Creating a Digital Signage Network (38. Terms & Definitions)

Basic Terms and Definitions in Digital Signage Usage

Below are some common basic terms and definitions that folks new to digital signage might be interested in understanding as they pursue the creation of their digital signage network.  You can do further research into the on the internet (search engines are your friend) or find more in depth discussions by purchasing books addressing them in more detail at your local bookstore.  On many occasions we have purchased books on database management, website design and social media.  Our digital signage network leverages the power of relatively simple databases so that once they are set-up the databases handle the heavy lifting for feeding the digital signage with information.  This reduces greatly the amount of daily data input by our staff.  Our simple web forms are used by our clients to enter their data which then gets sent to the database we set up for them.  (Try websites such as Wikipedia, How Stuff Works or Google searches for more information.  Terms and definitions below are taken from Wikipedia or from other websites, and our own vendor websites.)

RSS (most commonly expanded as Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.[2] An RSS document (which is called a “feed”, “web feed”,[3] or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator“, which can be web-baseddesktop-based, or mobile-device-based. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed’s URI or by clicking a feed icon in a web browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds. RSS allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead subscribe to websites such that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available.

RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have evolved from as early as March 1999,[4] it was between 2005 and 2006 when RSS gained widespread use, and Firefox‘s icon () was adopted by Internet Explorer.[5

HTML, which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML is the basic building-blocks of webpages.

HTML is written in the form of HTML elements consisting of tags, enclosed in angle brackets (like <html>), within the web page content. HTML tags normally come in pairs like <h1> and </h1>. The first tag in a pair is the start tag, the second tag is the end tag (they are also called opening tags and closing tags). In between these tags web designers can add text, tables, images, etc.

The purpose of a web browser is to read HTML documents and compose them into visual or audible web pages. The browser does not display the HTML tags, but uses the tags to interpret the content of the page.

HTML elements form the building blocks of all websites. HTML allows images and objects to be embedded and can be used to create interactive forms. It provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. It can embed scripts in languages such as JavaScript which affect the behavior of HTML webpages.

Web browsers can also refer to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the appearance and layout of text and other material. TheW3C, maintainer of both the HTML and the CSS standards, encourages the use of CSS over explicitly presentational HTML markup.[1]

Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a set of rules for encoding documents in machine-readable form. It is defined in the XML 1.0 Specification[4] produced by the W3C, and several other related specifications, all gratis open standards.[5]

The design goals of XML emphasize simplicity, generality, and usability over the Internet.[6] It is a textual data format with strong support via Unicode for the languages of the world. Although the design of XML focuses on documents, it is widely used for the representation of arbitrary data structures, for example in web services.

Many application programming interfaces (APIs) have been developed that software developers use to process XML data, and several schema systems exist to aid in the definition of XML-based languages.

As of 2009, hundreds of XML-based languages have been developed,[7] including RSSAtomSOAP, and XHTML. XML-based formats have become the default for most office-productivity tools, including Microsoft Office (Office Open XML), Document), and Apple‘s iWork.[8] 


SQL (  /ˌskwəl/, often /ˈɛs kjuː ˈɛl/),[3] often referred to as Structured Query Language, is a database computer language designed for managing data in relational database management systems (RDBMS), and originally based upon relational algebra and calculus.[4] Its scope includes data insert, query, update and deleteschema creation and modification, and data access control. SQL was one of the first commercial languages for Edgar F. Codd‘s relational model, as described in his influential 1970 paper, “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks”.[5] Despite not adhering to the relational model as described by Codd, it became the most widely used database language.[6][7]


Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider.[note 1] The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather than to the medium itself. The distinction is usually applied to media that are distributed over telecommunications networks, as most other delivery systems are either inherently streaming (e.g., radiotelevision) or inherently non-streaming (e.g., booksvideo cassettes, audio CDs). The verb ‘to stream’ is also derived from this term, meaning to deliver media in this manner. Internet television is a commonly streamed medium.

Live streaming also known as on-demand streaming, more specifically, means taking the media and broadcasting it live over the Internet. The process involves a camera for the media, an encoder to digitize the content, a media publisher where the streams are made available to potential end-users and a content delivery network to distribute and deliver the content. The media can then be viewed by end-users live.

