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5 Possible Benefits of an External Media Player

Digital Signage Players

I spend much of my day discussing digital signage projects with system integrators, consultants, and end users. I know, you are probably wondering how I got so lucky. You may even be thinking about a career change. Not so fast my friend, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Some of it can actually be confusing, or even frustrating.

Working in distribution affords me the advantage of having many choices when deciding on a game plan for a digital signage project. What I see as an advantage can be daunting to the average consumer. One decision that can appear to be easy on the surface, can often come back to be an important one.

With manufacturers including a signage player as part of the display (sometimes referred to as System on Chip, or SoC), it can be a challenge for consumers to see value of an external player. It is simple assume that when faced with adding the cost of an additional piece of hardware, it would be better to use the built-in player on a display.

In some circumstances, it makes sense to use the SoC. This is especially popular in retail applications. We’ve seen successful deployments, where simple video or image playback is all that is needed, and the budget was one of the largest deciding factors. However, the flexibility of an external media player can oftentimes be the key to a successful deployment.

There are a numerous manufacturers of digital signage media players. They come with operating systems, ranging from open source options like Android to the ubiquitous Windows OS. Some of the more popular manufacturers have created their own OS, specifically made for digital signage. These have been proven especially efficient, as well as secure.

There are different abilities for each SoC as well as each external player. However, the features listed below are typically included as part of the external player ecosystem.

1. Player Management

Content management is the prime focus of CMS providers…it’s literally in the name (CMS = Content Management Software). Player management is almost never a focus, especially since most CMS platforms work on a variety types of players and operating systems. Their agnostic approach allows them to be retrofit into previous deployments, as well as specified in current projects.

With the world’s most popular media player brand, the ability to manage remotely, including player setup, reboot, and even player reset if needed, is their main focus. A free software, specifically focused on allowing users to manage almost every aspect of their players, allows for separation of responsibilities. This allows the IT department to focus on managing the players, and their network, while the remaining team can focus on content management.

church audio solutions

2. Firmware

In consumer applications, firmware updates are typically done to take advantage of a new feature release. In commercial applications, the features take a back seat to security. Many displays with included software can provide an ingress for hackers, so updating the firmware helps maintain the security at the highest level.

Updating the firmware on your display can have an adverse effect on the digital signage content management software. There are times when the management software has not been updated at the time of the firmware release, which can cause the glitches due to a firmware mismatch.

An external media player remains separate from the display firmware, allowing your signage to remain functioning.

3. Horsepower

The ability to choose an external player with processing power and memory that matches your digital signage needs now, as well as into the future, may only be available if using an external player. The SoC provided in displays may be powerful enough to play images and videos but may lack performance when additional content comes into play.

External media players range from basic video and image playback to multi-output, 3D capable video engines capable of playing the most demanding content.

4. Triggers

External media players can have various IO ports, as well as methods for communicating with their players. USB ports allow for the connection to an overlay or button panel to trigger playback of content. Some even over a GPIO port (short for General-Purpose Input/Output), allowing one to integrate numerous connections. This is important if you want to trigger playback using something other than the Ethernet port.

Connecting a fire alarm, button push, or something else that can be used to trigger the playback of content is important.

5. Hot Swap

As reliable as displays have become, most are replaced every 3 years for one reason or another. This can be because of improvements in technology, product failure, or even a matter of aesthetics. The replacement of a display does not have to mean downtime on the digital signage. If an external media player is being used, it is only a matter of plugging it into the HDMI port of the new display.

Along with hot swapability (I know, it’s not a word), there are also additional benefits. When a power outage occurs, most external media players automatically restart playing media as soon as the power is back. There is no human interaction needed. Since the failure rate of the top external media players is so low, I’ve seen them running for 10 years straight without interruption.


