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digital signage - How It Works

There are several names associated with this medium including digital signage, narrowcasting, public information displays, electronic billboards, and out of home media networks.   No matter what name is associated with the technology the hardware infrastructure and content delivery methods are the same.

Hardware and Network
A digital signage media player can be a PC with a special card installed that connects to a digital display or a computer server that has been custom designed solely for the purposes of delivering digital signage.  The player can be single channel or multi channel, meaning a single or multiple display devices can be attached to a single digital player.  The display device can be Plasma Monitors, LCD Monitors, CRT Monitors, Projection Displays and Kiosks.

A digital signage network can be made up of one or more media players connected to a display devices in a single location or spread across multiple locations.  In its simplest form the media player can be attached to a single display device updated on site via a CD ROM.

In a network environment the media player is a network server configured to communicate with other computers or servers on the network.  The media player is connected via Ethernet to the network.  The network can be either hardwired or wireless, depending on the location of the media player.  The media player can be controlled via the internet or intranet using a standard web browser.  The player can be configured as a file transfer protocol server or FTP server, or it can be configured to contact an external FTP server to check for files on an interval basis, say every 10 minutes, every hour, or once per day.

For security purposes, any media player connecting to the internet would also require a firewall to prevent unwanted access.  This can be a router with firewall capabilities, which would help to network all digital players together both wireless and wired, or it can be a dedicated firewall attached to a router.

As a media player is uniquely identified on a network, many can be set up at a single location to play all the same … or different content on each.  Multiple media players can be set up at various locations, each playing the same or different content.  All players connect to the same FTP server to receive their content.  The content is all managed via a single or distributed content providers.


A digital signage system is comprised of at least one display device, one media player and a computer capable of content creation.  The media player and device can be stand alone or part of a network.

A digital signage network is made up of multiple media players located in a single or various locations.  The media players communicate via an Ethernet cable or wirelessly.  For security reasons it’s recommended that a dedicated firewall or router with firewall capabilities be in place to ensure the media players are safe from outside intrusion.  The players can act as their own FTP server or they can be set to intermittently contact an external FTP server for their content.

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