It can be difficult to control streaming content and prevent redistribution. Digital rights management (DRM) systems are an example of an attempt to keep this content under control of the streamer.

Failover   In computingfailover is the capability to switch over automatically to a redundant or standby computer serversystem, or network upon the failure or abnormal termination of the previously active application,[1] server, system, or network. Failover happens without human intervention and generally without warning, unlike switchover.

Systems designers usually provide failover capability in servers, systems or networks requiring continuous availability and a high degree of reliability.

At server-level, failover automation takes place using a “heartbeat” cable that connects two servers. As long as a regular “pulse” or “heartbeat” continues between the main server and the second server, the second server will not initiate its systems. There may also be a third “spare parts” server that has running spare components for “hot” switching to prevent down time.

The second server will immediately take over the work of the first as soon as it detects an alteration in the “heartbeat” of the first machine. Some systems have the ability to page or send a message to a pre-assigned technician or center.

Some systems, intentionally, do not failover entirely automatically, but require human intervention. This “automated with manual approval” configuration runs automatically once a human has approved the failover.


Failback, conversely, involves the process of restoring a system/component/service in a state of failover back to its original state (before failure).

The use of virtualization software has allowed failover practices to become less reliant on physical hardware.

Social Media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.

Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”   Businesses may also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

Social media may have been integral to the Arab revolutions and revolts of 2011.   As one Cairo activist succinctly put it, ““We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”  However, there is some debate about the extent to which social media facilitate this kind of change.

Links to social media sites can be leveraged in digital signage for displaying content embedded within the content broadcast.

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters in length, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can share a lot with a little space. Connected to each Tweet is a rich details pane that provides additional information, deeper context and embedded media. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can think of a Tweet as the headline, and use the details pane to tell the rest with photos, videos and other media content.

Atlona AT-4VGA300SL VGA / Stereo Audio CAT5 Extender (Sender Unit) transmits VGA/stereo signal over a UTP (unshielded twisted pair) CAT5 cable, and supports resolution of up to 1600×1200 @ 85Hz. It offers a transmission range of up to 1000’ (300m), and supports analog stereo audio.

The CAT5 Extender is required to be used in pair with a receiver unit (AT-VGA300RL), and offers built-in equalization/gain adjustment on the receiver side. Additionally, the extender is equipped with 1 VGA loop output for local and 4 CAT5 RJ45 outputs for remote side offering dual output functionality.

Eliminating the need for bulky VGA cables, the VGA / Stereo Audio CAT5 Extender can be used for applications such as airports, train & bus stations, window displays, trade shows, and exhibitions.


Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues that they want to visit and surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues. Merchants and brands leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences.

foursquare by the numbers (last updated April, 2011)

  • Users: Over 8 million worldwide, adding around 35,000 new users each day
  • Check-ins per day: Over 2.5 million, with over half a billion check-ins in the last year
  • Businesses: Over 250,000 using the Merchant Platform (more information at )

LocaModa is a place-based social media company. LocaModa uses Social Media as a way of building value inside of digital place-based advertising networks and signage platforms. LocaModa is licensed by the world’s largest and most well respected networks. These networks use LocaModa to turn their media communication into interactive dialogues, as well as monetize this value in the form of LocaModa advertising revenue.  Place-based social media is media for social interaction for digital place-based networks, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Place-based social media uses web-based technologies to turn digital place-based media communication into interactive dialogues.  LocaModa’s technology has been built to scale by people passionate about doing the right thing and doing the thing right. We use Java (for back-end message management and routing), MySQL (database), Rails (web) and Flash (DOOH and web display). All of this operates with the help of Amazon S3 (virtual storage) and SOLR (full text search).  LocaModa stands for Location + Mobile + Data.  (Wiffiti, Jumbli, FourSquare).