The list above provides some of the more popular reasons people continue to use an external media player, but there are many more. I didn’t even touch on video walls, or other multi-display deployments. Just because a media player is included in the commercial display of your choice, there are still a number of good reasons that an external player should be considered. If you’d like to discuss your project, or wish to learn more, feel free to contact me at

Todd Heberlein
About the Author

Todd Heberlein | CTS, DMC-D-4K, DSCE

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Digital Signage Services, Technical (National), BrightSign

A 4-Step Signage Strategy

The global digital signage market size was estimated at around 23 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 7.7% from 2022 to 2030, with the largest market being North America. We’ve all seen digital signage in our daily lives and have come to expect it when we walk into a hotel, retail location, or even a corporate office. So, why are so many Pro AV integrators hesitant to make it a part of their business plan? Choices… too many of them. There are literally hundreds of CMS (Content Management System) providers currently on the market, and many integrators aren’t sure which one offers their client what they need. Many CMS providers have attempted to make digital signage appear simple, and some have been relatively successful.  The truth of it is, if it’s too simple, it probably lacks some necessary functionality. If not for your current client, most likely for the next one. Since digital signage is so varied, the software needed could never be simple while still addressing the needs of every client.

The Reason Why

So, why should a Pro AV integrator ever get involved in such a mired mess?  I’ll give you a couple of reasons. First, if you’re not doing it, your competitor probably is. Second, the market is HUGE, and continues to grow at near double digits each year. Digital signage offers the unique ability to engage with your client on an annual basis, at a minimum, and develop a recurring revenue stream that builds profitability over time. Digital signage was originally known as digital out of home advertising but is now used as a method of digital communication.  It communicates ideas, data, dates, times, events, news, weather, inspiration, etc. My fingers would fall off before I can list the various uses, and there are people finding new ways every day. It’s here to stay, so you might as well jump on board. The first step is creating a strategy that doesn’t put a strain on your company, while still being able to offer everything needed for your sophisticated clients.

Step 1 – Find a Partner

Even though there are so many uses, and hundreds of software choices to help facilitate those uses, it all boils down to methods of communication. Just as there are many methods to create a beautiful painting, it still comes down to a brush, some pigment, and something to paint on. For signage, it’s content, a way to manage the content, and a display on which to play the content. As an integrator, you serve as a resource to the end user, but you don’t need to paint the picture for them – just set up the brush and canvas, and let the painters do their work. Most projects are pretty straight forward, but for those that require a bit more, there are digital signage experts that spend their day knee-deep in the inner workings and are willing to provide assistance. The key to a successful strategy is finding a partner that has enough options to choose from, while still remaining knowledgeable in each option enough to guide you to provide the best solution for your client. These partners can be value added distributors, digital signage content creation firms, or even local digital signage integrators. This step is the key to developing a strategy, without having to hire a slew of experts internally. There are partners, like Exertis Almo, that offer a number of options, both in hardware and software, and can provide the resources needed to help with almost any digital signage project you run into. They also have some key partners that they work with to provide things not covered by the hardware or software.

Step 2 – The Committee

After securing a partner that provides resources and expertise needed, the next step is getting the key players from your client together. This is something that Pro AV integrators are extremely qualified for.  Knowing your clients and developing relationships within that client is something nobody else can do for you. The most important thing an integrator can do to ensure a successful project is get the correct people involved.  Many projects are relegated to the IT department of an end user, but shouldn’t stop there. In order to be successful, we need to involve any person that will be involved with the digital signage. This should be a formal or informal committee that the end user has put together. This committee should consist of key people that will utilize the system in some way. I suggest including marketing, IT, facilities, HR, and the CEO or other officer responsible for saying “yes” to the project.  You should also include the person responsible for the day to day management of the content, even if it’s a part time administrative assistant. Having a digital signage partner doesn’t mean you’re done with the project. It just allows you to do what you do best and leave some of the technical aspects of signage to someone else. This eliminates a lot of the time suck that can be associated with signage.

Step 3 – Needs Analysis

This portion can be done via a video conference with your signage partner, or there are a few key questions you can ask your client to start the process. No matter if you are passing the information over to a partner that will run with the rest of the project, or passing it on to an internal resource to finish out the project, there are 5 key questions you can ask to help provide direction. The great thing about these questions is they don’t require any in-depth knowledge of signage.
  1. What is the overall objective of the digital signage?
  2. Who will be responsible managing the content, and do they have technical skills? List everyone that will “touch” the system and indicate what responsibility they will have.
  3. Will the digital signage be interactive or pull from a data source? Weather, news, PowerBI, database? If so, please provide details.
  4. Do you have a preference for on-premise or a cloud solution?
  5. Who is creating the content, and how will it be kept timely and relative?
After the needs analysis has been completed, your signage partner should be able to suggest a combination of hardware, software, and additional services that fit the needs of your client. These services can even include installation services, which can further aid in making sure you are able to service your client best, without any additional strain on your company.

