In the digital signage space, we tend to focus on making things bigger — larger displays, imposing video walls, projects with thousands of displays integrated throughout a facility. Small screens are often overshadowed by this rush to go big. But anyone who keeps a close eye on our industry knows that small displays are in the midst of big growth.
Let’s be clear — small form-factor displays are nothing new. But earlier efforts to integrate smaller screens in places like corporate settings and doctor offices were primarily built around a tablet ecosystem. Windows, iOS and Android tablets were sleek and already had touch interactivity built-in — on the surface they were a perfect solution. But these tablets weren’t built with digital signage in mind, so adapting them for this purpose required a great deal of custom work. And when all was said and done, these devices were built on consumer operating systems and had reliability issues and other limitations when adapted for a dedicated commercial signage application where you didn’t need the functionality of a consumer operating system.
So, what’s changing? Small form-factor, purpose-built displays are now being produced by a growing number of commercial display manufacturers. These displays offer some important advantages over their tablet predecessors. First and most importantly, these displays have integrated media player functionality. With all the smarts built-in, there’s no need to mount media players externally — this creates flexibility in where the displays can be placed and makes it possible to integrate or surface-mount displays with minimal space requirements. Wireless connectivity makes it easy to manage content on the fly, and power over Ethernet enables flexible placement without the need to run power to every mount location and reduces dependence on wireless connectivity that can be troublesome in retail environments.
Lastly, in many cases these smaller displays are made-to-order. Displays can be designed with a finished bezel for surface-mount applications, or open frame for kiosk or wall-mounted integration. And with HD available now and 4K on the way, the displays’ onboard media-handling capabilities make handling rich media a breeze and furthermore, the small displays have impressive video quality due to the high density of pixels on screen.
All this translates to significant opportunities for A/V professionals scoping out projects in many quickly growing vertical markets including retail, corporate communications, conference room scheduling etc. Whether it’s swapping out older tablets in existing locations or installing fresh in a new build, these new small screens are signage-ready right out of the box and bring big functionality to small spaces.