How I helped a client become the national Digital Signage leader by building a proprietary DS platform.
Real Digital Media (RDM), a fast-growing marketing agency from Croatia, has approached me in 2007 with a request: to build a new, innovative and integrated Digital Signage Solution. At the time, RDM was using a third-party digital signage solution limited in several important ways, which couldn’t scale with the growth of the company.
The motivation for a completely new implementation was to address several key challenges:
- customizable display layout supporting many different media types and arrangements of the content on the screens;
- flexible content management supporting multiple people working on the system at the same time and improved organization, search and preview of content;
- scheduling and programming functionality that could support complex scheduling requirements: where, when, and under which circumstances a specific content is shown;
- leverage open web standards to make the solution more maintainable and easier to upgrade in the future;
- the system must be robust — without a single point of failure — and secure.
In collaboration with the RDM technical team, I designed the solution as a centrally-managed network of independent player devices. The devices store their content and programming locally and can, once configured, play the content independently of the rest of the system.
The devices are all part of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that encrypts all traffic and ensures there’s no tampering with the contents. It also allows the devices to contact the central servers to receive new content, schedule updates and even over-the-air software upgrades.
The players run custom Linux-based software stack that supports playback of all major media formats, including audio-only or web-page content, which can be divided into multiple, custom-specified, content zones.
The content management and schedule programming is done using a native (desktop) application, making it easy to add, edit or remove content, specify complex scheduling configurations and manage hundreds of players from one place.
The end goals of the project as well as the features needed were known but there was still a lot of technical details to iron out and roadmap to plan. We approached the development as an iterative process with quick cycles involving development and field testing of feature in the field. This approach allowed us to complete the first production-ready version of the new software system within a few months.
This initial version was deployed on hundreds of locations after which the development process became more gradual and reactive to the feedback from the customers.
The project was an unqualified success for Real Digital Media, helping it to win several high profile clients, deploy to hundreds of locations in Croatia and beyond, and become the national leader in Digital Signage. To this day RDS is the most capable DS system used in Croatia and helps RDM keep its #1 position in an increasingly competitive market.