Digital notice boards are becoming more and more popular in condos. It makes sense; with digital signage informing everyone from patients in waiting rooms to corporate execs to shoppers in the local mall, any condo still communicating via a cork bulletin board is looking rather dated, to say the least.
The high tech digital wizardry once featured in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report is fast becoming a reality, and while the really super-tech items are not yet a necessity, the simple ability to target a captive audience is a must.
Okay, so you’re convinced. Digital hardware is the way to go. A sleek, gorgeous, high tech display is going to take the place of that old cork media and now all you have to do is run over to the nearest Costco, buy the biggest screen your budget will allow, plug ‘er in and you’ll be the epitome of sophisticated communication in your condo, right?
Well, not so fast. Digital signage is a multi-billion dollar industry. Analysts project that worldwide revenue for digital signage equipment, software, services and media will hit $17.1 billion by 2017. Notice that it’s not just all about “equipment”, either. In fact, the equipment, or hardware portion, is just one of seven elements that make up the industry and more importantly, just one of seven elements that will affect the total cost of ownership, and thus the ROI, of the ever-increasing number of condo board directors keen on “going digital”.
The 7 elements? Hardware, software, connectivity, content, operations, design and business.
1. Hardware – it looks like the easiest thing in the world to do, and on the surface, it is. Most big-name digital displays are comparable in price and quality and once you determine your needs, it’s a fairly straightforward process to get what you need. In Condoland however, problems usually arise when system design is not carefully considered (more on that in another post) and many a board falls into the trap of thinking only of cost of hardware, and not total cost of ownership. Here’s what you need to consider:
a) Price – Sure, a consumer grade screen will work just as well as a commercial grade item… or will it? The cost of a consumer screen may be a lot less, but if it’s not built to run 24/7 or 16/7, then where does that leave you when it fails? With a focus specific to condos, my own mandate has always been to source products that will meet the unique needs and budgets of condos. I can tell you that the most successful applications for condos are quite often a mix of both commercial and consumer grade technology. 22″ or 23″ consumer grade monitors are great on a P level, but a 46 – 55″ lobby screen mounted 8-10 feet up the wall are best supplied by the commercial grade. Avoid the trap of getting the best deal and be sure to consider not only price but total cost of ownership.
b) Warranty – Most consumer grade items offer a 1 year warranty but the commercial grade units are most often 3 years. And the big manufacturers also offer a white glove service – you pay a bit more per screen at the outset, but if something goes wrong, they pay your condo a visit and repair or replace it onsite. That means minimal downtime, which in turn avoids resident complaints 🙂
c) Brightness – Digital display brightness is measured in nits. The sun has a brightness of just over 6000 nits, and believe it or not, there are digital displays even brighter than that. In your condo, you need to consider the location and buy product with the appropriate brightness to match, A bright lobby or elevator will need a higher nit count than your average P1 level.
d) Size – A huge lobby needs a big screen to do it justice. More on this in the design blog post, but a major hardware trap is to rush out and buy the biggest screen that the budget will allow and then mount it in a low traffic area like a lobby. Remember, location (among other things) is more important than size.
e) Vendor – Choose your vendor carefully, and consider asking a specialist for help. There are many digital signage hardware purveyors out there, but one who is used to the condo environment will help you make sure that you get the most value for your dollar. Does the company that sold signage to the ACC or Rogers Centre really understand the budgets of a condo? Is your condo having a mod job done? Elevator companies sell screens, but the price is usually a lot more than the technology warrants, and again, you need to consider total cost of ownership. Flush-mount screens offered by the elevator companies can look pretty sleek, but a 1.5″ surface mount version means you can stay sleek and avoid having to call an elevator mechanic to service your communication system. Mind you, there is some new tech for elevators coming soon, so stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.
That’s all for now… see you next week when we tackle software.
Want to find out more about digital communication in condos? Attend the ACMO/CCI Condo Conference and visit us at Booth #311!