CAVEAT:  When introducing Social Media content (Twitter, Wiffiti, etc.) into your “live” loop of information we strongly suggest that a moderator be used to read and approve any and all messages that come into the queue BEFORE they are displayed on your digital signage for your viewing audience to consume.  This will save you great embarrassment and the gnashing of teeth if someone “tweets” inappropriate comments to your signage.  This could be objectionable language, pictures, slanderous comments or acronyms.  The moderator simply intercepts each message before it goes “live”, takes a couple seconds to look at it to make sure it is acceptable, and then releases it to be published to the digital signage.  It is a relatively easy process that assures you that you protect your brand and that the image of your organization is safeguarded.  You will quickly find that in most settings, let alone a university setting, there are people who think it is cute to attempt to interrupt your good intent by texting objectionable material to your screens.  A trusted moderator makes easy and quick work of the approval process for the enjoyment of the audience.  We have also found that in texting situations people will use abbreviations and acronyms to shorten the length of text messages; be sure your moderator KNOWS what the abbreviation means and if it is appropriate before releasing it to the signage.  When in doubt, our moderator quarantines that particular message and moves on to the next text message.  Our interactive Social Media content is only “live” for specific or special events and at specific times when it can be moderated such as during the noon hour in the student union or during our new student orientation sessions.  You will soon discover that your audience quickly figures out how to text to the digital signage and they enjoy the experience and fun!

YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005.

The company is based in San Bruno, California, and uses Adobe Flash Video and HTML5  technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations including CBSBBCVevoHulu and other organizations offer some of their material via the site, as part of the YouTube partnership program.

Unregistered users may watch videos, and registered users may upload an unlimited number of videos. Videos that are considered to contain potentially offensive content are available only to registered users 18 and older. In November 2006, YouTube, LLC was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion, and now operates as a subsidiary of Google.

Databases are an organized collection of data for one or more purposes, usually in digital form. The data are typically organized to model relevant aspects of reality (for example, the availability of rooms in hotels), in a way that supports processes requiring this information (for example, finding a hotel with vacancies).   Often abbreviated DB. A collection of information organized in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired pieces of data. You can think of a database as an electronic filing system.  Traditional databases are organized by fieldsrecords, and files. A field is a single piece of information; a record is one complete set of fields; and a file is a collection of records. For example, a telephone book is analogous to a file. It contains a list of records, each of which consists of three fields: name, address, and telephone number.

Data Server  Many people mistakenly believe that a server is no different from a typical desktop computer. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While almost any computer that meets the minimum hardware requirements can run a server operating system that alone does not make a desktop computer a true server. Even if the desktop computer had similar processor speeds, memory and storage capacity compared to a server, it still isn’t a replacement for a real server. The technologies behind them are engineered for different purposes.  A database server is a computer program that provides database services to other computer programs or computers, as defined by the client–server model. The term may also refer to a computer dedicated to running such a program. Database management systems frequently provide database server functionality.

computer or device on a network that manages network resources. There are many different types of servers. For example:

  • Print server: a computer that manages one or more printers, and a network server is a computer that manages network traffic.

Servers are often dedicated, meaning that they perform no other tasks besides their server tasks. On multiprocessing operating systems, however, a single computer can execute several programs at once. A server in this case could refer to the program that is managing resources rather than the entire computer.
Virtual Server  Server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers. In server virtualization the resources of the server itself are hidden, or masked, from users, and software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers.

One common usage of this technology is in Web servers. Virtual Web servers are a very popular way of providing low-cost web hosting services. Instead of requiring a separate computer for each server, dozens of virtual servers can co-reside on the same computer.

Server virtualization has many benefits. For example, it lets each virtual server run its own operating system and each virtual server can also be independently rebooted of one another. Server virtualization also reduces costs because less hardware is required so that alone saves businesses money. It also utilizes resources to the fullest so it can also save on operational costs (e.g. using a lower number of physical servers reduces hardware maintenance).

There are several ways to create a virtual server, with the most common being; virtual machineoperating system-level virtualization, and paravirtual machine.

VLANs     As networks have grown in size and complexity, many companies have turned to virtual local area networks(VLANs) to provide some way of structuring this growth logically. Basically, a VLAN is a collection of nodes that are grouped together in a single broadcast domain that is based on something other than physical location.

A router does not pass along broadcasts. A broadcast domain is a network (or portion of a network) that will receive a broadcast packet from any node located within that network. In a typical network, everything on the same side of the router is all part of the same broadcast domain. A switch that you have implemented VLANs on has multiple broadcast domains, similar to a router. But you still need a router (or Layer 3 routing engine) to route from one VLAN to another — the switch can’t do this by itself.

