s right, those digitial photo frames that made the perfect Christmas gifts for the last few years are very versatile and can be a great way to test the waters of digital signage in your company or organization.
There are a few different aspects of digital photo frames that you might want to take into consideration. Some areas to look into:
Size & Dimensions:
Photo frames, measured diagonally, can come in a variety of sizes from under 5 inches to over 16 inches, and right in the middle (and the most popular) at 8 to 10 inches. They also come in 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratios, like televisions, so you’ll have quite the variety to choose from to find exactly what you’re looking for. More important than either of those qualities, you should also see the resolution supported by a device, so you know exactly what size image you’ll get and you should note if portrait or landscape modes are handled to suit your preference.
Storage & Connectivity:
Getting your images onto the photo frame is another issue to take into consideration. Depending on what other gadgets you have already, a particular brand of memory card might appeal to you more than another. Most frames support a variety of them, including: SD, MMC, Memory Stick, xD, CF, and MD cards as well as USB Flash Drives. A USB flash drive might stick out awkwardly (or at least ugly) from behind a frame, but it provides a lot of convenience. If you purchased two memory cards, you could have one in the frame while you update the other and just swap them out for minimal down-time whenever you need to update the display.
Some frames also have advanced capabilities like the ability to connect wirelessly and add photos. Several also offer options to subscribe to an RSS feed generated by services like Flickr. You could create an account on Flickr and then just upload any new images you want to your account for the display to pick up on. With the capability of connecting wirelessly, the photo frame is fully networked and some offer the capability to perform remote administration on the frame if you need to make any changes.
Some extra features you might consider could include:
- On-frame editing – If you need to make a quick crop or resize, this tool can can save you from having to go back to the computer to make the changes.
- Video and MP3 playback – Take your announcements into multimedia. With soft background music or a grabbing video, you’re no longer replacing a paper poster with a digital rendition, you’re moving beyond the static text.
- Clock and alarm – Your frame can be as functional as it is informative by displaying the time and keeping things on task with an alarm clock functionality.
- Scheduled on/off time – So you don’t have to remember to turn it on upon opening or off upon closing, the scheduled on/off capability is an added convenience.
- Remote control – A remote control will ease the burden and improve your ability to control the slide show presentation from a distance.
- File formats – Some digital photo frames can accept a variety of file types beyond the standard picture and graphic files, including: PDF, Motion JPEG, AVI, and WMA files, and PowerPoint slides.
These features add a lot of functionality to a frame but will add to the initial cost, but you’ll have to measure what the conveniences are worth to you.
Whereas digital signage players might range from $200 to well over $2000 (which does not include the monitor), a digital photo frame can run less than $50 or as high as $600 for a 22-inch quality frame. With a lower cost for initial buy-in while still maintaining many of the features of digital signage, a digital photo frame will allow you to more easily experiment with implementing digital signage into your business or organization.
You might check out some previous articles about software that might help you create the files to put on your digital frame like Scribus, an open-source alternative to Microsoft’s Publisher, and Paint.NET, a photo editor comparable to Photoshop.
Review the list of features above and decide what is important to you and then check out the digital signage products at Amazon.