So much can be accomplished with the SignCommand software. From scheduling messages to creating amazing graphics and animation, there's no limit to the possibilities. Wade McKelvey, project manager for SignCommand, discusses the basics of SignCommand. Listen or read more to find out how to best utilize the SignCommand application.
John Maher: Hi I'm John Maher. I'm here today with Wade McKelvey, project manager for SignCommand. Today we're talking about SignCommand 101. Welcome, Wade.
Wade McKelvey: Thank you, John.
John: Wade, tell me a little bit about SignCommand. What is it?
Wade: At its heart, SignCommand is an application for creating and sending messages to your LED Sign. A lot of people are familiar with the signs that they see out on the streets, we also do indoor signage. But you can build up these messages with the software. You build them up in a variety of different ways. For example, you can use our built-in graphics library, you can import your own images and text, you can schedule that content out, and then you use the application for sending that message out to the sign. You can also do things like change settings on the sign brightness settings ... that type of stuff.
It is cloud-based. It will follow you from device to device. You can start creating these messages on your computer at work, jump on your computer at home continue creating that message. You can even log in using your phone and send a message straight from your phone. It works across all those varieties of different devices. These messages do get pretty involved. We also allow for some collaboration; you can share your messages with somebody else that's within your organization, and you can work on them together. That's kind of in a nutshell what it does, that's the user side of things. We also have a whole separate side that our users don't see, which is our support platform where we can diagnose and fix many issues right over the internet, with the, with the software.
SignCommand is Easy to Use
John: Interesting. What makes SignCommand easy to use?
Wade: Really it was built that way. It was built from the ground up to be easy. I personally have used a ton of different LED software packages over the years and typically they fall into one of two buckets. You either got the super complex creation and scheduling tools where they just throw the kitchen sink at you, and you need to sink or swim and learn it on your own. Or you have the opposite of that which is it's just made to distribute out content that you've created using other software. Our challenge with this package was, number one, can we get it to work inside of a web browser? Number two, have all those tools that someone would need to make really good looking really compelling content for their sign. Number three, and most importantly, make it intuitive enough so that somebody who isn't very technical can pick it up very quickly and start using their sign right out of the, right out of the gate.
That touches on a lot of different areas, interface design the features get included in the software and stuff like that. One example of that is our animation templates, and so we have this feature where you can just type in some text and it'll take that text and it will create some animations based off of it. My favorite one is there's one where lightning bolts will shoot out at all angles from the text and kind of a big puff of smoke, and add some visual interest to that actual message, instead of some just boring message that's up there on your sign. If you can imagine having to create that on your computer on your own, using some kind of specialized rendering software that could take hours, days, weeks. I don't know how to do it. But with this software, all you have to do is know how to type. You just type in your message. It handles all of that rendering for you.
We built this software with that objective in mind, and one of the most gratifying things for me is you hear those stories from people coming back and saying, 'you know what, I gave this to my young child just to play around with and she picked it up in a matter of 10 minutes'. Or people saying 'I'm not a technical person, I watched your support videos and I was able to do this very quickly, get a great looking message up on my sign'. That makes me look good to my organization, that makes my organization look good to the world. Thank you for really helping us make us shine out there in the world.
Which LED Signs work with SignCommand?
John: Do I need to buy a whole brand new sign in order to use SignCommand or is SignCommand available for existing LED Signs?
Wade: Most people do purchase that with a new sign. It does come with a certain sign manufacturers you can just buy it as a part of the package. We do, however, also offer upgrade kits for certain types of signs. In both cases, you're going to want to talk to the sign provider, the people that you're working with to buy the hardware to see if SignCommand is compatible and available for your sign.
What Makes SignCommand Unique
John: How is SignCommand different from other similar types of software? You did mention that you've used all kinds of different LED sign software. What is it that really you think sets SignCommand apart?
Wade: I would say the main thing is that we are true cloud-based software. Everything is done in the web browser. Everything from, you know, scaling and cropping images, bringing in video clips, putting text on top of video. This is stuff that, behind the scenes from a technical capability, is really difficult to achieve, but from a user perspective, it's super simple. That is all done in a web browser which means you can be using PC, Mac ... doesn't matter. You just log into the website and you're on your way. We are also built off of Amazon web services, which is really the most reliable backbone for a lot of the most popular cloud-based applications you can think of out in the industry.
We use that for a number of reasons. One is the reliability of it. It's the same application, the same platform that Amazon itself uses. Of course, built-in security through that platform and scalability. One of the most important things that people need to think about when they're choosing any kind of cloud-based application, but particularly with signs, is as that network grows, are they going to be able to scale up and support the number of signs that are going to be going on to that network? We can do that we just dial it up with our Amazon web services backbone that we have.
