Cloud Connectivity: AV’s Saving Grace During COVID Times
Jeff Hastings, CEO

Looking back on 2020 – a year so deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve learned. I tend not to dwell on the challenges, but instead focus on the insight we gleaned from these challenges. First and foremost, we reaffirmed how essential digital signage is to maintaining effective and timely communication to employees and customers. But I’d like to dig a bit deeper on that notion and talk about the backbone of most digital signage – cloud connectivity.

I believe 2020 will go down in AV history as the year we learned how absolutely vital cloud connectivity is to digital signage. After all, cloud connectivity is precisely what we all rely on ourselves these days so we can hold our Zoom calls and keep our businesses moving forward…and digital signage is no different.

Cloud connectivity is essential across all market verticals and offers unique advantages to many of them, whether in times of COVID or not. For example, educational institutions need to deliver emergency messaging and keep event calendars and menus up to date. Retail signage currently needs to convey real-time occupancy capacity data to maintain a safe environment. Corporate offices need to communicate up-to-the-minute data via dashboards and deliver scheduling updates to meeting rooms. The list goes on…

The components that make up a digital signage ecosystem – the player and networking platforms – are critical keys to success. And they’re only successful when they have the right cloud connected capabilities. 

For the player hardware, simply getting the internet drop to your player can be the biggest hurdle to getting cloud connected, but there are many solutions to this challenge. WiFi access and even cellular services are becoming more affordable and effective every day. In terms of network management, the right solution paves the way from deployment to monitoring and optimization for a truly successful application. Let’s examine what is essential in both a player platform and a cloud network platform to create a successful and effective digital signage solution.  

Network management is the central backbone of any signage solution. Cloud connectivity is essential as it provides a wide range of benefits. First and foremost, the ability to monitor and  manage player networks remotely from a central location is critical, now more than ever due to COVID. Always-on connectivity provides access to real-time player health, so you know immediately which players are up and running and which are not. In addition, the real-time connection enables you to take a snapshot of what’s playing on-screen at any time to ensure the content is displayed exactly as it should be. You can reboot a player or run diagnostics and download log files to get a clear picture of any issue without an expensive in-person service call. You can even update the player’s OS to the latest feature sets available – all from the comfort of a remote office.  

Real-time cloud connected communication isn’t just a one-way street, though. This makes it possible to upload insightful data from your players to your central management system, including usage data to see how people are interacting with your signage, or audience metrics that can be analyzed and used to optimize your signage.

Security and scalability are also important features to consider. A cloud-based solution needs to use the latest security tools for both its platform and the connection points to your players and CMS solutions. It should also have a secure open architecture so you can connect to partner solutions or adopt new technologies to keep pace with the market trends.

And finally, be sure to look at the user interface required to manage a cloud-based network. It should offer a simple yet sophisticated workflow that doesn’t require complex training. And it should be compatible with your platform of choice – PC, Mac and web browsers – that supports a unified set of tools and workflow.

I think sometimes we take for granted how vital cloud connectivity is to a successful and effective AV network. But without this method of distributed connectivity, nearly all of what I describe above would be rendered moot.

So, as we turn the page on a new year that I hope will be one of recovery and rebirth, I have a renewed appreciation for the importance of cloud connectivity. The role it plays today is a critical one, and it will only become more essential in the future.