Here are some common reasons why a company might have VLANs:

  • Security – Separating systems that have sensitive data from the rest of the network decreases the chances that people will gain access to information they are not authorized to see.
  • Projects/Special applications – Managing a project or working with a specialized application can be simplified by the use of a VLAN that brings all of the required nodes together.
  • Performance/Bandwidth – Careful monitoring of network use allows the network administrator to create VLANs that reduce the number of router hops and increase the apparent bandwidth for network users.
  • Broadcasts/Traffic flow – Since a principle element of a VLAN is the fact that it does not pass broadcast traffic to nodes that are not part of the VLAN, it automatically reduces broadcasts. Access lists provide the network administrator with a way to control who sees what network traffic. An access list is a table the network administrator creates that lists which addresses have access to that network.
  • Departments/Specific job types – Companies may want VLANs set up for departments that are heavy network users (such as multimedia or engineering), or a VLAN across departments that is dedicated to specific types of employees (such as managers or sales people).

You can create a VLAN using most switches simply by logging into the switch via Telnet and entering the parameters for the VLAN (name, domain and port assignments). After you have created the VLAN, any network segments connected to the assigned ports will become part of that VLAN.

While you can have more than one VLAN on a switch, they cannot communicate directly with one another on that switch. If they could, it would defeat the purpose of having a VLAN, which is to isolate a part of the network. Communication between VLANs requires the use of a router.

VLANs can span multiple switches, and you can have more than one VLAN on each switch. For multiple VLANs on multiple switches to be able to communicate via a single link between the switches, you must use a process called trunking — trunking is the technology that allows information from multiple VLANs to be carried over a single link between switches.

SMS, Short for Short Message Service Similar to paging, SMS is a service for sending short text messages to mobile phones.  The text communication service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems, using standardized communications protocols that allow the exchange of short text messages between fixed line or mobile phone devices.

Parsing is a very important part of many computer science disciplines. For example, compilers must parse source code to be able to translate it into object code. Likewise, any application that processes complex commands must be able to parse the commands. This includes virtually all end-user applications such as databases.  For example, parsing this sentence would involve dividing it into words and phrases and identifying the type of each component (e.g., verb, adjective, or noun).   The word “parse” means to analyze an object specifically.  Database programs can turn formatted documents into tables with rows and columns by parsing the text.

QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QRbarcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone. You may soon see QR Codes in a magazine advert, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

The reason why they are more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including url links, geo coordinates, and text. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan them, many modern cell phones can scan them.

Your organization, no matter how small or large, could use QR codes in a number of ways. You might auto generate one next to every service or college on your web sites containing all the details, the number to call and the URL link to the web page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so it is easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print advertising, flyers, posters, invites, TV ads etc. containing:

  • Organization details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • A coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, MySpace IDs
  • A link to your YouTube video(s)

To generate a QR code look at these links for ideas…


Native Resolution of a LCDLCoS or other flat panel display refers to its single fixed resolution. As an LCD display consists of a fixed raster, it cannot change resolution to match the signal being displayed as a CRT monitor can, meaning that optimal display quality can be reached only when the signal input matches the native resolution.  An image where the number of pixels is the same as in the image source and where the pixels are perfectly aligned to the pixels in the source is said to be pixel perfect.

While CRT monitors can usually display images at various resolutions, an LCD monitor has to rely on interpolation (scaling of the image), which causes a loss of image quality. An LCD has to scale up a smaller image to fit into the area of the native resolution. This is the same principle as taking a smaller image in an image editing program and enlarging it; the smaller image loses its sharpness when it is expanded. This is especially problematic as most resolutions are in a 4:3 aspect ratio (640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×960, 1600×1200) but there are odd resolutions that are not, notably 1280×1024. If a user were to map 1024×768 to a 1280×1024 screen there would be distortion as well as some image errors, as there is not a one-to-one mapping with regard to pixels. This results in noticeable quality loss and the image is much less sharp.