Some other things that make us different: we really focus on security. In addition to ease of use, we are one of the first and I believe one of the only software packages to offer two-factor authentication for logging into your sign. If you think of the old bank website where you can put in your cell phone number it will send you a text message or you can use an app to get a secret code that you then also use in addition to your password. That prevents people from accessing your sign and putting in unauthorized content, I guess you could say, up on your sign — which of course is a very big concern.
We have built-in graphics that we spend a lot of time providing for a variety of different industries and markets.We have all sorts of church and school graphics, civic organizations, businesses. We build this for a variety of different sign types and sizes. It doesn't matter if you have a perfectly square sign or a long thin rectangle type sign; we have the graphics that are going to fit that sign.
We also, and I'm very proud of this, have a dedicated support team that stands behind our software. You need help with the software, you have an issue, even if it's hardware related, we have a team of people in-house, they're trained, they know how to use this they can help with your issues and we really stand, I think head and shoulders over the other software packages because of it.
Creating a Scheduling Playlist with SignCommand
John: That's great. You said that there's all kinds of graphics that come with the software, and then all kinds of different animations that you can add to it. What are some of the other ways that you find that people really enjoy customizing their sign that SignCommand helps them with?
Wade: One of the ways, is it not so much the content itself, but the scheduling of the content. That can get very complicated very quickly, but will people create all sorts of different messages within what's called a playlist, within the sign. But then schedule that content to only show during certain times in order to communicate out a specific message at that particular time and date, that you can imagine can get very complicated very quickly. What we do is we kind of simplify the process and that we have a really nice human readable result at the bottom of it that says, 'hey you're ... this message as it's scheduled today it's going to show every Sunday let's say between 9:00 a.m. And 11:00 a.m. Up until such and such a date and based off of that here's the next day that this is actually going to be shown.'
It really simplifies that process, and it's something that I've seen people scheduled dozens sometimes hundreds of different messages and really get granular as to what they're communicating out into the community.
John: I'd imagine that's really helpful too in terms of the time that it takes to create your messages on your sign and get them out there. You don't want to be spending all day on this every day trying to put a new message out there. But you could take one day or even a couple of hours or something, schedule out all of the messages that you want for the next several weeks or a month or something like that, and then sit back and just let it run and not even have to deal with it again.
Wade: Absolutely. We have people that do exactly that. Sometimes scheduling out a year or more in advance. They really think these things through, they know exactly what they want to say. But the flip side of that is sometimes you have to get either an emergency message out or there's just some things that you can't plan for, when exactly they're going to occur.
The example that I always use is you know a snow day for a school. In that instance what you do is you create a whole separate message, that is kind of sitting in there in your SignCommand account. Even if you're just on your phone you're away from your desk, you know that you've got to send that message to your sign. You've already got it created, you can just hit the send button and it's on its way.
We also have a quick message feature which makes that even simpler. You can just type in whatever it is you want your sign to say, hit the send button and maybe you even have multiple Signs it will automatically format it, to fit those different sizes of signs and place it on every single sign out there that you have in your account.
Overall Benefits of SignCommand
John: Overall, how do you see sign owners benefiting the most from SignCommand?
Wade: Well, I think taking a step back and you think about what an LED sign is. You have the hardware side. You've got the LED boards, you've got the electronic components that make up that display. But in every LED sign that is married to some kind of software that serves up that content that we've been talking about. Without that software, the LED sign ... it's just a large blank rectangle that's sitting out there next to the road or hanging on a wall somewhere. Obviously having software is critical. What I would say is that having the right type of software is equally as important. Without software that makes things easy, that you're going to use that has those tools to create that compelling content, you're just not getting the money's worth of that investment that you made in that piece of hardware.
I've been in the sign industry for a long time. You become... I guess I would call it like a sign geek...where you're just driving down the road and you're looking at different signs and you see how people use them. Very often, I see these beautiful sometimes very large sometimes, very expensive LED signs that they have nothing, but tiny red text on it. Or they have just a boring static message on it, or they have content that is obviously out of date and the date on it has passed. That's a shame because that hardware and probably even the software is capable of much more, but the person that's using it either couldn't or didn't have the time to update that sign and make it a compelling messaging system for that organization. That's what the sign is. That's the whole purpose of that sign is to get your message out there get some action that's spurred based off of that message.
That really gets to the heart of what SignCommand is, what it's been designed to be. Which is that it allows you to use your sign to its full potential without needing a degree in computer science or knowing Adobe after effects or some other complex software programs in order to control it. Right out of the box, you can start looking good, you can start achieving your signs in your organization's goals, without spending a significant amount of time researching and learning yet another software package.
John: All right that's really great information. Wade McKelvey, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Wade: Great, thank you John.
John: For more information on the SignCommand software visit SignCommand .com.