Have you seen the TV screens at McDonalds or Inox that are showing advertisements? Have you ever wondered what exactly it takes to set up a system like this – in terms of software, hardware, and how much it costs?
Well, I don’t know the general answer to that question, but Pune-based company InfoBeanz is trying to ensure that people don’t need to ever find out. Because they have just released a web-based software platform for “digital signage” that that allows anybody to this using any old computer and monitor (or in a pinch, even an old TV screen will do). No software download is required. Just upload the content that needs to be shown on the screen to InfoBeanz website from a regular internet browser (Windows XP+ and IE6+ only). Then hookup the screen to any computer (windows or linux) that is running any browser (IE or firefox) and point it towards the InfoBeanz site. The InfoBeanz webpage will display ads (or whatever the customer wants) on the screen.
All of this is available to anybody free of cost. Basically, InfoBeanz is trying to democratize the process of digital signage. According to their press release:
Globally players in this segment are charging a hefty price for their digital signage solution and licenses.
InfoSignz plans to serve the largest and the smallest of the digital signage customers across the world and aims to break the entry barrier of cost and proprietary hardware.
So how does InfoBeanz plan to make any money out of this venture? The standard open source model. From their FAQ:
There are various revenue models that we will earn money from. One of them is advertisements on the network. Another is paid premium subscription services.
The paid service will have enhanced file, playlist and location management features. Apart from that, the paid service will also have enhanced interactivity features.
The paid service will also be able to connect to the inventory backend of the customer. Consider this:
What use is it to keep on selling something that is not in stock? I am frustrated when there is a display in a store selling a 27″ TV for $149.99 but when I make up my mind to buy (after much haggling with my wife) the item is out of stock. The marketer was successful in capturing the moment of truth, but the supply chain guy missed out because the two of them did not talk after every piece was sold. The marketer not only lost out on selling something that is not even available, he could have shown something else and lost out on selling something which was readily available. Double whammy!!
How nice would it be if the display stopped showing the promotion related to the television when the TV went out of stock? Wouldn’t it be even better if the display started promoting something that was in stock?
When all the other systems are interconnected and act intelligently, why should the digital display network be treated poorly?
(From the CEO’s blog)
In general, I think this announcement is very cool from a number of perspectives. It is a new and disruptive way to enter into a field dominated by expensive and proprietary solutions. It is a leap of faith to be able to release a free product and hope that you can figure out how to make money later. It is also technically challenging to be able to deliver on the promise of “no proprietary hardware and no installation of software required”. And finally, scaling to the demands of all the freeloaders who will want to use this service will also be a challenge.