On first introduction to the new ScreenScape Connect, a common reaction is: “That looks like the Google Chromecast. What’s the difference?”.
It’s a reasonable question. On the surface the two devices look similar. However, under the covers the design goals and the software powering the two solutions are very different.
The Chromecast is a multi-purpose consumer device, designed to do many things: stream video and music, display photos, watch movies, play games, and more.
Its primary purpose is to connect a TV with a second device – e.g. a smartphone or tablet. The design of the Chromecast presumes that there is an operator present interacting with the device – someone to launch apps, press Play, or mirror content from another device.
The value proposition of the Google Chromecast is all about interaction: “send your favourite online shows, movies, music and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.”
Why not Chromecast for Digital Signage?
It’s tempting to think that a Chromecast might be used, out of the box, for digital signage. But the truth is this would be hard to pull off without a major re-think of the assumptions behind the device. Surely there’s a clever hobbyist out there who can rig up some way to make it work… sort of. But for your average person, it’s not a fit.
Why? The design of the Chromecast presumes that every time it’s turned on there’s an operator nearby, likely with a second device in hand, ready to interact with the screen.
With most use cases in digital signage, the luxury of assuming a live operator is completely absent. There is rarely (never?) a user available to click OK or start over in case of the unexpected. Not to mention that in a standard commercial environment, it’s both expensive and impractical to assume that a second smart device could be dedicated to interaction whenever the ‘Chromecast sign’ needed a kick. And who would do the kicking: the bartender, the retail clerk, the fast food vendor, the transit worker? They’re busy, and trained for other duties besides. The requirement is clear: The sign should work completely independently of an on-site operator.
(Out of fairness to the folks over at Google, this isn’t a knock on their product. Digital signage simply wasn’t in their design requirements. It’s no surprise it doesn’t really fit that use case. Square peg, round hole.)
The Connect is a single purpose commercial device, dedicated to doing one thing: power a digital sign.
Its primary purpose is to operate independently; there is no second device or live operator assumed to be alongside the Connect. After it’s set up, it sits at the back of a screen and quietly does its job. Regardless of circumstances like software errors, missing resources, flickering power or loss of connectivity, the show must go on.
The value proposition of the ScreenScape Connect is independence and reliability: “Set it and forget it.”
Critical for success in digital signage, the design of the Connect presumes that there is NO operator. There’s no one to turn it on in the morning, press Play, launch apps, or reconnect to the Internet when things go wrong. For the Connect, normal operation is to run for weeks and months without any direct interaction with a human being. It can reboot itself, monitor and restart critical resources as needed, update itself silently, and gracefully recover from unexpected events like power loss and lost connections.
Can the Connect be repurposed and used like a Chromecast?
No. The Connect is single-purpose, designed to do one thing only – power a ScreenScape digital sign. All other features and interactions have been either stripped out or permanently locked down through the firmware of the device.
If you need a device to sling content to from your phone… use Chromecast!
Chromecast vs. Connect?
Conclusion? While they look similar, the Chromecast and the Connect are very different on the inside. These differences make them suitable for very distinct purposes. For home entertainment use, Chromecast is an excellent choice. For a place of business and digital signage, choose ScreenScape Connect.