Strategies for Using Tablets in Digital Signage

Small doesn’t mean ineffective. Sometimes a tablet as a display is the perfect fit.

Daniel Dern

When it comes to deploying digital signage, the predominant display is the flat screen. However, for a variety of reasons and uses, tablets — iPads and now also Android-based ones — are joining the lineup.

First, though, a quick look at the obvious question: can tablets provide the durability and other hardware requirements signage displays need?

Can Tablets Deliver Commercial Reliability?

When integrators and other parties involved in spec’ing out hardware requirements for a digital signage deployment, they near-universally prefer, and where possible, insist on, commercial-grade displays, not the “big-box TVs” bought for home theater use.

Although the price for a commercial-grade display is typically two to three times that of a similar-sized consumer one, the reasons for this are clear:

  • Commercial-grade displays are available for 24x7x365 duty cycles. The warranties are longer (and many consumer displays’ warranties are voided if they’re used in signage scenarios).
  • Commercial displays are often more robust to endure more heat, cool, dust, and the like. “Consumer/business tablets may not be robust enough for their intended location and use,” says Alan C. Brawn, president of Brawn Consulting, an audiovisual consulting, training, educational development, and market intelligence company.
  • Commercial displays can be controlled remotely over network connections to turn off to save power or for during system changes. (They don’t have consumer remote control sensors, so people can’t easily change channels if they brought their remote with them from home.)
  • Battery life, if no external power is available.

Most tablets are intended for consumer and business use. There are some ruggedized tablets like, for example, the Panasonic Toughbook 19. But ruggedized tablets are intended for out-of-home-or-office use, like by first responders, warehouse and field service, and inspectors, enduring conditions that digital signage is unlikely to encounter — and not necessarily meeting other needs of digital signage hardware.

However, commercial-grade tablets, particularly in terms of the display and mounting, are becoming increasingly available.

Outform’s Android-based iDISPLAY tablets, for example, are intended for commercial sectors, including hospitality, healthcare, retail, schools, restaurants and retail, according to Vanessa Cardoze, Marketing Manager, Outform, Inc., a digital display manufacturer.

“Our hardware is more rugged — we’re using commercial-grade screens and processors — and we have a VESA-compliant wall mount system built-in on the tablets,” says Cardoze. Outform’s iDISPLAY Tablets include the company’s proprietary Pulse Technology software for commercial display applications, and are available in sizes from 7 inches up through 21.5 inches.

iPads aren’t available in commercial versions. However, third-party enclosures and mounts help improve the resistance to environmental hazards (along with making these tempting devices harder to steal). For example, OnSpot Social develops iPad applications for businesses, including digital-signage apps, and resells mounts and enclosures. Companies like Armodillo and ArmorActive provide a variety of display mounts and kiosk enclosures for tablets.

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