Step 4 – Deployment

As a system integrator, this should be right in your wheelhouse. Because signage hardware includes an IT element, making sure you have the correct people involved is key. I suggest involving your signage partner in the planning and possibly in the actual deployment. The key to a successful deployment can sometimes hinge on having a resource for contingencies. __________ To discuss the strategies above, or to hear more about how Exertis Almo can help you develop a customized strategy for your client, please contact me via email. Good luck!

How to Keep Public Spaces Safe in 2021

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to ensure proper sanitation and cleanliness of public spaces. By encouraging hand sanitation upon entering and exiting a space, you’ll create a safer, cleaner environment for yourself and others. 

According to the CDC, washing your hands or using hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol are essential steps in avoiding sickness and protecting others. Hand sanitation is especially important in public spaces when soap and water are not available, specifically before eating and after handling or adjusting your mask. 

And with digital signage hand sanitizing units, you’ll keep germs under control while displaying helpful and important information for users. 

Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Units

With digital signage hand sanitizing units from RC Stars, hand sanitation is simple and convenient. The touchless auto-dispensers display customizable information and images, encouraging users to properly sanitize their hands upon entering an indoor space. Perfect for a wide variety of applications, these zero-contact sanitation kiosks are ideal for lobbies, gyms, schools, shops, and other points of service. 

Available in 21.5-inch wall-mounted and freestanding units, digital signage sanitizing units from RC Stars deliver durability and functionality in a sleek exterior. With metal body housing, tempered protection glass, and water-resistant casing, you’ll enjoy zero-contact sanitation and top-of-the-line construction. Not to mention, the Remote Management Software connects the kiosk to Wifi and delivers content updates to your web browser, so you’ll stay up to date when sanitizer levels are running low. And with a volume indicator on the unit itself, you’ll enjoy simple and convenient refilling of your unit.

Freestanding vs. Wall-Mounted Dispensers

The Freestanding Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Unit from RC Stars is an ideal addition to any live event. With a convenient stand for your sanitizing unit, this kiosk can be placed anywhere in a space and can be reconfigured to assist with traffic flow and sanitization.

If you’re looking for a space-saving station, the Wall-Mounted Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Unit is perfect for smaller areas, as the unit hangs seamlessly on any wall. Delivering a sleek and contemporary aesthetic, this wall-mounted unit is an efficient and health-conscious addition to any public area.

Where to Use Your Hand Sanitizing Unit

School Buildings

With zero-contact sanitation, these digital signage kiosks are perfect for ensuring proper cleanliness of students and faculty upon entering a building. Available in both wall-mounted and freestanding units, the stations are ideal for school lobbies, cafeterias, and classrooms, as they fit seamlessly into any space.

Not to mention, our sanitizing units are perfect for college buildings, as they allow students to read important university information while cleaning their hands.

Doctor’s Office

With a high traffic volume throughout the day and potential exposure to illness, it’s essential to ensure that patients and staff are properly sanitizing their hands upon entry. And with customizable digital signage, these kiosks provide patients with necessary sign-in and office information while allowing them to sanitize before an appointment.

Shops and Malls

Delivering digital signage and sanitization in a compact kiosk, these units are ideal for displaying sales and advertisements while ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers. With customizable display images, digital signage units from RC Stars are perfect for alerting customers of featured products, explaining current and upcoming sales, or simply encouraging hand sanitation upon entry.


With the RC Stars Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Unit, you’ll ensure greater health of safety in any public space. Whether you plan to install your unit in a school building, office, or any other point of service, you’ll enjoy the convenience of digital signage and hand sanitation in a compact, sleek kiosk.

To make your purchase, visit

Stay safe and healthy!


