I'm at the Cobblestone Pub in the small town of Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. We have digital signs running in the pub and the adjacent cold beer and wine store called, appropriately, the Cobblestone Cold Beer & Wine store.
The digital sign in the pub is over the main food service area.
It's a great location. Patrons look at the screen every time they look up from their meal.
That bad news is the sign is broken. The message on the screen says, "Kernel Panic Error..."
It's an error message I've seen hundreds (if not thousands) of times before.
So, how did this error come to be? Well, in a word: Power.
Currently the bar has, literally, hundreds of things plugged into their power circuit. They have screens, speakers, POS terminals, lottery terminals, laptops, wifi routers, fans, coolers, heaters, boilers, washers, lighting, you name it.
Now, to explain what is happening in layman's terms, you need to think of a computer as being like a record DJ.
Imagine you took away the energy drink that's keeping that DJ amped up. Instead you put the DJ on a very low dosage water diet.
The DJ would get sloppy. They would get tired. They would not operate as required. The records wouldn't be spinning like they should.
Computers, when they get insufficient power, can't spin their hard-drives. They can't write the files to the drives correctly. They get sloppy.
So - today - in geek-speak - I'm "re-installing the operating system".
I'm putting all the music back as it should be on the record.
The DJ will have good enough music on the record so everything is all cool again - JUST until the next time the power sucks and the DJ starts getting sloppy.
I'm putting a band-aid on a bigger power sucking problem.
Really what this client needs to do is get a UPS (Universal Power Supply), which is what was of course recommended when they first bought the computer. All installations in commercial locations should have a UPS.
A UPS is basically a battery. It gives the DJ the juice needed during times when all the other things plugged into the power circuit are drawing too much power for everything to run right.
(It should not be confused with a surge protector. Surge potectors protect again power spikes, but do NOT protect against low-power situations).
The problem is that most businesses prefer to run stuff until it fails than fork out the money up front for a $100 UPS.
Moreover, I can't say I blame them.
If I bought a toaster I would expect the toaster would make toast for years.
A computer should be like a toaster. Problem is - they aren't.
So, what are the options?
1: Install a UPS, or
2: Keep paying for service calls, or
3: Don't use computers.
Ok - so what do I mean by saying "Don't use computers"?
Well, a better solution is to use cellphone technology. Cellphone brains are built way more stable than computers. I should know- I've now spent a couple years of my life working with my team on perfecting a cellphone technology to run digital signs rather than computers.
I'm actually at this bar today to test the "old" computer way versus the "new" cellphone technology way.
Here's the results:
1: Old Way: Two hours to re-flash the operating system. A tech would charge around $300USD for this service time.
2: New Way: In just 5 minutes I plugged in the cellphone technology (we call them the ENS Cubes) and I'm up and running in just minutes. Cost of around $200USD.
So, either you can train your team on how to re-flash the operating system when power sucks (which it will continuously until such time as you follow through and get UPS), or upgrade to using the ENS Cube.
For myself, I'm just happy to no longer be personally fixing power issues. It's the end of a headache that I've had for years.
I'm off to enjoy the sunshine - it's been 2 hours longer in a bar, on a beautiful day, than it should be.
Best wishes. Jeremiah.
ENS has been working for around 7 years develop the most durable, scalable, cost effective digital sign solution possible.
A few days ago, a client asked us what they should budget for an install.
It's a difficult question to answer succinctly because of the following variances:
1: Price differences between screen manufacturers,
2: Price differences between choosing commercial or retail models,
3: Whether using flat or tilt or pole mounts.
(mounting, if oddball or custom is now the highest cost differential)
4: Time required by the installers, which can vary from 1 hour to 4 hours, depending on what kind of custom drilling, cabling, mounting, etc. is required. Install expenses vary wildly depending on how many site visits are required to complete the job, and what cost the installers charge for repeat site visits.
I made the mistake of giving worst-case pricing - which was pricing that would ensure all oddball or strange circumstances were covered.
Really what I should have provided is the following, which is the absolutely best price I can find presently:
$300 for a retail-grade screen.
$50 for a flat, no frills, bracket to hold the screen to the wall.
$200 for the media player.
$20 for the HDMI cable.
$50 for the extension cords.
$249 for the install.
$25 for shipping.
$150 SAM network access.
$1044 TOTAL IN USD
For the first 36 months of service, they need to budget for around 10% failure in the field, so that's around $150 to add to the total cost.
From there, the client needs to budget for $25/month for servicing, so based on 36 months, that's $900USD.
So, what is the total true cost of ownership over 36 months? $2049 USD.
I do not believe there's a solution available today (that can actually be rolled out nationally on scale) for lower cost.
Q: So, what would be their rate of return if they had their client pay $100 per month in Canadian dollars?
A: Well, here's the math:
REVENUE: $100CAD per month for 36 months = $3600.
EXPENSE: $2049USD expressed in CAD = -$2561.
Annualized Return: ($1039 profit/$2561 expense)/3 = 13.5%
It's a pretty good return, as long as the client is careful to choose the right screens, brackets and installers.
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