Traditional Consumer Tablet Moves to Digital Signs

ipad-0613With its low cost of operation, and lower still failure rates, plus a hand full of other benefits from deployment, to ease of use, traditional consumer tablets are now being found in a host of digital signage (DS) deployments. First look no further than your neighborhood (OK big city) Apple Store to see tablets playing a key role as a digital signage information display.

Many are finding it is cheaper to us Apple iPads than a larger LCD monitor display from say–market leader NEC. And yes, price is the driving force in moving to tablets for many companies looking at this as an alternative. In Tabtimes.com an October 2012 article quoted traditional digital sign deployment at about $2K (+) for each sign, while a tablet (albeit much smaller) can cost integrators as little as $500 or four small tablet signs for every one large one.

Beyond cost, the flexibility (size, weight, mounting, et al.) of tablets offer huge advantages beyond deployment. In fact, some consider the big win for the technology coming from its ease of “interactivity” particularly in one-on-one retail selling, according to ABI Researcher Jeff Orr. He was quoted in Tabtimes stating “Flat-panel HDTVs provide more visible real estate, but are costly and best suited for a group [and we would say broadcast] setting. The size and price-points of media tablets make them more appropriate for one-to-one use,” Orr said.

Researcher Upasna Kesarwanl sees the use of tablets as a natural extension of our evolving interactive lifestyle where consumers are now dependent on the use of the smart devices in everyday life. He said in the recent white paper Digital Signage Using Tablets  “…using similar devices for displaying marketing content comes as a natural next step for enterprises. Using Tablets isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has revolutionized the way companies use digital signage,” according to Kesarwanl. He goes on to list the benefits that include low cost, and built-in interactive features like video, audio, web browsers and robust touch displays. Plus, they are easy to maintain and can often times be cheaper to simply replace the entire unit than attempt to make repairs.

One good use of the iPad in a kiosk system was found in a product created by Harbor Industries used in a liquor store campaign created for distiller Brown Forman. The tablet is used to educate consumers on how to mix drinks, plan a party and even email details or print a shopping list for purchasing in the store. Harbor uses the display to enhance cross promotion that is booming in retail. The group reported that in 1995 displays were placed in secondary locations only 47 percent of the time, and now the practice is up to 60 percent in retail, where displays are located away from the home aisle. At the DS Expo in Las Vegas in February, Armodillo Display had a premium iPad kiosk / tablet display stand and said they work with Android and Windows based tablets as well. The group developed a Tablet Fit-Kit that allows multiple tablet support and tablet swapping based on the required O/S.

So the trends seem clear as digital signage is morphing and that is helping drive the industry growth for markets and applications with interactivity at the center of functionality. To get there in a cost efficient way, savvy integrators have turned to the tried and true traditional consumer tablet that may be just good (and cheap) enough to withstand the rigor of 24/7 operation, and if (or even when) they fail, are low cost enough to simply drop in a new replacement as needed.