With the uncertainty of the current times, most businesses are looking for a way to “bridge the gap”, and AV integration firms are no different.  While some have already made the difficult decision to lay employees off, others are doing what they can to maintain their employee base, and keep them busy with any project to generate revenue.

Because of the previous growth, many AV integration firms focused on low hanging fruit, because it was all they could do to keep up with demand. If nothing else, companies have now been forced to review their current portfolio to determine how they can branch out, or go deeper with their current client base.

Below are a few ideas on how integrators can utilize their current sales staff to engage on selling services that were previously overlooked.  This may provide a way to get them over any current hurdles, as well as build toward the future.

Image may contain: one or more people

Because of the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic, communication has become even more of a key factor than before.  With the need to get a message out quickly, digital communication has proven most vital.  Clients that hadn’t previously invested in digital signage for internal communication may now see the great value that instant communication provides.  

Adding a few screens around an office where information can be easily and quickly disseminated is now viewed by most as a necessity.  A simple message about upcoming business hours, or even proper hand washing seemingly an afterthought previously is now seen as vitally important.

With many employees now working from home, increased network bandwidth has proven a necessity for business.  The importance of allowing employees to access servers and other assets on the network for a seamless virtual workplace, is now a reality for many.   

The additional benefit digital signage and internet service can provide to the integrator is the ability to build a portfolio that provides a steady stream of recurring revenue.  This is especially beneficial when business isn’t growing as expected, or something as simple as a slow playing client makes cash flow tight.

Most integrators have thought about investing the time and personnel on additional divisions, but because of the lack of experts available, or the consistent growth, they just haven’t.  Now with the market slowdown, adding additional personnel is most likely furthest from their mind. Now for the “antidote” – With numerous services available, Almo is here to help our clients looking to diversify, and find a way to add revenue without adding the expense of additional employees.  

Our expert staff, who help clients navigate a new offering by participating, or even leading a call with the end user, allows our clients to branch out without the hassle and expense of finding their own expert staff.  Contact your Almo rep for additional information on how we can help go deeper with your client and find untapped sources of revenue.

ALMO is here to help. 

LG Brings the “WOW” Factor at IC19

Just about halfway through another year and one more InfoComm is in the books.  Since my start in the industry in 2003, I’ve approached the InfoComm show with various emotions – excitement, trepidation, anticipation, and some years even some dread.  Each year, I’ve come out the other side finding something at the show that I’ve enjoyed, and have even been impressed at the creativity of various manufacturers.   However, it has been quite a while since I’ve walked away from a manufacturer’s booth saying “Wow, that was truly awesome.”  No matter how big a display gets, it’s still just a display – and no matter how much you want it in your front room, it’s not going to keep you engaged on a trade show floor.

The LG booth at InfoComm 2019 was a refreshing change. Sure, they still had the obligatory large display, but even that threw me a curve.  Not only did they have an 88” OLED display with 8K resolution, but the panel was being used as the actual speaker.  Not a rear firing speaker like we’ve all come to expect, but the glass on the display vibrated with sound.   Not something I’d want to test the audio limits on.

The 8K display was almost lost in the other innovative and engaging attractions.  The biggest of which was the incredible curved video wall that created a cove like effect.  The content that LG used, consisting of various outdoor scenes, made you feel engulfed in the experience.  I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to the ISE show in Amsterdam, but I understand that the LG curved wall at the show was even more impressive there than at InfoComm.  I would have a difficult time believing it, if it weren’t for the video proof.

After I pulled myself away from the curved video wall, I could see other locations they’ve used the curved OLED displays in real world applications, such as inset curved corners on walls, providing the end user and integrator with some great inspiration for future projects.

The second attraction that caught my attention was the portrait, 2×2 video wall made from transparent OLED displays.  The content would appear and flow, allowing you glimpses of the retail product behind the displays, keeping you transfixed on seeing more, and providing an excellent way to engage the retail customer.

Overall, LGs continued innovation of new and exciting products has made their InfoComm booth as much of an attraction as it is a business destination.

Todd Heberlein
888-420-2566 x6205  |  [email protected]

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