It’s not (just) about the screen

We’re all pretty familiar with screens – LCD screens – we buy them for domestic use and we see them all around us. For commercial applications, however, it’s not as simple as ordering and delivering to site. Many organisations have been burned doing this so I thought I would share some of my experience of what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

Staging and testing is an important step in the deployment of digital signage solutions and will help minimise risks, eliminate some unplanned costs and ensure a high quality installation particularly as screens are often used as part of an array or matrix. Staging and testing becomes even more important for larger scale or multi-site deployments where risks and potential costs are higher, but not all providers have a facility for performing these important functions.

There can be issues with the screens themselves. They could possibly be faulty, but in reality this will affect less than 1% of screens. More likely is damage that occurs during transit and in my experience this happens on around three to four cases in every 100. Sending a damaged screen to site results in the unnecessary cost and time delays of returning the screen and then there is the cost and time to repair or replace, then send the new screen to site. Careful inspection and testing can eliminate this problem and if spare inventory is available, a new screen can be shipped while the damaged screen is being repaired or replaced. And obviously sourcing screens from reputable suppliers such as Samsung is a prudent approach that can minimise risk and long term costs.

Testing of the screens, particularly if there are two or more being used together, ensures the consistency of the image across all screens in terms of colour, brightness, etc. Imagine how bad a 2 x 2 matrix of screens looks if one screen is noticeably dimmer. Sometimes, a screen may not have the most current version of the firmware installed which impacts the settings so the latest version of the firmware will need to be uploaded before the screen can be shipped to site.

The content is another critical element and the ‘real’ content should be tested on the ‘actual’ screens before shipping. Often, the content is provided by a third party provider or agency, so the client may not have had the opportunity to review the final content, and less likely that it would be been approved on the chosen screens. The content may look OK on a PC but on a larger screen it may be blurry, flicker or have the wrong orientation. Even worse, some artifacts from previous drafts of the content may be left in the final version and because it may not noticeable until viewed on a larger format.

So it’s not just about the screen – commercial applications have a business purpose and this can be undermined if there is not a thorough staging and testing process in place. Plus, bringing the final solution together is like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces being the screens, software (content management and firmware) and the content that will play on the screens. The solution should be thoroughly tested in a controlled environment before being shipped to site for installation.