Starting Out In Digital Signage


Brent Brown, vice president and CIO of International Business Systems, Mercer Island, Wash., a business technology integration company specializing in digital signage, on what it takes to get up and running:

TAKE YOUR TIME: We added digital signage as an enhancement to our existing IT consulting business four years ago. It is now an important part of our business, but it took a couple years to get to that point. We did our research before we started to understand what digital signage is. There was a lot of education by trial and error.

LEVERAGE RELATIONSHIPS: Most of our digital signage customers came from the existing client base. We have credibility with the clients through our original IT consulting business, and we were able to build on that. We had an existing relationship with 3M for other products and services. With digital signage, we work with 3M software and receive technical support. We learned a lot by working with 3M Digital Signage and the graphics vendors 3M put us in touch with.

HIRE TALENT: We brought in new people. We formed two design teams: one for installation and one for content. On the installation crew, we had separate people to do the cabling and hang the screens. If you are looking at getting the digital signal out to an array of nine screens, there are things you have to know how to do. When you are doing digital signage, there's also more liability involved. When you screw a screen to the wall, you have to make sure they don't fall. We brought in a guy who was an expert in this kind of work and he trained the others.

HANDLING CONTENT CREATION: We decided to handle content creation in-house, so we assembled a graphics team as part of the startup. Creating digital content for digital signage is different from creating other kinds of content. They are working with different file types, like movie files. There are questions on resolution, aspect ratios and pixilation. Our team has animation capabilities, so that was something else we had to learn.

FOCUS ON SERVICES: In hospitality, hotels often have their own TV suppliers, so we just provide the specs on what they should buy. Screens are a big part of the cost, but we don't make a lot of money on the screen itself so it doesn't bother us if we don't sell them. If we sell the hardware, it's cost-effective to get it directly from the vendor from a margin standpoint. We offer services like installation, design, training and support.