An important question to ask when dealing with computer components is “How much control do I want when building embedded systems?” Regardless of the computer’s determined sector, assemblers have to weigh the option of putting together individual components of the greater whole, or purchasing a finished machine. Both have their uses, depending on the type of business that a company does and taking into consideration its size and type of computing needs.
When it comes to the digital signage market, there are a few specific problems that must be solved. The first is the specifications the embedded system needs to run the advertising program. The second issue comes from the number of physical ads that must be placed and the cost of creating multiple duplicates of that machine.
The last problem ties into money, but is also an engineering issue. It comes down to the query above; it is a question of control.
Pros and Cons of Custom Building Embedded Systems
Approaching this issue from the “build it yourself” standpoint does not automatically mean a lesser system. In fact, there are many positives involved in custom building an embedded system. The process does technically solve all of the “digital signage” problems, as it allows for:
- Deliberately choosing the specifications of the best packaged systems on the market
- Duplication to fit multiple physical ads
- Saving money on components
- The ultimate amount of control for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
- True proprietary hardware with a custom label.
The last two points are probably the most important to custom builders. Being able to fine tune a system to fit a very specific use case can be important and when the system is proprietary, the customer can have more faith in the machine and you don’t have to worry about them bypassing you to buy the hardware from a distributor.
Why Off-The-Shelf Embedded Systems Work for Digital Signage
This method can better be described as “buying it outright.” There is definitely less mystique and overall craft because much of the hardware work is done for you. But for the business minded, off-the-shelf embedded systems allow for the maximum expansion of product in the shortest length of time. An embedded system can be bought, loaded with proprietary software, outfitted to the housing unit and advertising before the custom built model is even assembled. The expedience of the off-the-shelf method is a definite trump card for digital signage.
In the embedded computing industry the cost of a pre-built embedded system can be prohibitive, however in the digital signage industry, there is enough of a market that companies have been able to buy their components in enough bulk that while component cost is higher, if you include the price of assembly and logistics, a prebuilt system can compare quite favorably with low quantity custom systems.
Pre-built systems solve the problem of having to keep spare components in stock in case something fails. Trying to find a specific microprocessor or hard drive throughout the year, or having to buy in bulk and store the extras can create its own hassle and expense. Furthermore, with quantity orders, some companies will allow you to request a custom label.
Overall, off-the-shelf embedded systems tick most of the same boxes as custom built machines. But, the pre-built system has the key “speed to market” element that sets it apart in the digital signage sector.
Brian Luckman is the President of New Era Electronics. He has worked in the industrial OEM market for over 25 years, serving a variety of different industries, gaining a strong reputation for his expertise and a thorough understanding of how to properly service OEM customers. In 2000 he began New Era Electronics and the company continues to grow. He’s a husband and father and enjoys exploring the outdoors.
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