The rewards for investing in IPTV and digital signage now clear. Shaun Oxenham, CEO of Cabletime discusses the advantages, advice on getting started, plus tips on best practice
Organisations are being presented with unprecedented access to sophisticated high-quality video communications. This opens up a world of opportunity for the kind of personalised consumer experiences that businesses want to deliver and when it comes to IPTV and digital signage they don’t have to wait – these solutions are available today.
Where once both IPTV and signage were siloed applications, the underlying technology has now converged and presented companies with the ability to distribute web and TV content alongside a full array of media sources. We see these in our daily lives on screens in airport, travel, hospitality lounges, corporate reception areas and even in doctors surgeries.
There’s no doubt that investing in IPTV and digital signage can reap enormous rewards in corporate communication and brand messaging
There’s no doubt that investing in IPTV and digital signage can reap enormous rewards in corporate communication and brand messaging. The investment, however, will deliver limited returns if attention is not paid to selecting fit-for-purpose technology and installed by a partner with intimate knowledge of its implementation.
What should organisations be prioritising when embarking on IPTV and digital signage deployment?
Perhaps the first question should be ‘is the network multicast-enabled?’. It must be capable of sustaining bandwidth-intense, high availability transport streams across multiple subnets, vLANs and WANS. The infrastructure must ensure media multicast packets are not dropped or duplicated in order to guard against interruptions and picture breakup. IPTV networks place a constant high load on the infrastructure so network switches must meet specific minimum criteria.
Component technology, including displays, media players and content management systems, are at the core of most IPTV and digital signage deployments. With displays, it’s best to err on the side of reliable industry IPTV technologies with rs232 controls, rather than domestic technology with an OS that can be updated by manufacturers with little notice. Display performance also needs to be constantly monitored and software should include encryption.
When it comes to media players, if a company is spending money on an IPTV digital signage system, it’s advisable to seek one that can select, play and control multiple different media. Watch out for combinations of third party TVs and media players with no unifying client. Finally, the CMS will bring all elements, from HLS live streams through to VoD content, together and will act as the management hub. It can assign content to playlists, create and publish web pages and configure graphical elements, and reputable CMS systems will be remotely accessible providing greater flexibility.
Choosing a partner
One option is to select a reseller, systems integrator or consultant to integrate all the hardware and software elements of an IPTV system from multiple sources for an overall lower cost solution.
Alternatively, a partner can be selected to provide the entire solution from head end devices to media players and all the software and controls in between. A partner promoting a vendor that designs, manufactures and supports its own solutions that are dedicated to IPTV and digital signage can provide one port of call for training, network queries and ongoing service requirements.
All the technology in the world is only as good as the quality of the experience it delivers. Companies have every right to expect point-to-point video links that they can depend on, but the reality is that many still have to deal with the negative impact of packet loss, bandwidth limitations and segment-based protocols on the Internet. Which is why a commitment by equipment vendors to initiatives like the SRT Alliance, which promotes a de facto standard for low latency Internet streaming, is vital and should be sought out by both customers and integrators during specification.
Equally, integrators and the vendors they are working with should be observing the requirements of HDCP 2.2 content protection. This standard allows for content and materials to be distributed across multiple displays on enterprise networks, however it does require the active involvement of both manufacturers and integrators. Looking out for these standards, and other credentials such as HDMI.org, H265 HEVC and Dolby Digital is important.
There is a great deal to consider before embarking on an IPTV digital signage project, and both technology and standards are constantly being updated. This is not a light undertaking, but with careful consideration a solution can be reached that has the potential to reinforce brand values, deliver an exceptional performance and meet company objectives.