Ask the Board – September 29, 2016 | THOMAS KUNKA


Are there any appropriate applications for consumer displays in your experience? Why or why not?

Expertise in choosing display technologies has long been a cornerstone skill in the digital signage industry. With an abundance of technical knowledge, we often find ourselves explaining to our customers/clients/executives the differences between commercial and consumer-grade displays and why commercial-grade displays cost more. More often than not, we recommend the commercial over cheaper consumer-grade models they may have seen online or at the local big-box stores. As professionals, we know the song and dance. All else being equal, we normally recommend commercial-grade displays. We know that commercial displays are built to meet the demands of digital signage applications and are capable of providing the duty cycle, input/outputs and features that are not normally found in consumer-grade “televisions.”

However, there may be use cases where consumer-grade displays could be well suited. For example, venturing outside of my own vertical, I could see the hospitality market using consumer grade displays/televisions for in-room networks simply because those displays will have far less usage than a typical digital signage application. Here, the cost savings per unit would certainly add up.

Niche applications aside, I believe the prevailing mindset among digital signage professionals is to use commercial-grade displays whenever possible. This may have just as much to do with our psychology as it does our technology. As professionals, we generally seek to minimize risk in our recommendations. To do this, we base our opinions upon the application of technology rather than cost alone. Since the decision to deploy consumer-grade displays are typically driven by cost rather by function, we could be seen as being less professional if we were to recommend them.

Our role as professionals is to solve problems and provide guidance given uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information. The question of commercial- versus consumer-grade displays is a real one, and with display prices dropping and the consumer market flooded with technology, we do play a key role in bringing clarity. As stated, our abilities in this area are a cornerstone skill that is still needed. However, much larger challenges are yet to come as we begin to think beyond displays and about consumer technology in general and how those technologies may change our industry.

Our role as professionals extends beyond providing clarity to established technologies, but also requires us to be innovators. Applications such as room signage that benefit from smaller interactive displays are prime targets for consumer-oriented devices such as tablets and all-in-one computers. These alternative form factors present our industry with opportunities to greatly expand the scope of our networks. Digital signage platforms are beginning to extend their reach to include iOS, Android and even ChromeOS devices making this more reality than fantasy. Our challenge is to find ways of integrating these ecosystems of consumer-driven technologies into the enterprise so that they are reliable, manageable and scalable.

Perhaps beyond the everyday work we do, our role as professionals is to help guide the industry. When it comes to emerging technologies, we do not have the luxury of leaning on well-established markets and manufacturers to deliver the products and solutions we need for true enterprise-level digital signage applications. There will always be cases where consumer-grade technology will be deployed for reasons of pure cost or convenience. Perhaps there is room as well to “strategically misuse and abuse consumer-grade technology” to solve problems that must be solved and to push our industry forward.

About Author

Senior Application Specialist
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

End User Council

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