In theory, some resolutions should work well, if they are exact multiples of smaller image sizes. For example, a 1600×1200 LCD could display an 800×600 image well, as each of the pixels in the image could be represented by a block of four on the larger display, without interpolation. Since 800×600 is an integer factor of 1600×1200, scaling should not adversely affect the image. But in practice, most monitors apply a smoothing algorithm to all smaller resolutions, so the quality still suffers for these “half” modes (for a VGA connection, when the monitor is responsible for scaling). In the case of a DVI connection, the scaling is provided by the video adapter, not the monitor.

Most LCD monitors are able to inform the PC of their native resolution using Extended display identification data (EDID); however, some LCD TVs, especially those with 1366×768 pixels, fail to provide their native resolution and only provide a set of lower resolutions, resulting in a less than picture perfect output.

Some widescreen LCD monitors optionally display lower resolutions without scaling or stretching an image, so that the image will always be in full sharpness, although it will not occupy the full screen.

High Definition Televisions

A high definition television refers to a television broadcast that is sent out with a higher resolution than standard television. In addition, the signal is in a 16:9 screen format, meaning it is wider than a standard broadcast, which is 4:3. This allows you to have a larger viewing area on the screen in addition to its higher resolution. HDTV’s come in either 1080i (or 1080p) or 720p. This refers to the number of rows of pixels the television has, and the more pixels; the clearer the picture will be on your screen. A high definition television receives its signal digitally through your cable or satellite provider. High Definition TV’s come in many different screen types as well; the two main types being Plasma or LCD.

Plasma Televisions

A plasma television display consists of individual cells that consist of a gaseous material that is electrically charged, which then produces the needed colors to make the picture appear on screen.

Plasma televisions have a few advantages and disadvantages to LCD or LED televisions. On a plasma TV, you will be able to view the screen from a very high angle, meaning you will not have to look at the TV from head-on. Instead, you can view the full screen from up to 178 degrees from either side of the screen. Plasma televisions also have a better pixel response time than other televisions. This is especially important when watching sporting events or high-action television. One downside of plasma televisions is that they are prone to having pixel burn-out. This will cause the last color or image to remain on the screen, even though the actual viewing medium has changed. It will often look ghost-like or blurry, and fixing this problem can be quite pricey. Many newer units have addressed this problem, and burn-in’s are becoming more rare than on older models. Plasma Televisions are expected to last between 30-60,000 hours total, although some newer models claim to last much longer. In addition, plasma TV’s are much more common on the marketplace today and come in a more range of sizes than most other types of televisions.

LCD Televisions

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. LCD television displays are composed of two transparent, polarized materials that are essentially glued on top of one another with a fluorescent bulb behind them to light the screen. One layer of the display holds the liquid crystals needed to make the picture appear, and the second layer acts as a protective shield.

A few advantages LCD screens have is that there is very little chance of a pixel burn-in problem. They also can have a brighter image than plasma or LED TV’s and are lightweight and with a cooler running temperature. Some disadvantages include that they typically do not have as high of a reaction time to fast moving images and colors, and may have a lower contrast ratio for colors; meaning it may not have as clear of an image as some plasma screens. In addition, many LCD TV’s tend to be a bit more expensive than some plasma televisions, although this trend is starting to change. LCD’s have virtually the same lifespan of Plasma TV’s, approximately 30-60,000 hours.
Read more: What is the Difference Between a Plasma TV & LCD? |

LED-backlight LCD Televisions

An LCD TV that uses LED backlighting instead of the CCFLs used in traditional LCD televisions. It is not a true LED display but is called “LED TV” by some manufacturers.[1] The use of LED backlighting has a dramatic impact, resulting in a thinner panel, less power consumption and better heat dissipation, and a brighter display with better contrast levels.

The LEDs can come in three forms:

  • Dynamic RGB LEDs which are positioned behind the panel
  • White Edge-LEDs positioned around the rim of the screen using a special diffusion panel to spread the light evenly behind the screen (the most common)
  • A full-array of LEDS which are arranged behind the screen but are incapable of dimming or brightening individually

About swgraham2

Mountain Mists is an opportunity to develop some thought processes individually as I journey through this wonderful world; as someone who values highly effective management techniques and the art of leading teams; and through my association with West Virginia University as a professional technologist and network manager specializing in digital signage.
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