Digital Signage Software should not be a Silo

Digital Signage Software should not be an Island

Do you know the phrase „our strength is that we can adapt our software to our customers’ needs„? I thought that 10 years ago – and I failed (our software was called „miX-L TV“).
By now, I know that this opinion ignores fundamental laws of the market and software development and ultimately can only fail, unless one can position the software in a perfect niche.

Interfaces in Digital Signage are system critical. Many solution providers – Digital Signage CMS vendors as well as systems integrators – underestimate the need for standards of interfaces to third party systems. invidis will sehd some light on challenges and best practice by publishing articles and background reports on interfaces in the coming weeks. We start today with the first background report in cooperation with Florian Bogeschdorfer of DS Connekt.

Interfaces / APIs in Digital Signage are system critical. Many providers – Digital Signage CMS as well as integrators – underestimate the topic standards in interfaces to third systems. invidis will publish some articles and background reports on the topic interfaces in the coming weeks.

Our guest author Florian Bogeschdorfer is an expert in digital signage and APis. Bogeschdorfer is managing director of DS Connekt GmbH, which specializes in programming and technical consulting in the field of digital signage and has already worked for many leading integrators and software providers.

Florian Bogeschdorfer developed already his first digital signage CMS for one of the very first DooH networks in 1993.

Maybe you got away with it, when a DS solution still looked like this:

  • User
  • CMS
  • Player

Today DS networks look more like this:

  • Many users
  • DS software CMS
  • CMS of the customer
  • Web applications
  • Multi Channel Marketing
  • Cloud
  • Mobile
  • Social Media
  • Internet Of Things
  • Sensors
  • Other integrated solutions (SAP, Salesforce …)
  • Process Control
  • Smart TV / SoC

Do you know the phrase „Our software can do it all„? Look at the upper graphic again – I just don’t believe it. Worse – it would be completely pointless and a waste of resources to be able to do everything.

Do you know the phrase „Our software can do the necessary things to comply with 80% of the projects.„? Again, this statement is dangerous, as the 80% are constantly changing, and in the context of globalization and consolidation, your software may now be more like 40%.

For lasting success, all three statements – views – are at least dangerous.

The solution to all these problems is quite simple: API.

In our networked world, where data means cash, and the Big 5 companies of the world live on sharing data, APIs mean cash. What would Google be without APIs? „What does Google have APIs for?“. You may not know that, but I’ll bet you use hundreds of APIs every day on your mobile phone without even realizing it.

But what is an API actually?

API simply means „Application Programming Interface“ – an interface to a software that can dock with other software. The API itself is not a new invention, because without it there would be no networks, no Windows, no Facebook or Google, no Internet, not even YOUR own software. And if you think „that’s a developer thing“ you are making a mistake. API is a topic for management, marketing, sales, human resources and product development.

The advantages of a good API are:

  • Functionalities are separated into separate areas that are much easier to maintain and manage
  • Third parties can use their own manpower to develop features and solutions without the software manufacturer having to pay for them
  • The integration options with a variety of other software systems open up new customers and markets
  • Programming work can be easily outsourced to subcontractors if you have no capacity or need specialists
  • Over the years maintenance costs decrease as the performance of your software increases and with it its stability and quality increase

Of course, not everything can be swapped out in APIs – something must be there which an API can interface with.

While we are talking about API, many companies still use custom feature development instead of thinking about whether a good API would not make more sense.

Let’s take a content editor as an example – Project X needs a WYSIWYG content editor, with a special distribution of rights and a great design. A bad decision would be to develop and integrate that. This could be improved by trying to abstract the request and make it usable for others. In both cases, however, you’ll end up with a few servers and different projects with multiple functions, large „IF“ constructs, and poorly maintained code that leads to uncontrollable chaos on every update.
Project Y needs much less editor and wants everything very easy. Again everything gets more complicated, your chief developer leaves the company in frustration and you are facing a refactoring that will cost you a whole year.

A simple API between content management and user interface could have solved all this. Project X and Y would have got their own user interfaces, project E and F do not need a user interface, but would have added the content via SAP, Salesforce and a third party booking system and project Z is doing something really great that you would never have come up with yourself. Suddenly, the software is good enough for everyone.

Standard-API vs. Customized (Foto: DS Connekt / invidis)

The cost over the years is much lower because your API is versatile and low-maintenance, unlike Custom Feature Development, where you pay for development time after time and the maintenance of your code will be the biggest part after some custom feature developments.

Successful software without an API is an exception today – the better the API, the more possibilities in the use of the software, the more possibilities of integration into existing infrastructures and the fewer features have to be redesigned for playout management. But how should it be and what makes a good API? And how does it help manufacturers and integrators to increase sales?

This is our topic will be covered in the second part of this article.